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HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE SEA APPROACHES
TO THE MERSEY.
By LIEUTENANT MARK SWENY, I.N.
In preparing a paper on the estuary of the Mersey, I have thought it well to give you a rapid sketch of Liverpool Bay from the earliest existing records.
The first known survey was executed in 1689, by Captain Grenville Collins, R.N., hydrographer to His Majesty King William III, and published in 1693. On this chart two channels are shown, viz., the Formby and the Horse Channel. The former with eighteen feet at low water, and the latter also with eighteen feet at the entrance from sea leading to the present Rock Channel, which then dried at low water. On this chart a perch is shown at the extreme point of the Black Rock, near the site of the present Rock Lighthouse. At this period Hoylake was a recognised anchorage, having depths varying from fifteen feet to thirty feet at low water of spring tides, where “great ships put out part of their lading to lighten them for sailing over the flats into Liverpool.” From this Hoylake anchorage William III embarked for Ireland in 1690, hence the King's Gap Road now leading to the shore at Hoylake.
It may be interesting to note that the old Liverpool Dock was opened in 1700, and finally closed in 1826, when its site was filled up and the present Custom House erected thereon.
In 1708 power to levy dues on shipping for the purpose of maintaining landmarks and buoys was first granted to the Corporation of Liverpool (8 Anne c. 12). This, however, does not seem to have been acted upon.
By a statute of George I., passed in 1714, it was provided that at least three buoys and two landmarks should be placed to denote the entrance to the Formby Channel, and also two buoys on the Hoyle Sand, one on its north-west and the other on its north-east spit, which arrangement was to be carried out by the 25th December, 1718.
The next record that we have is from a survey of Liverpool Bay, made in 1736-7, by Messrs. Fearon and Eyes, the chart of which shows two landmarks at Formby, two buoys for the Formby Channel, and two buoys to indicate the spits of Hoyle Sands. The Rock perch remained as shown in 1689. The Formby Channel had depths varying from nine to twelve feet, and the Rock Channel four feet.
No parliamentary power to erect and maintain lighthouses seems to have been obtained until the year 1761, when by 2 George III. the corporation were empowered to purchase land for the purpose between Hilbre Island and the Black Rock, and between Formby Point and the town of Liverpool. By the same act it was provided that no dues were to be levied for their maintenance until four lighthouses had been erected on the Cheshire shore.
In 1763, or one hundred and thirty-one years ago, the present Leasowe Lighthouse was built, and a later chart of Messrs. Fearon and Eyes, dated 1767, shows four lights on the Cheshire shore, viz., two at Hoylake, and two at Leasowe. The lights above mentioned were the first in which Catoptric Mirrors were introduced. These were the invention of William Hutchinson, water bailiff, and one of them, with its lamp and reflector, was exhibited