Hilbre Island

Hilbre Island

Location map|Merseyside
label =
lat = 53.38
long = -3.22
caption = Map showing the location of Hilbre Island within Merseyside.
float = right
background = white
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Hilbre Island (pronEng|ˈhɪlbriː "HILL-bree") is the largest of a group of three islands at the mouth of the estuary of the River Dee, which is a part of the estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Hilbre Island is approximately 47,000 square metres in area, and lies about 1.6 km from Red Rocks, the nearest part of the mainland of the Wirral Peninsula. The other two islands are called "Middle Eye" (or in older sources "Middle Island"), which is about 12,000 m² in size and Little Eye only 12,000 m². All three islands are formed of red Bunter sandstone. The main island and Middle Eye are several hundred metres apart with Little Eye being nearly 1 mile away from the main island.

The islands are tidal and can be reached on foot from the mainland at low tide. This is a popular activity with tourists, especially during the Summer months. Until the end of the 1970s, there was a route from Red Rocks in Hoylake, but this has now been closed because of the danger of being caught by the tide and visitors are advised to set out from the town of West Kirby. Little and Middle Eyes are both unpopulated, but Hilbre Island has a few houses, some of which are privately owned, and some where the Warden of the islands lives.

There is a small 3m high solar-powered lighthouse on the islands now operated by Trinity House. It was established in 1927 by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board Authority, now the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company.

The islands' name derives from the dedication of the medieval chapel which was built on the island to St. Hildeburgh, a Saxon holy woman, after which it became known as "Hildeburgheye" or Hildeburgh's island.Stephen J. Roberts, "A History of Wirral", 2002, ISBN 978-1-86077-512-3]


It is believed the that islands have been occupied on and off since the Stone Age with several finds of Stone and Bronze Age items and Roman pottery items were discovered in 1926. Although not named directly, it is believed that the islands are mentioned in Domesday Book in which mention is made of "Chircheb" (West Kirby) having two churches: one in the town and one on an island in the sea.

A small cell of monks became established on the islands around 1080. The area was part of the lands of the Norman lord Robert of Rhuddlan. He gave the islands to the abbey of Saint-Evroul-sur-Ouche in Normandy, who in turn passed responsibility to the abbey of St. Werburgh in Chester.Stephen J. Roberts, "A History of Wirral", 2002, ISBN 978-1-86077-512-3]

The island became a common place for pilgrimage in the 13th and 14th century. The last monk left the island in about 1550 as they were no longer considered a sanctuary as it had become a centre for commerce and a busy trading port - so much so that a custom house was established to collect taxes on the goods traded.

In 1692 a small factory was set up to refine rock salt. There was also a beer house or inn. With the silting of the Dee trade switched to the ports of the River Mersey and the trade vanished from the island leading to the closure of the beer-house, part of the structure of this building remains incorporated in the Custodians Residence.

The islands were bought in 1856 by the Trustees of the Liverpool Docks, which later became known as the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. They were sold to Hoylake council in 1945 for £2500, passing to Wirral Borough Council on its formation in 1974.


* Craggs, J. D. (Ed.) (1978). "Hilbre - The Cheshire Island - its history and cultural history." Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0-85323-314-4.
* Burnley, Kenneth J. (1981). "Portrait of Wirral." Robert Hale Ltd. ISBN 0-7091-9409-9

External links

* [http://www.wirral.gov.uk/LGCL/100006/200073/1008/content_0000981.html Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council: Hilbre Islands]
* [http://www.deeestuary.co.uk/hilbre/index.htm The Friends of Hilbre]
* [http://www.merseysideviews.com/Wirral%20Views/Hilbre%20Island/ Merseyside Views: Hilbre Island]
* [http://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/interactive/gallery/hilbre_island.html Trinity House: Hilbre Island Lighthouse]
* [http://cobs.pol.ac.uk Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory: Coastal Observatory Project, based around Hilbre Island and the Irish Sea]
* [http://cobs.pol.ac.uk/cobs/webcam/ Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory: Coastal Observatory Project, Hilbre Island webcam]
* [http://www.wirralcam.org/hilbreview.shtml Wirral Cam: Hilbre Island webcam (from Hoylake)]
* [http://www.timmyersphotography.co.uk/gallery_55957.html A gallery of Wirral photographs, including several pictures of Hilbre]

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