Famous People

Sir William Jackson – 1805 – 1876

Sir William Jackson

William Jackson was an industrialist, railway entrepreneur and Liberal MP who sat in the House of Commons between 1847 and 1868. He eventually became accepted as being the most influential of all of Birkenhead’s founding fathers with the possible exception of John Laird.

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Mary Ann Mercer – 1883-1945

Mary Ann Mercer

Mary Mercer was both the first female and the first socialist mayor of Birkenhead. She was also the town’s first female alderman and also became a JP in 1929. She had been born in Newport, Shropshire and her father died when she was just three years old.

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Isaac Roberts 1829-1904

Isaac Roberts

Isaac Roberts was born in Denbighshire, Wales on January 27th 1829 but his family moved to Liverpool when he was six years old. In 1859 he moved to Birkenhead, no 26 Rock Park, and after completing his education he became apprenticed to a company of builders, John Johnson and Sons, in Liverpool at the age of 15. Upon the completion of his apprenticeship, he was quickly appointed as manager and by the age of 30, he had wound up the company and set it up his own business based in Hatton Garden with the son of the previous owner as his partner. Amongst works of note, the company built the water works in Boundary Road, Birkenhead and also the hotel complex at Lime Street Station, Liverpool.

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Frederick Smith – 1845-1888

Frederick Smith

Frederick Smith was born in Chester Street Birkenhead in 1845, one of eight children of Thomas and Bathsheba (nee Green) Smith. It is understood that he was forced to leave the family home by his father Thomas when aged 15 because he had chosen to go ice skating in Birkenhead Park with friends on Christmas Day. What is known for certain however is that he did enlist in the Royal Regiment of Artillery when just 16 years of age.

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Catherine, Cecelia and Doris Tam – 1926

Lock Ah Tam

The tale of Lock Ah Tam is one of the most familiar and also saddest stories of murder in Birkenhead. It should be noted that there are likely to be few if indeed any headstones of murder victims which also contain the name of their murderer.

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Restel Ratsey Bevis – 1826-1901

Restel Bevis

Restel Bevis was born in Cowes, Isle of Wight in March 1826, the son of Thomas and Hester (nee Ratsey) Bevis. He was the third of six children and his mother died following childbirth complications ten days after the birth of his brother James. His Hampshire born father was a naval commander and the family moved to Birkenhead for that reason.

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Bishop Hugh Singleton 1851-1934

Bishop Hugh Singleton 1851-1934

Hugh Singleton was born in Watson Street, Birkenhead in July 1851 into a typical Birkenhead family. He was baptized and educated at St Werburgh’s in Grange Road.

Once his formal education was completed, he chose to enter the priesthood and took his training at Ushaw in County Durham. He was ordained just prior to his 29th birthday in July 1880 and his first appointment was at St Joseph’s church in Seacombe where he was to stay for twenty years.

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Canon John Tallon 1879-1941

Canon John Tallon

Canon John Tallon was a minister at Our Lady’s Church in Price Street Birkenhead having first arrived in the parish in 1929; he was born in Prescott in 1879. In the early days of the town the only Catholic Church was St Werburgh’s but as the town grew, in the main due to the influx of Irish labour, the need for other catholic places of worship became increasingly urgent.

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Edward Kemp 1817-1891

Kemp was an English landscape architect and author who together with Joseph Paxton became one of the most renowned landscape architects in Britain during the mid-Victorian era.

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Canon Robert Chapman 1815-1882

Robert Chapman was born in Cardiff in 1815 and was educated for the priesthood at Prior Park Independent Catholic School in Bath and at the English College in Rome under Cardinal Wiseman.

He entered into duties in Birkenhead in October 1857 and remained there for the rest of his life; his arrival coincided with the great increase in the catholic population in Birkenhead brought about by the mass arrival of manual labour from Ireland as Birkenhead again became a town of rapid growth, with the construction of the docks, the growth of shipbuilding and the expansion of other utility and manufacturing works.

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Lieutenant Wilfred Van Gruisen 1897-1916

Wilfred Van Gruisen

Wilfred was born in Oxton on 19th September 1897, the second son of Albert Van Gruisen and his wife Florence (nee Isaacs). He was the nephew of Viscount Reading who was Lord Chief Justice and was educated at Rugby School and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

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James Eric Riepenhausen 1912-1940

The Riepenhausen story begins when grandfather Charles Riepenhausen, a master mariner, moved from the Hanoverian area of Germany to settle in Aberdeenshire and married a local woman, Maria Preston, on 16th August 1859. Eventually, on 8th October 1877, Charles became a naturalised British subject after taking the necessary oath before a Home Office official.

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Sir Graham Balfour

Sir Graham Balfour was born in Chelsea, London on 2 December 1858 and christened as Thomas Graham Balfour, only son of his parents. His father, also Thomas Graham Balfour, was a Surgeon General and his mother was Georgina Prentice.

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Edmund Taylor

Edmund Taylor

Edmund Taylor was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the history of Birkenhead and the town has much to thank him and those like him for all these years later. He had the honour of becoming only the second person to be awarded with the Freedom of the town.

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