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Hoylake Lighthouses - the old high light.

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The old high lighthouse is now a private house. I took this photo in 2006. Please respect the owner's privacy.

In 1761 an Act of Parliament granted the Liverpool Dock Trustees powers to build four lighthouses of which two were to be 'Lake Lights' and built at Hoylake on the Wirral in Cheshire. Their purpose was to assist vessels taking shelter when weather conditions prevented them from entering the Port of Liverpool.

The Upper Lake Light or High Light was built of brick in 1764, and when Robert Stevenson made his first tour of lighthouses in 1801 he said the 'lights consist of a higher and lower light, the upper being distant from the lower light by about 500 paces, each lighthouse with one reflector of silvered glass, three feet diameter, which was lighted with one wick or torch and are distant from the Sea light (Leasowe) about 3 miles'. One man was paid the annual salary of £ 18 for maintaining both lights.

In 1795 land was bought from Sir J.T.Stanley for use as a garden next to the Upper Lighthouse, and in 1837 more land was purchased in order to prevent property development, which would conceal both the lighthouses. The attached keepers cottages to both lighthouses were of a good standard and in 1837 the Dock Trust forbade the practice of letting out rooms.

Both lighthouses were whitewashed for the first time in 1835 when Captain H.M. Denham realised that this would make them stand out against the dark background and they were repainted every 2 years thereafter.

They are described in a report by the Trustee's surveyor Captain Denham in December 1840 as 'as two white buildings, the one nearest the high water mark having the rounded gable of a dwelling house, with the lantern 47 feet above half tide level, ranging ½ miles. The inner and upper lighthouse is a sugar loaf tower with a lantern 72 feet elevated, ranging 9 ½ miles'. Both were said to be in good order but in March 1841 he recommended the installation of an extra lamp and reflector in the Lower Lighthouse in order to enhance and sharpen its beam.

The Upper Lighthouse was rebuilt in 1865 as an octagonal red brick tower and fitted with the latest lamps and reflectors of the time. It was last lit on the night of 14th May 1886 and the lighthouse now forms part of a private dwelling house in Valencia Road, Hoylake.

The Lower Lake Light or low light stood at the high water mark on the shore and was constructed in 1764 out of timber; was 26 feet high and was designed to be movable in case the entrance to the channel altered. In October 1765 £ 60 was required to repair 'one of the Cheshire lighthouses' after a fire. It seems likely that his referred to the wooden lower light and may have resulted from drunkenness as an order forbidding the storing or selling of 'ales or liquors' in lighthouses was immediately issued.

In June 1793 a wooden embankment was placed around the Lower Lighthouse and a sunken pale fence around the Upper Lighthouse, to protect them both from sea erosion and wind. Caps were placed on both Upper and Lower chimneys in October 1794 so that rain could not extinguish their flames.

The Lower Lighthouse was later rebuilt in brick in 1833 as a semi circular building with out buildings, and in September 1837 the lighthouse was surrounded by a wall, which blew down and not replaced until the following spring. Chimney repairs were made in December 1838 and in February 1841 it was reslated and pointed.

The Lower Lighthouse was rebuilt again in 1865 with a tower 42 feet high showing a fixed white light visible for 11 miles. It shone until 14th July 1908 and in the 1920s the building was then demolished and the site used for the 'Winter Gardens' cinema. Even that has now gone and when I visited the site in June 2006 a new block of apartments had been built on the site but with the permission of one of the owners I was allowed into their garden and was able to identify a granite gatepost as part of the lighthouse complex. .

It is not clear when the Lower Lighthouse got its own keeper but in 1808, Thomas Seed was in charge of both lights. After his death, in about November of that year, his brother and sister performed his duties until John Smith was appointed temporary keeper in February 1809.

Joseph Bennett, a former Liverpool pilot was given the permanent position at a salary of £ 42 a year in 1809 and arrangements were made for him to hoist a flag as a signal to the pilot boat on the Hoylake station to go and collect pilot orders. In addition when the lighthouse keeper observed a vessel displaying a signal for a pilot and no pilot boat was in site, he at once made a signal to Bidston lighthouse who repeated the message to Liverpool.

By 1840 both lighthouses had their own keepers and their salaries were raised to £ 45 a year. The 1841 census indicates James Lee with his wife Margaret and 8 children lived in the Upper Lighthouse and William Bird and his wife Elizabeth in the Lower. By 1851 Bird had moved to the Upper and no permanent keeper was recorded at the Lower.

See pictures of the old low light.