It was originally an ancient parish within the Wirral Hundred in Cheshire, England. It became a civil parish in 1866 and an urban district in 1894. It included the hamlet of Leasowe. The population was 274 in 1801, 1195 in 1851, 4169 in 1901.
From 1913 until 1974 Wallasey was a County Borough in the county of Cheshire in England. The borough boundaries expanded to include other communities on or near the north shore of the Wirral Peninsula:
As a result the total population of Wallasey by 1951 was 101,369. With the drop in the amount of local industry, the population according to the 2001 UK census had dropped to 58,710.
On 1 April 1974, Wallasey was incorporated into the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral in the newly established modern county of Merseyside. According to the 2001 Census, the town had a total resident population of 58,710.
Originally the higher ground now occupied by Wallasey was separated from the rest of Wirral by the creek known as Wallasey Pool (which later became the docks), the marshy areas of Bidston Moss and Leasowe, and sand dunes along the coast.
Before the 19th century
The area was sparsely populated before the 19th century. Horse races organised for the Earls of Derby on the sands at Leasowe in the 16th and 17th centuries are regarded as forerunners of the modern Derby now held at Epsom in Surrey.
Old maps show that the main centre and parish church (St Hilary’s) were located at what is now called Wallasey Village, and there were smaller hamlets at Liscard, Poulton and Seacombe, from where there were occasional ferries across the Mersey. There was also a mill (at Mill Lane), and from the mid-18th century a gunpowder store or magazine at Rock Point, located well away from the built-up areas.
The main activities in the area were farming and fishing. The area also had a reputation for smuggling and "wrecking", the act of luring ships onto rocks or sandbanks with false lights in order to raid their cargo. Underground cellars and tunnels, which were used to hide cargo pilfered from wrecked ships still exist in the town. As late as 1839, the Pennsylvania and two other ships were wrecked off Leasowe in a severe storm, and their cargoes and furnishings were later found distributed among local residents.
Early 19th century development
By the early 19th century, the shoreline between Seacombe and Rock Point started to become an attractive area to which affluent Liverpool merchants and sea captains could retire. Development at Egremont began around this time, and gained pace with the introduction of steam ferries across the river. The area also had a defensive role overlooking the growing Port of Liverpool. In 1829, Fort Perch Rock was built, and in 1858 Liscard Battery.
In 1830, the merchant James Atherton purchased much of the land at Rock Point, which enjoyed views out to sea and across the Mersey and had a good beach. His aim was to develop it as a desirable residential and watering place for the gentry, in a similar way to one of the most elegant seaside resorts of that Regency period – hence the name New Brighton. Substantial development began soon afterwards, and housing began to spread up the hillside overlooking the estuary - the gunpowder magazine being closed down in 1851.
In 1835 Liscard Hall was built by another merchant, Sir John Tobin. Its grounds later became Central Park. His family also developed a "model farm" nearby.
With the expansion of trade on the Mersey, new docks were constructed between 1842 and 1847 in the Wallasey Pool, and by 1877 the dock system between Wallasey and neighbouring Birkenhead was largely complete. The area around the docks became a centre for engineering industries, many associated with shipbuilding, and other activities including sugar refining and the manufacture of cement and fertilisers. Bidston Dock, the last in the area, was opened in 1933, but was filled in during 2003.
Later growth and the 20th century
During the latter half of the 19th century New Brighton developed as a very popular seaside resort serving Liverpool and the Lancashire industrial towns, and many of the large houses were converted to inexpensive hotels. A pier was opened in the 1860s, and the promenade from Seacombe to New Brighton was built in the 1890s. This served both as a recreational amenity in its own right, and to link up the developments along the estuary, and was later extended westwards towards Leasowe. The New Brighton Tower, the tallest in the country, was opened in 1900 but closed in 1919 and dismantled shortly afterwards. However, its ballroom continued as a major venue, hosting numerous concerts in the 1950s and 1960s by local Liverpool bands as well as other international stars.
After 1886, with the opening of the Mersey Railway allowing access via a tunnel to Liverpool, the pace of housing development increased, particularly in the Liscard and Wallasey Village areas. The area now called Wallasey comprises several distinct districts which gradually merged to form a single built-up area during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Further growth continued well into the 20th century and eventually spread into the Leasowe area and beyond to Moreton.
Because of its docks and proximity to Liverpool, parts of the area suffered aerial bombing in 1940-41. After the Second World War, the popularity of New Brighton as a seaside resort declined dramatically, as did the use of the docks, and Wallasey gradually became more obviously a residential suburb for Liverpool, Birkenhead and the other towns in the area.
The County Borough of Wallasey was incorporated into the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral on 1 April 1974.