Taxi driver showcases Birkenhead’s disappearing history

As black cabs on the Wirral say they’re seeing a drop in trade, one driver has turned his time spent waiting outside Birkenhead’s ASDA to capture Birkenhead’s lost buildings.

Barry Bolton has been a taxi driver for 34 years but only started drawing about 13 years ago after his wife died and his children grew up.

Now when he goes to pick up customers, many of them ask what project he’s working on for the day. Over the years he has drawn landmarks such as Birkenhead Park, the town’s Priory, Port Sunlight, Hooton Station, the town’s lost Doll’s Hospital, and various lost pubs that dot the town centre.

Having never drawn before except helping his children with their homework, he said, “It was boredom I suppose. You are sitting around a lot. Some drivers try to read a book or are on their phones or playing games.”

He doesn’t sell the drawings on but keeps them as a collection, adding, “You notice that after a certain number of years, things are going. Pubs close and you have the Central Hotel. It’s an absolute wreck. I used to park up in front of there. It’s not just our town, other towns are suffering from the loss of work so I just started thinking I will start scribbling that and it just carried on from there.

“You see things, buildings, a row of cottages, and you think it’s been there for years. There’s just all this architecture around that people do not notice. We are all driving around with our eyes shut.”

Central Hotel

Asked why he started drawing different buildings in the town, he said he felt it was important to showcase Birkenhead’s history and how it’s changed, adding, “I do take a lot of pride in Birkenhead. I grew up in Rock Ferry and Tranmere and my first house was in Birkenhead at a place called Baker Street.”

He said, “There is one I did, it’s a drawing of the Royal Castle. It used to be a nightclub for bikers and if you pass that now on the roundabout, it’s absolutely falling to bits. I try to add in what it would have been looking like before the roof fell in.

“I remember Cammell Laird in its heyday when workmen would come out and go to that pub. I guess things change and they always change. You can’t dwell on the past but like most towns, it’s quite rough now.”

He added, “There are all those other buildings that are left to rot like the Central Hotel. It’s been set on fire so many times, what do you do to it? They have probably got some plans around there but it will probably take a long time to do it.

“A lot of people say where’s that, even some drivers and I say it’s just up the road. I like to highlight Birkenhead and Wallasey. You get into a conversation and we have got an awful lot of history in Birkenhead. I know it’s run down but there are fantastic places to go.”

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The Royal Castle, Birkenhead
Fort Perch Rock – New Brighton
Birkenhead Park – Roman Boathouse