The Woodchurch was the sister ship of the MV Mountwood. Both ferries were built for Birkenhead Corporation and were based loosely on the designs of the Wallasey ferries Leasowe and Egremont. They were built by the same company, Messrs. Philip & Son Ltd. of Dartmouth and designed by naval architects Graham and Woolnough. There was some local surprise when the contract was awarded to Philip & Son because Cammell Laird Shipbuilders were "next door" to the Birkenhead Ferry Terminal and it was thought that Lairds would automatically build the new ferry boats. However, their price was not considered competitive.
Named after an overspill post-war housing development of Birkenhead, the Woodchurch was the second of the new Birkenhead diesel ferries. Launched by Gwendoline M. McRonald, wife of the Birkenhead Transport Committee Chairman, Charles S. McRonald M.B.E., her hull left the Noss slipway at 3:45 pm and into the River Dart on Thursday 29 October 1959. Other Birkonian dignitaries attending the launch were Mrs Louisa Baker, Mayor of Birkenhead and Alderman Hugh Platt, Leader of the Council and the Mayor of Dartmouth was present. In the evening there was a formal dinner at the Grand Hotel, Torquay.
After fitting out and sea trials, the ferry was delivered to the Mersey in 1960. The Woodchurch was a popular ship. She was externally and internally identical to the Mountwood. The vessel was 152 ft long (46 m), with a beam of 40 ft (12 m), gross tonnage of 464 and a passenger capacity of 1,200 passengers.
She was given Birkenhead Corporation's orange and black livery. The Woodchurch was powered by two medium speed Crossley diesel engines, which were fitted with air brakes for rapid speed change and could be controlled directly from the bridge via the three pairs of connected Chadburn Synchrostep engine order telegraphs.
The Woodchurch remained in near constant operation up until 1980 when she was withdrawn from service and laid up in Morpeth Dock for reasons of economy. Up until this period there had been minimal maintenance work carried out on the vessel and at one point she even lost the forward port side rubbing strake. She was put up for sale, but no buyer was found. During this time she was cannibalised for parts to keep the other ferries running. By 1983, the ferry was re-painted and overhauled and returned to passenger service.