Reg Yorke – Feb 2010
Formby Lighthouse features strongly in Formby folk memory and its image is indeed incorporated in the medallions of the current Parish Council Chairman’s chain of office and the road sign situated on the Altcar boundary. One of the earliest nautical structures erected to help improve the safety of the Port of Liverpool, it was erected soon after the opening of the first dock. Nicholas Blundell noted in his diary on the 17 September 1719 that his wife and he “rode out to see the landmark as it is building at the Grange”. (The image shows a drawing from 1840)
Although now remembered as a Lighthouse, the 120 foot structure which survived until destroyed by the military in 1941 was actually only used as a Lighthouse for a relatively short part of its life. The rest of the time it stood proudly overlooking the dangerous approaches to the river as a valuable sentinel landmark.
It worked in conjunction with a lower mark the position of which had to be altered from time to time due to the continually changing courses of the natural channels prior to the discovery, dredging and fixing with revetments of the present day Crosby Channel.
It was in fact the Port’s first marine surveyor, Commander Denham, who in 1831 following a very thorough survey of the Mersey approaches arranged for the Formby Land-Mark to be converted to a Lighthouse which then worked with a new Formby Light vessel guiding shipping through the new channel. The cost of conversion came to £300 including an attached dwelling for the keeper and £40 for a light reflector. The keeper appointed at a salary of £20 per annum was also put in charge of the already well established Formby Lifeboat Station. (The photo is from before 1941)
After further changes in the channels, it ceased as a Lighthouse for a period from 1839 but was lit again between 1851 to 1856 following which date the light was removed to a new Lighthouse at Crosby.
Unfortunately the first period as a Lighthouse was marred by the tragic death of the first keeper Lt. Walker, who in his role as keeper of the lifeboat went out with the boat leaving his servant girl to ‘mind the light’, (and his children), in a severe gale during which the lifeboat capsized and the keeper’s life was lost along with several other members of the crew.
The old Lighthouse then referred to as the “Methuselah of local nautical structures” was finally demolished in 1941 following the May Blitz on Liverpool when it was thought that German bombers were using it as a useful beacon to Merseyside. (The photo shows the lighthouse in approx 1936)