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Merseyside History,  Perch Rock.

PERCH Rock Battery, situated on the North of the Wirral Peninsular, was built to defend the entrance to the Mersey and consequentially the city in 1827.   At the same time as the Fort was under construction so to was a lighthouse.   The Rock that the Fort and Lighthouse now stands on was the site of a sandstone reef that had been a hazard to shipping.   Interestingly the name Perch Rock, came before they were built as the hazard the outcrop of rock gave to shipping meant it had a wooden post or "perch" on it.  The post or perch then had at night a beacon blazing away, fired by wood.  The Perch was continually being swept away by storms. After such a storm in 1824, the Dock Committee was considering building a more permanent structure.    There were already plans to build a fort or battery on the Black Rock to protect the Port of Liverpool, so a suggestion was put forward to combine the proposed battery with a lighthouse.   

The foundation stone of Fort Perch Rock was laid by the Mayor of Liverpool, Peter Bourne Esq. in 1826 and built to maximize firepower over the seaward approaches to Liverpool via the Crosby Channels.  The foundation stone of the lighthouse was laid on 8 June 1827 and was completed on 1 March 1830.  It was manned by two lighthouse keepers who had residence in the light house, but by June that year the need for another keeper was high and another was found.    

Perch Rock Lighthouse was designed by John Foster and was based on John Smeaton's Eddystone Lighthouse of 1756.  Originally named the Rock Light, the lighthouse had lots of names from Black Rock Light, Rock Perch Light, but it was in the 1870's that the name Perch Rock Light became commonly used.

By 1925 the keepers were made redundant when the operation of the light was made fully automatic. 

The fort was still a major defense for the port of Liverpool up to the Second World War.  During the war a radar station was installed and is believed to be the first in Britain.    The fort also had direction finders and loud speakers. The only time the guns were used in the Second World War was against a German U-boat in the Liverpool Bay.  

The guns in the Fort were fired for the last time in 1951 for the Festival of Britain celebrations. Three years later the guns were removed to Woolwich Arsenal and the fort decommissioned. There followed a period of uncertainty.   The War Office offered the fort to Liverpool and Wallasey Corporations, both of whom declined the offer.  In 1958, Tommy Mann, along with a partner bought the fort for 4000.00, but in 1969 the fort changed hands again.   This time the Fort was taken over by R Ainsworth, who then converted the buildings into an amusement arcade, cafe and night-club.  These ventures were unsuccessful and in 1976 the fort was flooded and vandalized. 

The light from the lighthouse shone for the last time in 1973 and the lighthouse was sold to Norman Kingham, a local businessman and architect, who also then bought the fort and started a program of restoration work to make it into a museum.    He installed mains electricity into the Lighthouse and converted the building into a honeymoon retreat.   The lighthouse was sold again, along with the fort to Douglas Darroch in January 1997. 

Now the Fort is  in private hands and boasts a museum.  There is plenty of restoration yet to do, and with the help of the visitors to the Fort, it is hoped to preserve it as an historical monument.    Both are now Grade Two Listed buildings.

Mersey Reporter and Liverpool Reporter are Trade Marks of Patrick Trollope.   Copyright Patrick Trollope 2004