HISTORY OF HILLBARK HOTEL & SPA
Hillbark was built in 1891 by the Hudson family of Hudson’s Soap manufacturers which eventually became Lever Brothers. It is said that Hillbark is based on Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire and is made entirely of wood, and has been claimed that it is one of the finest examples of half timbered Victorian design anywhere in the country. It is also stated that Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany came to stay in these parts at the turn of the century. He liked the house so much, he was inspired to build a replica in the German town Potsdam.
Sir Ernest Royden of the Cunard Line purchased the property in the 1920s; Hillbark was moved between 1929-31 to its present position in Frankby onto land that had been left to Mrs Royden, as the house was taken to pieces someone had to painstakingly write on the back of each section in the neatest of handwriting, the exact location of each part of the house. Moving the building today would cost in the region of £40million. Contained within the house are stained glass windows by William Morris, a rare Adam fireplace and a fireplace which once belonged to Sir Walter Raleigh dating back to 1627.
Sir Ernest Royden was a ship builder and gave most of the house over to orphans of seamen who were evacuated from Liverpool during the Second World War and set up camp, literally on the fields outside Hillbark until 1949. The Royden family lived at Hillbark right up until Sir Ernest’s death in 1960 when he left the house to the council in his will, as most of his family had moved away from the area. The house was always fully staffed as would befit the status of the Royden family. Sir Ernest would open up Hillbark one day each year so that people could come and look at the house and see it in all its glory; he also owned all the surrounding land at Hillbark including Royden Park right up to Thor Stone at Thurstaston. After his death the local authority turned Hillbark into an old people’s home, this remained the case up until 1984 when the home closed and the building fell in to disrepair.