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Bidston Lighthouse.

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The operation of the Lower Mockbeggar Light (Leasowe Lower Light) was taken over by the Bidston Light, situated on Bidston Hill two miles inland, where a temporary wooden structure erected in 1763 to a design of Mr. Lightholler had been constructed for the testing of reflectors for use in lighthouses.

First an Act of Parliament was required to build a lighthouse more than 1 mile inland but on June 5th 1771 the Dock Trustees were directed "to treat with Mr. Vyner about the site and the erection of a Lighthouse on Bidston Hill", and in the same year the work commenced. It was built of dressed stone, octagonal in shape, 55 feet high and situated a few yards south of the present lighthouse. The building had five floors, the top one being the lantern room 16 feet 6 inches high where there was an access door on to a gallery, supported on heavy stone brackets, with a cast-iron railing running all round the outside. The walls of the building were battered back by 4 inches at each floor, and each floor level had a single window facing the town of Birkenhead.

Whilst it is assumed that the first Wirral lighthouses may have burnt coal as an illuminant, it is more definite that the first Bidston Lighthouse of 1771 used oil. William Hutchinson was experimenting with reflectors as early as 1763 and there is a reference in the Liverpool Council meetings that a reflecting mirror was erected at in that year at the Bidston. Hutchinson's original reflectors are preserved at Trinity House, London.

In 1801 Mr. Robert Stevenson the celebrated lighthouse engineer referred to Bidston and said, "the light is from oil, with one reflector of silvered glass 13 feet and 6 inches in diameter with a four foot focus. The immense reflector is lit by one large cotton wick which consumes one gallon of oil every four hours". The light was a fixed white light, the same as at Leasowe lighthouse, and it could be seen 21 miles. A cowl fixed to the lead roof and a copper flue pipe extracted the fumes from the oil light and ventilated the lantern room.

This Lighthouse was demolished by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board in 1872 and was replaced by a more modern structure, with the most powerful diotropic light of the day. The building was completed in 1873 and during construction a temporary light was shown on the roof of the Telegraph office.

The 1872 lighthouse, with Keepers cottages, exists today. Built in stone blocks with a "rock face" finish, it has four floors connected by a spiral stone staircase to the third level and thereafter by a steep wooden staircase to the lamp room which has an enormous window, in line with Leasowe lighthouse, and there is access to an external gallery with a cast-iron railing all round the upper structure.

With the advance of technology in marine navigation and the installation of buoys showing the channel into Liverpool, the Lighthouse became obsolete and the light was discontinued on October 9th. 1913,

Bidston Hill Lighthouse is located in the grounds of the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory near Birkenhead, Merseyside, England.


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