Bromborough shrouded in mystery
How did Wirral village get its name?

Centuries on, the argument still rages unabated. The mediaeval form, Brunburgh, could have been a reference to one Brun, a dark haired Saxon, and the hamlet that formed his fortress. But the Wirral as a whole certainly tasted the fury of the Norsemen, and the name could have been derived from the Scandinavian word for spring "brunnr", for once the area had a great many.

At one time there were three notable wells. It is alleged that St Patrick's Well, in Brotherton Park, off Spital Road, is the site of a holy man's landing in the fifth century, whilst the Petrifying Well may have had links with the leper hospital at nearby Spital. St Chad's Well, in Shodwell Wood, is now buried beneath industry, and like a good deal of Bromborough's past, lost to the present. But, historical speculation is, if nothing else, is fun and because Bromborough's development erased many traces of its beginnings, myth has replaced fact.

The Battle of 'Brunanburgh' was fought in 937 by Athelstan, King Alfred's grandson, when an army of Danes, Welsh, Scots and Irish were heavily defeated. Unfortunately the precise location for this Dark Ages "rumble" has been lost, but it could have been Bromborough. The Danes, under Anlaf, certainly sailed from Dublin and Bromborough's location overlooking the Mersey, made it strategically important, and besides, there was a strong Norse presence in Wirral at the time. But then that's as probable as claiming King Arthur's final resting place, and the location of Avalon, is really Brotherton Park !

Around the time of the Domesday Book, Bromborough was a cluster of dwellings with a parish church but by the mid-12th century the church and manor house were handed over to the Abbot and the Convent of St Werburgh which is now Chester Cathedral. And then, the little village began to grow. In April 1278, Edward I granted a weekly market to the monks of St Werburgh's, in their manor of Bromborough and a yearly three-day fair. The Monday market was held where Bromborough Cross now stands.

Perhaps the monks, and certainly the King, hoped that the sacred location would inspire commercial honesty. The steps of the present cross are 13th century, authenticated genuine, but the shaft and cross were a gift from the Bromborough Society. The manor house granted to the monks was the north of Pool Lane, west of the old Court House. Sadly, the manor was destroyed by fire in 1284. Bromborough developed piecemeal until the industrial revolution, with Bromborough Pool - hailed long before Port Sunlight as one of the first industrial villages - purpose built to serve Price's soap factory.

However, around the time of the Great War many traces of the past were devoured by development. Stanhope house, zealously protected by the Bromborough Society, is perhaps the best the village has to offer historical sleuths.

The Sann family built a house on the site during Tudor times and the name appears in clerical records in 1554 as belonging to "George Spann, gentleman of Bromborough". As with many rural families, Richard Spann in 1678, used the front pages of the parish register to list the births and deaths of his line. In the reign of William and Mary, Stanhope House was built of locally quarried sandstone. It was distinctive, with unusual front gables and mullioned windows.

Over the doorway is a nameplate in the form of a shield with the initials of the occupants and date, 1693. Stanhope House, at the corner of Mark Rake and Spital Road was converted to a public library in 1939 and renovated. Original Oak panelling was removed, but the drawing room, was later restored using panels from Chillingham Castle in Northumberland, home of the Tankerville family.

The surrounding garden wall possibly predates Stanhope House. Indentations on stones may have been used for sharpening arrows. A similar claim is made at Shotwick Parish Church where similar abrasions can be seen today. However, other structures did not fare so well and Bromborough Hall (early 17th century) was demolished in 1932.

Today the essence of village life remains, as the countless organisations indicate, and Brotherton Park is a nature reserve within easy reach of the centre and "guarded" by the ever active Bromborough Society