Seen on the left, looking towards New Brighton, is Mother Redcaps, more infamous than famous this quaint looking timber and daub building hid sinister secrets or so it is claimed.
Originally built by the Mainwaring family in 1595 it was a red free-stone building with walls nearly three feet thick. It was know by many names, the Halfway House, The White House, Seabank Nook and others. The name Mother Redcaps came about in the 1700s when a little old lady who always wore a red hood or cap ran it. It was frequented by sailors and smugglers that held Mother Redcap in their confidence as she hid their pay and prize money in various nooks and crannies around the house.
The front door was of oak five inches thick, studded with square headed nails. There were indications of it having had several sliding bars across the inside. Immediately on the inside of the door was a trap door into the cellar under the north room. It would seem that forcing the front door would, by withdrawing the bolt to the trap door, let the intruder fall eight or nine feet to the cellar floor. This was an ideal arrangement should the customs men pay a surprise visit.
There was a small stream of good water at the rear of the property which was used to supply the house and also small vessels that anchored off shore and also. There was also a primitive brew house at the back and even down till about 1840 the house was noted for its strong home brewed dark ale.
The strand in front of the house was formed of coarse pebbles and star grass with side walls of stone, that on the north side being particularly strong, to resist the rush of the flood tide. This being before the sea wall was constructed by the Mersey docks and harbour board. The north wall was used to shelter small boats stored on its south side and could be made higher by sliding boards between high posts. There was a wooden seat across the strand in front of the house made from thick boards from wrecked boats. It had a short wooden flagstaff at one end with a large plain wooden vane at the top. This vane was supposed to be worked by the wind but it was just a dummy that was operated by smugglers to signal to their comrades at sea. When the vane pointed to the house it meant come on and when it pointed to sea it meant stay away. At the other end of the seat was another post with a sign hanging from it adorned with a portrait of Mother Redcap holding a frying pan over an open fire, and underneath these words:
All ye that are weary come in and take a rest,
Our eggs and our ham they are of the best,
Our ale and our porter are likewise the same,
Step in if you please and give em a name
Sadly like so many landmarks on the Wallasey shoreline Mother Redcaps has been demolished to make way, after many years of being a wasteland, for an old peoples rest home bearing the name Mother Redcaps. The home still retains the stone arched gate way at the front but this is partly bricked up to defend against the tide.
Many thanks go to Stuart Pleavin, who very kindly contributed this piece on Mother Redcaps