In Victorian times the river Mersey was one of the most important rivers in the country, along its northern side was the port of Liverpool through which passed the extensive trade with North America and on the southern side was the port and manufacturing centre of Birkenhead with its shipbuilding yards. At the time of the Norman conquest Liverpool was a small fishing community; its rise in importance started in the reign of King John who required a port on the west coast in connection with his campaigns in North Wales and Ireland. In 1207 the King granted a charter to the town, and some thirty years later a
castle was built. In time the castle became a royal one, through the Duchy of
Lancaster, and it was eventually disposed of in 1718 to Liverpool Corporation
who demolished it.
|Plan of Fort Perch Rock|
|Fort Perch Rock Lighthouse |
© Gary Beale
On the Wirral peninsular was the main entrance channel into the port of Liverpool, and its docks after ships had passed the peninsular they had to make a sharp turn to the east to enter the dock area and at this point there was a reef known as Black Rock that had to be avoided. The Liverpool Corporation erected a wooden marker at the site in 1683 to warn shipping of the hazard. Because Black Rock was submerged at high tide the marker was often washed away. The marker eventually became known as the Perch and the rocky outcrop as Perch Rock. During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars two batteries were built on the adjacent shoreline for a total of nine guns, at the end of the war the batteries were abandoned and the guns withdrawn. However in 1816 a plan had been drawn up for a battery to be built at Perch Rock for seven guns; the design for it was triangular in shape, with a semi-circular battery facing seawards and the rear closed by two towers with a defensible barrack in between; this formed the basis of the design for the fort that was eventually built there. Fort Perch Rock is a coastal defence battery built between 1825 and 1829. It was built to protect the Port of Liverpool and as a fortified lighthouse to replace the old Perch Rock Light. The Fort covers an area of about 4,000 square yards, with enough space for 100 men. It was built with red sandstone from the Runcorn quarries. The height of the walls ranges from 24 feet (7.3 m) to 32 feet (9.8 m), and the towers are 40 feet (12 m) high. The Fort originally had a drawbridge, and a Tuscan portal which bore the coat of arms and the words 'Fort Perch Rock'. At one point it was armed with 18 guns, of which 16 were 32-pounders, mounted on platforms. It was nicknamed the 'Little Gibraltar of the Mersey'.
|Fort Perch Rock new Brighton|
The foundation stone reads:
This foundation stone of the Rock Perch Battery, projected by and under the direction of John Sikes Kit son, Esquire, Captain in the Royal Engineers, for the defence of the port was laid on 31st March 1826 by Peter Bourne, Esquire, Mayor of Liverpool in the 7th year of the reign of His Majesty George IV. His Grace, the Duke of Wellington , Master General of the Ordnance.
The projected cost of the build was £27,583.0s.8d. Kit son ensured that this budget was not exceeded, finishing the fort for a total cost of £26,965.0s.8d.
|Fort Perch Rock ©Tom Pennington|
At the outbreak of the Second World War the Fort Perch Rock battery was armed with Mark VII BL Guns and searchlights, it was disarmed in 1954 and sold at auction by the Ministry of Defence. In 1976 it was purchased by the late Mr Norman Kingham who died on 10th September 2006.
Liverpool Central Library
Liverpool records Office
Fort Perch Rock
Robert F Edwards