Irby mill, cottage and pub

There have been two windmills on Irby Mill Hill.

The first mill - was situated south (towards Irby) from today's Irby Mill pub.  Its exact location is not presently known.  One report stated that it was about 100 yards from the site of the present pub, but on the Irby side of the township boundary (Hillbark Road).  It was in operation in 1291 and was destroyed during the 18th century.  It is likely that the mill was a fixed wooden structure, useable only when the wind was blowing in the right direction.

The second mill - is believed to have been built around 1720 and was situated adjacent to the present pub, north of Hillbark Road and therefore in Greasby township.  This has been regarded as a strange location as the mill would not be exposed to southerly winds due to it being protected by the hill.  The design was known as "post-mill" or "peg-mill".  The upper part (the working part) was made of timber and sat on a stone base called the roundhouse.  The timber body had a tail-beam projecting at the rear; at the end of the tail-beam was a wheel, which ran on a circular track.  When the wind direction changed, the miller would push the tail-beam, thus rotating the timber body until the sails faced into the new wind.  It is believed that this mill stopped working around 1878. It was demolished in 1898. 

Image 1 - The second Irby mill and the south end of the millkeeper's cottage.  The photo shows the first of several extensions which were built onto the cottage.  This photo is dated shortly before the demolition of the mill in 1898 Image 2 - The cottage c1906.  The building still has the first extension.  The message on the reverse of this picture postcard indicates that the writer had taken tea in the cottage.

The mill cottage (later to become the Irby Mill pub) - the date of construction is not known.  Logically, it would have been built at a similar time to the second mill but some of the features indicate early 19th century construction.

A post box was fitted into the garden wall sometime between 1901 and 1906.

The cottage (a two-storey building) had a single-storey extension on the south end and a small single-storey structure on the north end. A postcard written in 1907 shows that it was then open for the sale of teas, etc.  The cottage was bought in 1919 by George and Bertha Lumsden who opened it as "The Old Mill Café" in 1924.  (Even today, the place is still known to many local people as "Lumsden's Café".)

Sometime after 1924 the following changes were made -

 - the old single-storey extensions were removed and a new single-storey extension was built onto the south end of the building.  This extension was aligned east-west and formed a "T" shaped end to the building.  The extension was used as a dance hall and the proprietor's daughter gave dancing lessons

 - the garden wall was removed and the post box relocated to the wall of the dancehall extension

 - the chimneystack in the centre of the roof was replaced with a model of a windmill as a reminder of the original mill

 - during the 1930s, diamond shaped windows were added to the north wall on the upper floor.

Image 3 - The cottage c1925.  The building has a new extension on the south end.  This (second) extension was used as a dancehall.  The wall of the cottage is painted with the words "Refreshments.  Stores."
Image 4 - another view, possibly taken around the mid-1930s.  The wording on the wall reads "The Old Mill Cafe".  The road ahead is Mill Lane, leading to the centre of Greasby village.

In 1938 Higsons brewery bought the building from the Lumsdens.  Higsons rented out the building intermittently and it remained as a café until the mid 1960s.  The brewery made repeated development applications (starting in 1938) to the authorities.  Planning rejections and various drawbacks prevailed until a rejection was successfully appealed in 1979.  The major structural changes were the demolition of the dancehall extension and its replacement with a two-storey extension that followed the alignment of the original building and was built of matching sandstone blocks.  Prior to, and during, the building work, archaeological investigations were made.  It was found that the north end of the building had once been a separate dwelling with its own front door onto Mill Lane.

The garden wall was rebuilt and the original post box, with its Edward VII motif, was once again installed into that wall.

The business opened as Irby Mill public house in September 1980.

The fireplace at the north end of the building is, confusingly, inscribed 1780-1980.  This displays the anniversary of Higsons brewery, not the anniversary of the building.  A small stained-glass window in the north wall looks historic, but actually displays the Higsons logo.  The pub sign hanging near the front door displays a fan-tail windmill, not the tail-beam type which had actually been on this site.

In 1994, planning permission was granted for an extension to the west face at the southern part of the building.  This was built for storage purposes.  Shortly afterwards, the porch at the Mill Lane entrance was added.


Image 5 - photo taken in 2005 from the same viewpoint as Image 1.

The visible south endwall of the pub is the third extension to the original building.  Trees cover the site of the mill.
Image 6 - photo taken in 2005 from the same viewpoint as Images 2 & 4.  The new (third) extension to the south end is two-storey and is well matched to the original building.  That extension was built in 1980.  The 1994 extension to the west face is visible only as the roof of the single-storey building running to the left of the photo.

The road junction outside the building (Mill Lane, Arrowe Brook Lane, Mill Hill Road, Hillbark Road) was the scene of frequent accidents until a roundabout was built in 1993.

 Advert from a Wirral guidebook of the 1930s.  The post box, originally installed between
1901 and 1906.

Some recollections from the mid-1950s -

"The café was a popular place with ramblers and cyclists from near and far.  As well as buying snacks, it was also possible to buy a can of boiling water to make one's own hot drink." 

"A group of local cyclists would meet there every second Sunday, buy their lemonade and cycle to West Kirby where they would leave their bikes and walk out to Hilbre Island." 

"Other cyclists would arrive from Liverpool (via the ferries), Chester and north Wales.  At times there would be well over 100 cyclists on the site.  Once gathered into their groups, they would depart for the day's touring."

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