People have been crossing the River Mersey by ferry between the Wirral and Liverpool for almost 800 years; it is thought that a group of Benedictine Monks who established a priory at Birkenhead in about 1150 were the first to start a regular service. The monks used to offer food and shelter to travellers making their way across the Mersey. As this practice caused the monks some expense, they petitioned King Edward III for the royal approval to run the ferry service, asking to charge reasonable tolls. Most of the passengers came from Chester, they were either taking the quickest route to south west Lancashire, or travelling to the weekly Saturday market in the fishing village of Liverpool. At this time much of the Wirral and south Lancashire was forest, inhabited by wolves, bears, wild boar and eagles. For 200 years the monks ran the ferry, until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. The right of ferry passage change hands several times over the next 300 years, thus a number of different services began, none of them being reliable.