Built in the 1820s to guard the mouth of the River Mersey downstream of Liverpool, Fort Perch Rock otherwise known as ‘Little Gibraltar of the Mersey’ was once responsible for one of the most bizarre examples of friendly fire. Originally built as a shore battery to protect Liverpool against the French, it was used as a lighthouse after replacing the old Perch Rock light. When built it was in a location cut off at high tide and known as ‘Black Rock’ but coastal reclamation has made it part of the mainland.
The Fort spans 4,000 square yards and was big enough to garrison 100 men. Its walls reached 32 feet high in places and, in its original state, it would have been protected by a drawbridge.
The fort is made from red sandstone blasted from the Runcorn Quarries, situated on the southern bank of the River Mersey and its construction cost just under £27,000 at the time. Unlike almost every modern construction project it was actually completed for less than the budget.
Cannon fire has only ever been used twice in the entire history of Fort Perch Rock. The first incident occurred at the start of the First World War, when the Territorials, under the command of local dentist Major Charles Luga, were ordered to fire a warning shot across the bow of a Norwegian ship that had failed to obey a signal from the fort.
However, the shot went astray due to the soldiers aiming too high and it landed on the other side of the river in the Crosby residential area (some say Hightown). The gunners were ordered to fire again and this time they only succeeded in hitting the bow of an innocent ship anchored in the river.
The first shell was later found by a local resident who took it to Seaforth Battery, where it was placed in the Mess Room with a written notice pinned to it with the words ‘A present from New Brighton.’
The Captain of the Norwegian ship thought the shell fire was just friendly banter from the Fort as he was not aware that War had been declared.
The second time the soldiers were instructed to fire shots in warning was in September, 1939 at the start of the Second World War. A fishing ship came up the channel when it had been closed.
Battery Commander, Colonel Charles Cocks, ordered two shots to be fired across the ship’s bow’s bringing it to a halt. The owner of the vessel was later fined £50 for breaching the rules.
Today Fort Perch Rock is privately owned but is open to the public all year round; visitors can see the museum with its exhibitions including military, aviation and maritime history and the ‘Fort Perch Rock Marine Radio Museum’. It is also a place of entertainment and can be hired for music concerts and private functions.
Fort Perch Rock is in New Brighton and just a short drive from the M53 and the Mersey Tunnel.
For three hundred years and well into the 19th century the New Brighton area was well known as the refuge of smugglers, pirates, wreckers and criminals of the worst character. These miscreants built a network of caves and tunnels connecting friendly taverns to secret look out points and cellars for the storage of illicit goods. Some historians believe that they incorporated earlier subterranean passages dating back to medieval times. Certainly some of the tunnels are said to connect to Birkenhead Priory, Leasowe Castle and even Chester Castle.
There are said to be entrances into the tunnels from the fort. From time to time there are records of people discovering both gold and silver coins while exploring these stygian chambers. Many of these tunnels are now blocked up – officially for health and safety reasons. According to local legend, the lost treasure of the ‘Pirates Landlady’ – Mother Red Cap (some say Mistress), is still hidden beneath New Brighton.
Some historians have speculated that Fort Perch Rock was really built to clean out the area of the criminal gangs and that the threat of French raids was nothing more than a convenient pretext.
Fort Perch Rock is said to be haunted a woman who walks through the wall at the end of a corridor that seemingly leads nowhere. Perhaps there is a secret entrance to the lost tunnels nearby?
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Station Road, Delamere, Northwich
Cheshire, England, CW8 2HZ
+44 (0)1606 889 231
- Address: Marine Promenade, New Brighton, Merseyside, England, United Kingdom, CH45 2JU
- GPS: 53.4405211,-3.0406908999999586
- Phone: 0044 (0) 7976 282 120
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: CH45 2JU
- Entrance Fees: Charges Apply
- Disabled Access: Good (weather conditions may impact access)
- Visibility from Road: Excellent (Exterior)
- Image Credits: Dafinka