Seeing this query has spurred me into doing something I’ve been meaning to do for some time – that’s trying to find out exactly where the vessel that became known as Noah’s Ark originally came from. I too had read the story in “The Inviting Shore” and other books about Mary Rogers eking out an existence for herself and her brood of seven children selling refreshments from the hulk on the shore and presumed it was true. Sadly as far as I can tell, it isn’t; I have found no evidence in contemporary records to confirm the story, nor any evidence that the vessel was on the foreshore in the 1870s.
On the contrary, the first reference to the vessel occurs in the Minutes of the Wallasey Local Board in March 1884, when it’s recorded that on 29th of February Messrs Buckley and Sherlock [probably James T Buckley and Joseph Sherlock, who at the time lived in adjoining houses in Stanley Road, Tranmere, and owned a boatbuilding yard in Foundry Street, on Tranmere Pool] had applied for permission to place on the foreshore at New Brighton, to the west of the Red Noses, “a vessel fitted up for the purpose of supplying pleasure boats for hire, and refreshments of a non-intoxicant nature.” It is recorded in the minutes that the Committee “could not see their way to take any action with reference thereto”. Messrs Buckley and Sherlock seem to have taken the Committee’s lack of response as tacit approval, and shortly afterwards moored a vessel on the foreshore somewhere between the High and Low Water marks.
On the 3rd of April 1884, the Local Board ordered notice to be given to Messrs Buckley and Sherlock to remove a “Barge placed by them for the purposes of a Refreshment Place on the foreshore beyond Red Noses”, and the owners promised to do so as soon as high tides allowed. The Ferries Committee was ordered to appoint someone to ensure that the removal took place. Several high tides came and went, but the offending vessel still remained; Mr Ash, the Sub-Ferry Manager, reported that the vessel floated on high tides, but no serious attempt had been made to move it. In May 1884, the Board finally lost patience and threatened legal proceedings against the owners for trespass if the vessel wasn’t immediately removed. A number of deadlines passed, but there was still no sign of it going anywhere; nor was there any sign of the Board’s Solicitors, Messrs Simpson and North of Liverpool, getting their finger out and actually instituting the required proceedings against the owners. The vessel was still there in October 1884, when it was advertised for Sale
in the local papers as “The Noah Ark [sic] Refreshment Rooms, situated at the Red Noses, New Brighton. Fitted up with every convenience.”
During the winter of 1884-5 it appears that a combination of high tides and winter storms moved the vessel up the foreshore 150 feet, close to the High Water mark, where it very quickly became embedded in the sand. In February 1885, Local Board member George Peers, of Rock Villa, Wellington Road, complained that the “ark” was now “a direct obstruction to the road between New Brighton and Hoylake”!! Messrs Simpson and North were repeatedly instructed to take immediate proceedings against the vessel’s new owner, John Jones, for the removal of this obstruction to pedestrians on the shore, but the solicitors were so dilatory that the case didn’t come to court until the 10th of June, at which point the Magistrates summarily dismissed the case as the Board had failed to take action within six months from the day that the hulk had been placed there! Further legal proceedings were instituted against John Jones in early 1886, but these were quietly discontinued in April of that year when the failure of another case cast doubts on exactly what powers the Local Board had with regard to the foreshore.
John Jones ran the Noah’s Ark Refreshment Rooms for some years, but for how long I have been unable to ascertain. The vessel doesn’t appear again in the Local Board Minutes until early 1895, when the Health Committee received a number of complaints from local residents, including Mrs Hughes, proprietress of the Queen’s Royal Hotel, concerning foul smells emanating from the pools around the hulk and the water in the bilges, which were full of dead and decaying shellfish. According to the report, the vessel “was some years ago used as a refreshment room” but during the last few years had “been allowed to stand tenantless and deserted save by the rats who inhabit that part of the rocks and shore”. In March 1895 a Notice under Section 94 of the Public Health Act 1875 to abate the nuisance was served on the vessel’s then owner William Hayes, a joiner and builder of Pleasant Street, New Brighton. It appears that he had bought the derelict hulk some years earlier intending to break it up, but having removed the deck and the sides had decided that the rest was not worth the effort of dismantling. On the 10th of April, the Magistrates ordered Hayes to remove the remains within two months. Having failed to comply with the Court Order and faced with increasing fines for his non-compliance, Hayes eventually pleaded poverty, claiming he was “not in a position to bear the expense of removal”. On 19th of August 1895, the Board ordered the Town Clerk to obtain suitable estimates and authorised him to have the work carried out at the ratepayers’ expense; eventually on 21st of October the Engineer reported to the Committee that “Noah’s Ark had now been removed from the foreshore".
The photo below, like the first one in this post taken by Arthur Priestley of Egremont, shows Noah’s Ark during the Big Freeze of February 1895, eight months before the remains were finally removed.