A town of caravans and bungalows which sprung up in a Wirral village would get so waterlogged people were said to have to take their shoes off to leave.

The shanty town, which first appeared in the largely rural area of Moreton on the Wirral, around 1914, became known variously as Moreton 's ''caravan land', 'bungalow city' or 'Moreton in the Mud' because of the waterlogged conditions in which many of the inhabitants lived.

Moreton in the Mud came about after a local farmer built some chalets on his land as holiday homes for people to get away from the smog of the towns and cities like Birkenhead and Liverpool.

Before long, there were hundreds of makeshift bungalows and caravans as people moved into the area around to escape the polluted and overcrowded conditions of the borough's growing towns.

By 1922, there were said to be around 1500 structures spread out across Moreton, making use of land on Moreton Common and at Kerr's field.

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By the time the shanty town was demolished in the early 1930s, Moreton in the Mud had stretched as far as Sunfield Road in Leasowe and up towards Bermuda Road in Moreton.

Chalets at Kerr's field in Moreton taken in 1927 and reproduced with permission of Wirral Archive Services
Chalets at Kerr's field in Moreton taken in 1927 and reproduced with permission of Wirral Archive Services

While it seems the makeshift town had originally started as a form of holiday accommodation, with many of the chalets, bungalows and caravans only in use seasonally, it soon became a permanent home for hundreds of people.

The area was notorious for flooding and was also lacking in proper drainage facilities, leading it to be known, somewhat mockingly, as Moreton in the Mud.

Before its eventual demolition in the early 1930s, as new housing estates in Moreton were being developed, the area become the subject of numerous local and even national newspaper reports.

In the early 1920s, much of the debate was around whether it would be possible, or even desirable, to charge residents rates for the caravans and shacks.

While residents appeared to be largely in favour of the idea, the local council were not.

Part of the controversy was around the problems with drainage - if the council collected rates, they would then be obliged to provide sanitary facilities, including draining the land.

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By 1922, the pressure on authorities to do something about 'caravan land' brought the town to national attention after the issue was raised by a local MP in the House of Commons, prompting visits by health inspectors.

One local, who described themselves as a "permanent resident" wrote the same year to the ECHO in defence of those living in the makeshift town.

The letter-writer says that the caravans were occupied by people who had been "forced to [live there] first through the lack of houses and secondly through economic conditions."

They added: "Most of these dwellers there have invested their life's savings in these caravans having found in them their only place of shelter wherein they live at least in decency and comfort.

"The argument about them being insanitary is not fair argument against them as it can be proved that it is far healthier and there is less sickness and death than in most of our recognised healthiest spots of the country, to say nothing of the slums that are standing disgrace in our cities.

"It was for fear of being driven into these slums that we caravan dwellers turned our faces to Moreton and other places with a sigh of relief."

Bermuda Road in Moretin in 1927 reproduced with permission of Wirral Archive Services
Bermuda Road in Moretin in 1927 reproduced with permission of Wirral Archive Services

For the medical officers of the region, the picture was quite different however, with one, Mr Yeoman, quoted in a 1925 article in the ECHO as describing the caravan town as full of "tatterdemalion cabins with wheels nailed to sheets and mascots to protect them from the evil of the local authority."

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He added that he had found many instances of "five or six human beings housed in a cubic space which would be rejected for three cows."

Another medical officer, Dr. T.W.N. Barlow, later said: "Here you have the primitive conditions of a century and a half ago. In my view these conditions are inimical to health and it is my duty to remedy them."

By 1928, the focus on Moreton's shanty town had ramped up, with many newspaper reports telling stories of conditions at the town.

One in 1928, referring to the regular problems the area had with waterlogging, said: "In some parts there are hundreds of recently erected brick bungalows standing feet deep in lakes.

"Here and there, dotted in flooded fields, are caravans, with water nearly as high as the hubs of the wheels on which they stand, and the residents have to wade to reach dry land".

There were also reports of people regularly removing their shoes and putting them around their neck to get out without soaking their footwear.

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Other reports referred to the desperate plight of some near destitute families living in the area, including one where the husband, wife and several young children were found with their roof apparently having been taken off by an angry landlord after they failed to cover the rent for several months.

The controversy over the planned amalgamation of Wallasey and Moreton was behind many of the press reports, with Wallasey residents fearing rate rises to cover the costs of dealing with the shanty town.

Many new houses were planned in the Moreton and Leasowe area at that time and proposals were put forward to decant the permanent residents, thought to number about 500, from Moreton in the Mud and move them to the new estates.

However, some of the residents complained that new houses being built at Leasowe would be out of many people's price range at 12 shillings a week.

Despite numerous appeals by local residents, keen to remain in their makeshift town, by 1933 all caravan-dwellers had been moved on and rehoused, as the building of Moreton Cross and the surrounding housing estates developed apace, bringing an end to the controversial settlement of Moreton in the Mud for good.