The Mersey Ferry is a ferry service operating on the River Mersey in north west England, between Liverpool and Birkenhead/Wallasey on the Wirral Peninsula. Ferries have been used on this route since at least the 12th century, and continue to be popular for both local people and visitors.
The current fleet consists of two active vessels, with a third currently laid up for cost-saving reasons. They originally came into service in the 1960s and were named Mountwood, Woodchurch and Overchurch. All three ferries have been extensively refurbished and renamed Royal Iris of the Mersey, Snowdrop and Royal Daffodil respectively, the last of which is not currently in service.
In about 1150, the Benedictine Priory at Birkenhead was established. The monks used to charge a small fare to row passengers across the river. At this time, the Mersey was considerably wider with sand dunes and marshes to the north leading up to Ainsdale beach and sandstone cliffs and shorelines to the south near Otterspool. The only suitable landing point for the ferry was in the Pool, near the site of the present Merseyside Police headquarters. Weather often stopped crossings and passengers were delayed for days, taking shelter at the priory.
In 1317, a royal licence was issued, granting permission to the Priory to build lodging houses for men crossing the river at Woodside. King Edward II visited Liverpool in 1323, and the royal accounts show that he used local ferrymen to sail up the river to Ince. In 1330, his son Edward III granted a charter to the Priory and its successors for ever: "the right of ferry there… for men, horses and goods, with leave to charge reasonable tolls". At the time, there was only a small hamlet at Birkenhead, and a slightly larger village at Liverpool.