Recently the road sign on Barnston Road has been changed as you drive into Thingwall from Heswall and Barnston. Rather than plain ‘Thingwall’ the sign now refers to Thingwall’s ancient Norse origins. The original sign went missing and Viking expert Professor Stephen Harding asked the local council to prove it has pride in its Norse roots by replacing the road sign with one indicating the Viking link. After some debate the Council has replaced the sign with an explanation of the area’s Viking heritage.
The word Thingwall is derived from ‘Ping-vollr’ which is old Norse for Assembly or Parliament. There were similar Viking assemblies in the British Isles in Tynwald on the Isle of Man, Dingwall in northern Scotland, and Tingwall on the Shetlands. The most famous Norse parliament was at Thingvellir in Iceland. Thingwall is thought to be the site of the Viking “Ping” or “Parliament” which met around twice a year and ruled the whole Norse community throughout the 10th and 11th century. Professor Stephen Harding from Nottingham University has carried out a lot of research on Wirral’s Viking heritage and he believes that the parliament is possibly the oldest in mainland Britain, predating Iceland’s Thingvellir by 30 years.
Evidence shows that Viking communities grew up in North Wirral and Saxons in the South of Wirral. The hill on which the Vikings gathered in Thingwall is now known as Crosshill. There’s not a lot to see here these days. On one side is a covered in reservoir and the other are rough fields with horses grazing. Thingwall Reservoir was started before the First World War but worked ceased until 1918 when it resumed again. Stone was brought from Thingwall Hill Quarry where Mill Road is today just off Pensby Road.
Getting off the main road, down Holmwood Drive and onto Lower Thingwall Lane you can walk down into what was the original hamlet of Thingwall. The lane is quite narrow and runs beneath high banks and hedges. The large three storey Woodfinlow House and smaller Woodfinlow Cottage were built in the 1860s. The house was originally lived in by Joseph Basset who was the land owner and farmer.
Continuing down Lower Thingwall Lane there had been two or three farm houses but all that is left now are the buildings which made up Barn Farm. These are directly behind the Basset Hound pub which would appear to be named after Joseph Basset. The old barn has been converted into a house called Manor Barn and the farmhouse is now called Manor House.
At Thingwall Corner there is a busy roundabout. On one corner is the Council estate built in the 1960s on the site of the former Thingwall Hall. This had been built in 1849 by Captain John Lilley a merchant in the African trade a long with a lodge, coachhouse, cottages and out buildings. The Hall was sold on many times and around the turn of the Twentieth Century it was acquired by Mr Edward Twigge. In the 1920’s Mr Twigge’s daughter gave Thingwall Hall to the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital for convalescing children. It ceased to be used by the hospital and was demolished in the 1960s to allow the building of the Council houses and flats we see today.
At Thingwall Corner opposite the Council estate there is a pathway over the fields to Landican. Landican consists of a small group of cottages and farm buildings. From the 2001 Census the community had a population of only 20.
The path runs across the fields and in the distance you can see across to the eastern ridge of Wirral toward Oxton and St Saviours Church on Bidston Road which can be clearly seen.
The fields between Thingwall, Landican and over to Storeton were the site of a tragedy from the Second World War. An American Airforce B24 Liberator bomber returning from a training mission in Ireland to 703rd Bomb Squadron at Tibenham in Norfolk blew up over Landican. The wreckage came down mainly in two fields, known locally as “The Seven Oaks” and “Top sheep field”. The crash had brought down power lines blacking out Barnston and there are descriptions of the debris including tins of corned beef, money and other wreckage being scattered all across the local fields. A memorial has been erected on Brook Way on the Durley Drive Trading Estate, not far from the crash site commemorating the 24 American Servicemen who died in the accident.
Landican has hardly changed over the last couple of centuries. In 1085, Landican was recorded in the Domesday Book as Landechene. ‘Llan’ meaning church or church enclosure. Early names such as this suggest a pre-conquest religious site, which may pre-date the Saxon presence in Wirral.
The hamlet was a township in Woodchurch Parish part of the Wirral Hundred the ancient administrative area during the Middle Ages. Landican was added to Birkenhead civil parish in 1933. In 1930 there were thirteen dwellings in the hamlet all farms or farm workers’ cottages. Seven are still standing today.
Thanks to Greg Dawson whose book ‘Tingvelle’ published in 1993 and the Oldwirral.com website pieced together much of the story of Thingwall that I have re-told here.