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Formby Lighthouse.

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Recently I was at a small local indoor market where there were a few stalls dealing exclusively in postcards and they had gone to the usual trouble of out sorting them into sections so all I had to do was search through the Lighthouse section without the need to remind myself which counties have a coastline.

I picked up one that was printed on the front 'Disused Lighthouse' and it looked less like a lighthouse than I have ever seen. The view was taken at an unusual angle to exclude any hint of the sea and gave the impression it was on the bank of a river. The seller even doubted that it was a lighthouse and as it was unidentifiable he sold it to me for a couple of pounds.

Once safely home I started my research and it did not take me long to discover that it was the old Formby lighthouse taken somewhere in the 1930s. The lantern window was bricked up and the build up of sand dunes over the years had given the illusion that it was a long way from the sea.

The old Formby lighthouse was originally built as a landmark rather than a lighthouse. It was built 1719 at Formby, Lancashire as a day mark on the edge of Liverpool Bay north of the River Alt. It was one of a pair of brick built day marks; an Upper one 120 feet high and a Lower one 90 feet high; and when these were in line the entrance between the Madwharf and the Burbo bank was marked.

It was the Upper mark that was converted to a lighthouse in 1833 and re designated as the South East landmark. It was first lit on 1st August 1834 and exhibited a fixed yellow light over a range of 12 miles. On 1st February 1838 the light was altered to a fixed red and it shone until 10th October 1839 when it was made redundant. The first keeper, Lt. Walker, lost his life in the 1836 capsize of the Formby lifeboat leaving his maidservant to mind the light and his children. His replacement was John Christopherson.

The lighthouse was brought back from retirement on 16th October 1851 and served until 6th October 1856 when it was made redundant for a second time and although it survived for a number of generations it was eventually demolished in 1941 when it was dynamited by the authorities in August of that year. This was done as an air raid precaution because it was felt that it provided a good landmark for enemy bombers during World War 2.

In 2010 the Festival of British Archaeology visited the site on a trip organised by Formby Civic Society. This site is normally out of bounds to the public, being within the perimeter of Territorial Army's 620 acre Altcar Rifle Range and is now almost completely forgotten. The Commandant has now erected a special permanent wooden site marker and has put together a collection of photos. It is likely that the remains of its foundations which lie buried may perhaps be excavated at some future date.

Now that the postcard has been identified; and confirmed by many of my fellow collectors; it seems that I have a new view which has not been seen before.

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