This 1715 map of the North Wirral coastline by the prominent Dutch cartographer Johannes van Keulen shows sandhills from Red Rocks to Dove Point, parallel to the "Hyle Lake", which is now completley gone as a result of ongoing sedimentation. CLICK TO ENLARGE.
William Daniell’s ‘View near Hoyle Lake, Cheshire’, from “A Voyage Round Great Britain 1814-25”. The artist would have been standing close to what is now the corner of Kings Gap and North Parade. We can see the sandhills to the left and boats moored in the Lake. CLICK TO ENLARGE.
For centuries, Hoylake’s wealth was dependent on the sea. The presence of a permanent navigable channel known as the Hoyle Lake from which the modern town takes its name was its key economic asset.
The ‘lake’ provided a safe haven for local fishing boats and a safe anchorage and a sheltered passage for merchant ships into the ports of Chester and Liverpool. It was an important embarkation point for Ireland famously used in 1690 by King William of Orange and his troops on their way to fight the Battle of the Boyne.
The advent of sea bathing and the opening of the Royal Hotel in 1792 opened up a new chapter. Hoylake’s sands, dunes and lake provided for safe sea bathing, riding, horse racing, rabbit shooting and walking. Hoylake developed initially into a small but prosperous seaside visitor resort and later as a residential resort for Liverpool’s wealthy mercantile classes.
Hoylake’s fishing and farming families lived alongside prosperous ship owners and traders who were soon joined by the aspirant middle classes, a process greatly accelerated by the coming of the railway from Birkenhead in 1866.
Sailing and golf clubs were established, and the dunes gave way to promenades, gardens and houses.
Today, the Hoyle Lake is long gone with the moorings at Meols the only reminder of its existence and, whilst ‘day trippers’ still poured into Hoylake as recently as the 1970s, the closure and eventual demolition of the outdoor bathing pool in 1984 marked the end of Hoylake’s period as a traditional seaside visitor resort.
But not all is lost: Hoylake has an international sporting profile. Its wide expanse of sands hosts international sandyachting and kite buggying competitions whilst its remaining dune-lands form the celebrated and historic Hoylake links. These glorious links, the second oldest in England, have provided a world class venue for international golfing competitions for over a century.
Moreover, Hoylake’s shoreline with its sandstone outcrops, dunes and islands are equally renowned as wildlife habitats designated as internationally important for waders and wildfowl, a stopping point for rare migrant birds and a rich source of invertebrates. We have so much to celebrate. And much to make more of.