Many people may not realise, but the Mersey coastline features centuries of shipwrecks. Whilst some vessels are far beyond repair, there are other ships that can still be saved. Many, however, have since been removed, after being abandoned to rust and rot.
With news that the beloved ferry Royal Iris has fallen into shocking decline, we here at Signature’s Liverpool are taking a look at the many other well-known shipwrecks dotted across Merseyside.
Jolly Roger Pirate Ship
You may remember the small pirate ship, Jolly Roger, which was once located at Sefton Park. The Jolly Roger originally served as a lifeboat in the Cunard Fleet, before it appeared in a June 1928 pageant of Peter Pan. It remained in the park until the 1990s but was removed when the vessel began to slowly disintegrate in the lake.
The wreckage of Ionic Star sits firmly in the bed sands of the Formby coastline and was visible following a partial solar eclipse in May 2015. Thanks to the gravitational pull of the Sun, Moon and planets, the extreme high and low tides allowed the public to catch a glimpse of the refrigerated cargo ship. The Ionic Star sank as she reached the end of her journey from Rio de Janeiro to Liverpool in October 1939. Many locals may not have realised the ship was there until the 2015 solar eclipse, which offered a glimpse into Liverpool’s maritime past.
The Bradda was a steam powered coaster that was wrecked off Formby Point on 9th January 1936. The coaster was travelling from Liverpool to Rogerstown, but foundered along the River Mersey following extreme weather conditions. The above shows the remnants of the Bradda shipwreck.
Head to Birkenhead’s East Float Dock and you can’t miss the partially submerged RV Sarsia wreck. The Fisheries research vessel was built back in 1953 for the National Marine Biological Association, before it entered into private ownership in the late 1980s. Sadly, the ship was laid up at the East Float Dock until she sank in May 1998. It remains a mystery how the ship sank, but some believe the seacock was stolen, scuttling the ship. Following its partial sinking, RV Sarsia was left to gradually disintegrate. However, the boat still has a purpose, as the fisheries research vessel now serves as a refuge for marine life.
The Star of the Hope
The Star of Hope was a German barque that was carrying cotton from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Liverpool in 1883. However, the ship foundered following a Force 10 gale in the Mersey approaches. Located off the coast of Ainsdale, the wreck is largely hidden by shifting sandbanks but can be exposed at low water.
On 14th February 1918, SS Chrysopolis was ran aground 1.5 miles off Southport, Merseyside, as her back was broken when attempting to refloat the ship using her two tugs. The ship was travelling from Genoa to Liverpool, carrying a cargo of copper ore. You can, however, see the shipwreck for yourself at low tide.
The Royal Iris is a former Mersey Ferry that was a well-known feature along Liverpool’s waterfront for over 40 years. Once coined “The Love Boat”, “The Booze Boat” and “The Fish & Chip Boat”, Royal Iris has now fallen into disrepair. The boat was decommissioned in the early 1990s due to expensive repair costs, and now abandonment is finally taking its toll, with rust appearing on its exterior. The beautiful interior is also now ridden with filth.
It’s hard to believe it was on this very boat that The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers performed back in the 1960s. The Royal Iris was also once fit for royalty, with Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and other members of the Royal family stepping aboard the ferry.
The shipwrecks listed above now solely serve as a monument to Liverpool’s intriguing maritime past, which has helped define the city’s culture. If you would like to learn more Liverpool’s seafaring history, take a look at these incredible photos of the Albert Dock.