Bidston Hill

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Bidston Hill
Bidston Hill from the tower of St Oswald's 1.jpg
Bidston Hill from the tower of St Oswald's
Bidston Hill is located in Merseyside
Bidston Hill
LocationBidston, Merseyside
Coordinates53°23′49″N 3°04′30″W / 53.397°N 3.075°W / 53.397; -3.075Coordinates: 53°23′49″N 3°04′30″W / 53.397°N 3.075°W / 53.397; -3.075
Area100 acres (0.40 km2)
Operated byMetropolitan Borough of Wirral
OpenAll year

Bidston Hill is 100 acres (0.40 km2) of heathland and woodland that contains historic buildings and ancient rock carvings. It is located on the Wirral Peninsula, near the Birkenhead suburb of Bidston, in Merseyside, England. With a peak of 231 feet (70 m), Bidston Hill is one of the highest points on the Wirral.[1][2] The land was part of Lord Vyner's estate[3] and purchased by Birkenhead Corporation in 1894 for use by the public.[4]


Bidston Windmill[edit]

Bidston Windmill replaced a wooden mill that was destroyed by fire in 1791,[5][6][7] and was used to grind wheat until about 1875. However it is believed that there has been a windmill on this site since 1596.[5][6] After falling into disuse it was bought and restored from 1894. It is open on the first Saturday of each month from April to September, between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon.[8]

Bidston Observatory[edit]

Bidston Observatory was built in 1866 using local sandstone excavated from the site. One of its functions was to determine the exact time. Up to 18 July 1969, at exactly 1:00 p.m. each day, the 'One O'Clock Gun' overlooking the River Mersey near Morpeth Dock, Birkenhead, would be fired electrically from the Observatory.[9] In 1929 the work of the observatory was merged with the University of Liverpool Tidal Institute, being taken over in 1969 by the Natural Environment Research Council. The Research Council relocated the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory to the University of Liverpool campus in 2004.[10]

Bidston Lighthouse[edit]

Bidstone Hill Lighthouse
Bidston Lighthouse 102.jpg
Bidstone Hill Lighthouse is located in Merseyside
Bidstone Hill Lighthouse
Bidstone Hill Lighthouse
LocationUnited Kingdom Edit this at Wikidata
Coordinates53°24′04″N 3°04′27″W / 53.401114°N 3.074285°W / 53.401114; -3.074285
Year first constructed1771 (first)
1873 (second)
Deactivated1913 (second)
Constructionsandstone tower
Tower shapecylindrical tower with balcony and lantern attached to 1-storey keeper’s house
Markings / patternunpainted tower
Tower height21 metres (69 ft)
Original lensFixed first order dioptric
ARLHS numberENG-009
Managing agentBidston Lighthouse[11]

There has been a lighthouse on Bidston Hill since 1771. The first lighthouse was built by Liverpool's dockmaster William Hutchinson; it was designed to work in conjunction with Leasowe Lighthouse, forming a pair of leading lights enabling ships to avoid the sandbanks in the channel to Liverpool.[12]

Being more than two miles from the sea, Bidston depended on a breakthrough in lighthouse optics, which came in the form of the parabolic reflector, developed by Hutchinson at the signals station on Bidston Hill. The reflector at Bidston Lighthouse was thirteen-and-a-half feet in diameter (probably the largest ever made for a lighthouse)[13] and the lamp consumed a gallon of oil every four hours.[14]

The present lighthouse was built in 1873 and was equipped with a large (first order) dioptric lens with vertical condensing prisms, manufactured by Chance Brothers of Birmingham.[15] It remained operational until sunrise on 9 October 1913. (By that time Leasowe Lighthouse had already been decommissioned: the line of approach taken by ships had altered due to shifting sandbanks, rendering the leading lights ineffective).

The lighthouse at Bidston is now privately owned, and occasionally open to the public.[16] The distance it was built from the sea is a record unsurpassed by any other lighthouse, before or since.[13]

Tam O'Shanter Cottage[edit]

Tam O'Shanter Cottage is a historic cottage on the hill. It is part of Tam O'Shanter Urban Farm, a free-to-enter city farm. The cottage takes its name from the poem Tam o'Shanter by Robert Burns and is opposite Flaybrick Memorial Gardens.

Rock carvings[edit]

Norse horse's head, Bidston Hill, Wirral

There is a 4 12-foot-long (1.4 m) carving of a sun goddess carved into the flat rock north-east of the Observatory, supposedly facing in the direction of the rising sun on Midsummer's Day and thought to have been carved by the Norse-Irish around 1000 AD. An ancient carving of a horse is located on bare rock to the north of the Observatory.[17]

Bidston Court[edit]

Bidston Court, drawn by T. Raffles Davison, c. 1909

Robert William Hudson built a house called Bidston Court on Vyner Road South near Bidston Hill in 1891. Built entirely of wood, and based on Little Moreton Hall, it is believed to have been the inspiration for the Cecilienhof in Potsdam.[18] The house was sold in 1921 to Sir Ernest Royden and in 1928 was moved to its present site in Frankby, brick by brick, finally being completed in 1931. It was renamed Hill Bark. The original site of the house was given to Birkenhead Corporation.[19][better source needed]

Bidston Tunnels[edit]

During World War II, an air raid shelter was constructed at Bidston Hill. Today the tunnels are concealed for public safety.[20]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Natural Areas and Greenspaces: Bidston Hill". Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. Archived from the original on 9 December 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2010.
  2. ^ Kemble, Mike (15 July 2016). "The Wirral Hundred or The Wirral Peninsula". Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  3. ^ Kemble, Mike (10 November 2015). "Bidston Village, Hall, Hill & Mill". Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  4. ^ Brocklebank, Ralph T. (2003). Birkenhead: An Illustrated History. Breedon Books. p. 91. ISBN 1-85983-350-0.
  5. ^ a b Kemble, Mike. "Bidston: The Mill". Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Windmills". Allerton Oak. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  7. ^ Bidston, C.E., "Old Ordnance Survey Map: Cheshire 13.02 (1909)", Alan Godfrey Maps
  8. ^ "Bidston Windmill". Friends of Bidston Hill Heritage Trail. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  9. ^ "The Time Ball and the One O'clock Gun". Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
  10. ^ "Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory Annual Report, 2004-05 (page 26)" (PDF). Natural Environment Research Council. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 January 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  11. ^ Bidstone Hill The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved April 29, 2016
  12. ^ "Bidston Lighthouse". Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
  13. ^ a b "The French Visitor". Bidston Lighthouse. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  14. ^ Robinson, John; Robinson, Diane (2007). Lighthouses of Liverpool Bay. The History Press. ISBN 978-0752442099.
  15. ^ "Has anyone seen our lamp?". Bidston Lighthouse. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  16. ^ "Bidston Lighthouse". Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  17. ^ "Bidston Hill". Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. Archived from the original on 28 June 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  18. ^ History of Hillbark Hotel at; retrieved 4 Sept 2018
  19. ^ "Bidston Court". Geograph. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
  20. ^ "Bidston Hill Underground Tunnels". Archived from the original on 24 October 2008. Retrieved 9 September 2008.

External links[edit]