Learning & Communities

While the Priory is closed to visitors (including schools), click here to access an activity pack you can enjoy from home.

Take a look at the variety of approaches for using the Priory as a focus for investigating the new History and Geography curriculum.

Primary school visit to Birkenhead Priory

Discover how a FREE school trip to the oldest building in Merseyside can act as a catalyst for stimulating cross curricular projects for KS1, KS2 and KS3 pupils.


School kids at Birkenhead Priory


“Our pupils were able to make lots of tangible links to other area of the History curriculum, and were inspired to undertake their own individual research. I would highly recommend visiting the Priory for bringing to life your local history unit.”

Lynne Mearns -Bidston Avenue Primary School

“I would recommend the Discovery Day as a great way to inspire and consolidate learning alongside exploring the historic significance of the oldest building in Merseyside.”

Andy Heywood- Portland Primary School

“The knowledge from staff was excellent and really helped the children to gain new knowledge and insight into their local history. Their enthusiasm rubbed off on the children as the visit to the Priory was very useful.”

Lisa Couzens- The Priory Parish Primary School

The first 'Ferry across the Mersey'

Ferry across the Mersey

Links to Teaching and Learning

The significance of the founding the Ferry across the Mersey at the Birkenhead Priory makes it the perfect setting for complementing a Geography River Study. A visit to the Priory provides a great insight into the Mersey Rivers location, and supports the development of the knowledge and skills required to be covered within the area of fieldwork.

National Curriculum-Geography


Today the Ferry across the Mersey is a familiar site to the residents and tourists of Merseyside and offers a unique way to travel the 1.5 miles that separates The Wirral peninsular from the City of Liverpool.

Did you know…

The first recorded ferries across the Mersey were completed by the Benedictine Monks from the Birkenhead Priory. The Priory’s history lies with the ferry, becoming increasingly popular and the need to provide hospitality for travellers headed across the Mersey. An increase in traffic on the road from Chester to the ferry caused the Prior to apply to the King in 1284 to divert the main road around the Priory’s precincts and construct a fence to preserve the privacy of the monks. Permission was granted, however in 1318 the Priory was in a very impoverished state, owing to the burden of offering hospitality for free. The Prior therefore petitioned Edward 11 for permission to build a hostel and charge guests for food and drink, and again in 1330 petitioned Edward 111 for the right to run the ferry service. The charter did not make the Priory automatically wealthy but ensured that it would not gain struggle to survive.

Stained Glass window

Mr Currie – Prenton Primary School

“To set the scene for our new Rivers topic, Year 5 took a cruise on board the Peter Blake inspired Ferry “Dazzle ship” to explore the River Mersey. To complement this experience we jumped off at the Woodside ferry terminal and took the 10 minute short stroll along the waterfront to the Birkenhead Priory. Here we spent the afternoon exploring the site and its relationship with the River. We took part in a number of activities that enhanced our understanding of the importance the river has played in the development of our region. Pupils particularly enjoyed the view from the top of the tower that gave them a fabulous visual reference, that we could then use back in school.”

Boy looking across to Liverpool

The Small Place with a Big History

Links to teaching and learning- history

The Birkenhead Priory is the perfect place to set a Local History Study.

A visit to the site can cover 865 years of history! It provides a unique and inspiring way for pupils to uncover and celebrate the past.

National Curriculum – History


Stained Glass window

The whole history of Birkenhead is wrapped up in this one site-

“The small place with a big history”.

Birkenhead Priory was established as a Benedictine Monastery in the 1150’s and is one of the oldest standing buildings in Merseyside. For nearly 400 years its monks farmed the land, welcomed travellers and operated a ferry across the Mersey to Liverpool. In 1536 it was closed down by Henry V111 and the monks dispersed.

Did you know….

The Priory site is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument with a range of listed buildings including the Chapter House, consecrated as a place of worship, the Scriptorium, which acts as home of the Friends of the training ship HMS Conway, and the Undercroft, which now houses a small museum.

St Mary’s was the first parish church in Birkenhead. Today only its tower survives but from the top there are unrivalled views of the nearby Cammell Laird shipyards and both sides of the River Mersey.

View of Liverpool from Priory Tower

School Children from Tower

Mr Montgomery – Bidston Avenue Primary School

“By using the Birkenhead Priory as the focus for our local history study, staff and pupils were able to make links with their own family history and to the development and growth of the town of Birkenhead. The Priory remained the central focus and stimulated independent research into local family history and their relationship with the historic site. A number of pupils have re-visited the Priory with their friends and families to share their knowledge and skills and to celebrate – the small place with a big history”

NEW: Tablets and Digital Trails

The oldest building in Merseyside now has a fabulous IT offer.

To complement your visit to the Priory and to help support cross curricular practice, teachers can now book our new class set of Tablets.

The tablets have been designed to allow pupils and staff to exlpore the priory independently by accessing the Priory website and digital trails.

Image of girl on iphone

Kathy Heywood – Wirral Museums Service

“The tablets enable staff and pupils to research and explore the priory independently across the site. The digital offer has been designed to provide access to a wealth of images and information to support and enhance cross curricular teaching and learning.”

Further ideas

Here are a number of ideas for cross curricular learning through Science, Art English and Computer Science.

Computer Science

Minecraft: Build your Own Priory

The Birkenhead Priory offers a unique stimulus for creating a virtual interactive world through the creative medium of Minecraft. Staff and pupils are invited to explore and be inspired by the historic buildings and architecture. The buildings provide links with design and technology, art and design, creative writing, information texts, instructions, coding and computer programming.

Minecraft screenshot

Block Stories

During 2015, families attended taster Minecraft workshops at the Birkenhead Priory and worked with a number of creative practitioners to create Minecraft inspired stories and animations. To find out more about how Minecraft can enhance ICT teaching and learning visit the blockstories web site. http://blockstoriesblog.wordpress.com

Minecraft figures

Art and Design

Stained Glass Windows
Across the Priory site are a number of Victorian and contemporary stained and painted glass windows that capture the 865 year history of the Priory. The windows act as a creative stimulus for poetry, creative writing, information texts, art and design, colour theory, symmetry, tanogramms and historical enquiry.

Drawing and Sketching Skills

The priory site can act as a giant canvas to inspire the most gifted and talented to the most reluctant artists. The variety of indoor and outdoor spaces provide unique opportunities for sketching and drawing. The development of key drawing skills can be enhanced with landscapes, scale, symmetry and links to creative and script writing.

Children drawing


Dressing up Corner
The refectory is home to the Priory Costume Corner where a selection of traditional costumes celebrate significant periods in the Priory’s history, including medieval, Tudor, Civil War and World War 1. The costumes can be used for creative input into drama and role play, creative writing, script writing, art and design, biographies and auto biographies, historical hot seating, photography and portraiture.

Child in fancy dress

Digital Trails

By using our new tablets, pupils and staff can explore the priory independently or in small groups to become familiar with the historic site. The trails provide a unique level of interpretation to complement the website and additional school resources.

Please visit thebirkenheadpriory.org/digitalguide


Image of girl on iphone

Curriculum handouts