Fight to remember the fallen in Wirral

Tranmere Ground, Prenton

Tranmere Ground, Ingleborough Road, Birkenhead


23-year-old Helen Dodd has started an online petition and a Facebook group to save a war memorial field dedicated to fallen World War One soldiers, including Birkenhead war poet Wilfred Owen.

The field on Ingleborough Road in Birkenhead and thought to be worth some £5 million if sold for re-developmnt, is the former training ground of Tranmere Rovers Football Club, which the BBC reports has applied for planning permission to build houses.

“Working at the Wilfred Owen gallery opened my eyes to the horrors of war,”  Dodd, who is studying journalism at Jon Moore University “and when I found out about the plans I thought I need to do something to stop this going ahead.

“It is a very important site,” she feels. “There were 88 people who this memorial was dedicated to and the trees represent the fallen soldiers from World War One.

The site was used by the Birkenhead Institute, where Wilfred Owen was educated, as a playing field before being acquired by Tranmere Rovers in the 1990s.

So far, her petition has attracted almost signatures, as well as coverage from local media, BBC Radio Merseyside and ITV’s Granada Reports.

“The memorial on Ingleborough Road on the Wirral is dedicated to those who lost their lives fighting for our country,” Helen explains on the petition site. “There are a lot of people who support me in opposing this redevelopment, mainly former pupils of the Birkenhead Institute so far but we need to make more people aware of what is happening as it isn’t really public knowledge. Please support us and help keep the memory of these special men alive.

“We feel very passionately about this – so help us make a stand. Power is in numbers.”

Among those who have signed the iPetition include  John Riding, who commented: “The playing fields are a memorial to the dead and should never be used for  any other purposes other than for what they were originally intended.

“You would not build on the site of the  Cenotaph in Whitehall, and this memorial is no different in any respect.”

“I believe this is a total disrespect of our war dead and our heritage, and all in the name of money,” addd fellow signee Les Highton.”If houses need to be built in Birkenhead there are many ‘brown-field’ sites to be brought back to life.”

The League One club, which so far has not commented on Dodd’s campaign, has sought planning permission to build homes and to redevelop the local authority-owned Woodchurch Leisure Centre for the club and the community.

Helen, who works part-time at the nearby Wilfred Owen Story museum told JMU Journalism she feels Tranmere are setting a bad example to people with their plans.

“I am fed up with businesses building on land for profit reasons and I think pieces of land with historical significance such as Ingleborough Road Fields should be kept,” she argues. “I have had so much support and I want to thank everyone who has got involved so far.”

A former pupil of the Birkenhead Institute, Brian Cowfe, says that pupils were taught the importance of the site.

“We were reminded of it every time we went through the doors because the commemorative plaque was at the entrance of the pavilion.

“Rugby, cricket and athletics were all held on this field and it is very sad to see the pavilion run down.”

Wirral News reports that although campaigners have long argued that the site is protected, the developers working on the Tranmere scheme said they believed it had no special status.

Roy Dennett of Birkenhead History Society said: “They seem blissfully unaware even told they’ve been told in the past that it’s a registered war memorial.

“It’s not just a plaque – the whole ground is a memorial.’’

In a statement supporting the planning application, the Liverpool Echo reports planning advisors HOW Planning said: “The pavilion is home to a memorial plaque for fallen pupils who previously attended Birkenhead Institute, but it is not believed it holds formal war memorial status. The layout allows for this stone to be mounted and relocated in the proposed landscaped area.”

UPDATE: Sadly, the campaign was not a success and Wirral Council, backed by Tory minister Eric Pickles, enabled the development to go ahead. There’s a news item here on the Wilfred Owen web site and there is more in the Daily Telegraph, 6 December 2012. The plans were opposed by the Wilfred Owen Association

You can view and sign the original petition to save the ground here

• The Wilfred Owen Story and Gallery is at  34 Argyle Street, Wirral and is the first permanent exhibition devoted to the First World War soldier and poet. Web Link:

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