Mar14

The defences of the Mersey

The river Mersey was one of the most important rivers in the country in Victorian times as along its northern side was the port of Liverpool

throughwhich passed the extensive trade with North America; on the southern side was the port and manufacturing centre of Birkenhead with its shipbuilding yards. In the hinterland behind Liverpool was one of the major industrial centres of the country with the important manufacturing towns of Burnley, Bolton, Blackburn, Salford and Manchester, the latter linked to the Mersey by the Manchester Ship Canal in the later years of the nineteenth century. The dominant trade was cotton followed by coal.

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. The castle was a substantial one; it was square in plan with three round towers at its south-western, south-eastern and north-western corners; at the north-eastern corner was a square tower that was subsequently incorporated into a twin towered gatehouse which formed a separate unit to the remainder of the castle. .

Alongside the head of the Wirral peninsular was the main entrance channel into the port of Liverpool; after passing the peninsular vessels had to make a sharp turn to the east to enter the dock area and it was 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 frequently washed away. The marker eventually became known as the Perchand the rocky outcrop as Perch Rock. During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars two batteries were built on the adjacent shoreline for a totalof nine guns; as was usual at the conclusion of any war the batteries were abandoned and the guns withdrawn.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.

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Author: Ian Stevenson

Article and Image Source: http://www.palmerstonfortssociety.org.uk/

Keywords: Fortifications, Liverpool, Batteries

Author:
Ian Stevenson
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