Leasow Lighthouse... a place in maritime history

Leasowe Lighthouse stands on Wirral's Leasowe Common and is a well-known landmark. It is probably the oldest lighthouse building in England, if not Britain.

Built by by Liverpool Corporation, Docks Committee, it is made of handmade brick, over 1 metre thick and is solid at its base, tapering to 71/2 metres at a height of 33metres.

There are seven floors which can be reached by a cast iron spiral staircase of 130 steps.

Two lighthouses were erected on the coast of Leasowe in 1763 a 'lower light' on the shore and an 'upper light' on the site of the present building. The theory was that the approaching ships had only to line up the two lights to achieve a safe entrance to the Rock Channel & Port of Liverpool

Originally known as Upper Mockbeggar Lighthouse, an unusual feature was its half open top, a relic of medieval days when wood and then coal burning braziers were the only means of illumination.

In sailing directions for mariners, Leasowe light was described as a conical white tower sitauted near high-water mark, 2 miles seaward (M.W.1/2N.) of Bidston lighthouse, and 31/2 miles westward of the Rock Light. Its beam was fixed, and directed to the North West from an elevation of 110 ft above high-tide level. From the deck of a ship it could be visible for no less than 16 miles

Mr and Mrs Williams were keepers of the Great Orme Lighthouse, in Llandudno, amongst others before they transferred to Leasowe in the 1890s. Shortly after moving Mr Williams was taken ill and his wife took over the duties. She performed them so well that upon his death, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board made her keeper and a daughter, assistant keeper.

The light at Leasowe was lit for the last time on 15th July, 1908.

When the building ceased to function as a lighthouse, Mrs Williams was moved to a cottage but she kept the lighthouse as a tea room for summer visitors and it became extremely popular.

In 1929 the lighthouse was offered for sale and was purchased in March 1930 by the Wallasey Corporation for £900.
It then became derelict through neglect.

In spring 1989 as part of a £30,000 Council refurbishment programme, the Lighthouse was given a new roof, internal clean and windows sealed to prevent pigeons re-entering. (They had had full and free use of the interior for many years!). The outside was also cleaned and painted, floodlights installed and the ground floor fitted out as a ranger’s office and exhibition area.

After this beginning, restoration was continued by the making and installation of 130 cast-iron steps and about 60 balustrades of the original design.

By August 1996, safety certificates were in place to allow access for the public.

Thanks to a Millennium Festival Grant a camera was fitted to the roof and is now linked by computer to the web.

The Friends of Leasowe Lighthouse grew out of an informal meeting arranged by the North Wirral Coastal Park Rangers who involved local people and those with an interest in the Lighthouse or area. In 'Constitutional' terms, the Objects of the Friends are to help restore, preserve and develop Leasowe Lighthouse and its environs as a public facility for conservation, education and pleasure, as a voluntary, non-profit body.

To this end, the Friends organise events in keeping with the above, and provide a meeting ground for all persons interested in the Lighthouse and its environs.

Their website is: www.thefriends.freeserve.co.uk

A Friends' newsletter is produced as required, usually about five times a year, providing items of interest, details of visiting speakers and notice of future events.

A range of booklets written by members include Maritime Recipes, The Life & Times of Leasowe Lighthouse, History of Lighthouses, Geology & Roman History in Meols and the Wirral & The Lightkeepers of Leasowe Lighthouse.

In 2001, the Leasowe Lighthouse was selected as an HLF Pilot Project for a Small Capital Grant of £50,000. Future plans comprise a room dedicated to Hovercraft memorabilia. In 1962 the World’s first passenger Hovercraft service sailed between Leasowe embankment and Rhyl on the North Wales coast.

The Leasowe Lighthouse is open every first and third Sunday during April - September and every first Sunday in October - March, 1pm - 4pm.

The Secretary of the Leasowe Friends is Mrs B Bascombe. c/o Leasowe Lighthouse, Leasowe Common, Moreton Wirral. CH46 4TA.