Barnston to most modern writers is just "a
pretty village passed through en route from Heswall to Birkenhead",
its history however, lies deeper, in the yellow sandstone on which it
These deposits were later faulted by earth movements, even later great ice sheets advanced and retreated, scouring the surface depositing red and grey clay over the sandstone, huge boulders of hard granite were uplifted from as far afield as Scotland and left behind when the ice melted.
There is little evidence for the occupation of Barnston by early man, one worked flint implement, a Roman fibula (cloak fastener), and occasional coins being the only hard evidence of man's presence. The village like many other Wirral villages was set on an outcrop of sandstone with access to a good water supply, the stream in the bottom of the Dale. Local traditions of a Viking battle in the Dale owe their origin to Nicholas Size's book (published in 1933) "Ola the Russian" in which he gives the following account of the army gathering before the fight which was for the hand of a princess from Ireland.
"By ten o' clock almost the whole army was marching to Thingwall, only Kolbiorn and a few men remaining to guard the ships. Before noon half Wirral gathered in Barnston Vale; bare-headed men with short loose breeches and close fitting jackets were in the majority; many of them wore cloaks, and for footwear they had rough raw-hide shoes fastened with laces. Their clothing was all made of wool or leather and it was evident that the wool of black sheep stood in highest favour. They all wore belts and daggers if they were freemen and many of them carried a quarter staff as well"
From the same period but with greater credibility is the claim of nearby Bromborough as the site in 937 of the Battle of Brunaburh, which is recorded, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
"In this year King Athelstan, lord of nobles, dispenser of treasure to men, and his brother also, Edmund Atheling, won by the sword's edge undying glory in battle round Brunaburh. Edwards's sons clove the shield-wall, hewed the linden-wood shields with hammered swords, for it was natural to men of their lineage to defend their land, their homes, in frequent battle against every foe. Their enemies perished; the people of the Scots and the pirates fell doomed. The field grew dark with the blood of men. Then the Norsemen, the sorry survivors from the spears put out in their studded ships on to Ding's mere, to make for Dublin across the deep water, back to Ireland. They left behind them the dusky-coated one, the black raven with its horned beak to share the corpses, and the dun-coated, white tailed eagle, the greedy war-hawk, to enjoy the carrion and that grey beast, the wolf of the forest.
The two accounts, the one fictional and the other
from one of the earliest English histories give a stirring impression of
the times, the Chronicle even giving an insight into the wildlife of
Wirral, with its description of ravens, wolves and white-tailed sea