The original ferry service, now famous throughout the world, put The Wirral on the map as part of the King's highway, yet for centuries the peninsula remained a cluster of small holdings and hamlets. It wasn't until the 1820s that steam-powered boats improved communication and opened up The Wirral's Mersey coast for industrialisation.
The Mersey railway led to increased development after 1886, when pioneering Victorian engineers were the first in the world successfully to tunnel a railway beneath a major river. The first tunnel was supplemented by a vehicle tunnel in 1934 (Queensway) and a third in 1971 (Kingsway).
The Wirral's dockland areas of Wallasey and Birkenhead continued to develop and prosper. The 1820s saw the birth of the renowned shipbuilding tradition when John Laird opened his Cammell Laird yard and a host of other port-related industries came into existence, such as flour milling, tanning, edible oil refining and the manufacture of paint and rubber-based products.
Another important development was the building in 1888 of the now famous industrial village of Port Sunlight, designed to house employees at the original firm of Lever Brothers, now part of the Unilever group. The village, which turned Lord Leverhulme's philanthropic dream into reality provides workers with all they need; employment, housing and entertainment and formed the basis of the "Lifestyle Wirral" ethic.
The Wirral has a population of about 312,000 in an area of 60 square miles surrounded by the River Mersey to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and the River Dee to the west.