Fort Perch Rock
As the importance of the port of Liverpool grew, so too did the necessity to defend it. The earliest recorded defence
of the Mersey dates back to 1758 when 4500 voluntary troops were raised with a battery of guns stationed in St
Nicholas's church yard overlooking the river, as a deterrent from French Privateers during the 7 year war in 1758.
In 1779 a permanent fort and barracks were constructed in Princes Docks, Liverpool as a response to the American
War of Independence to fend off attacks from American Privateers. Before the end of the century the Mersey had
again seen a large improvement in its coastal defence, due mainly to the attempted French invasion of Ireland and
South Wales in 1797. In order to counter the threat privateers were draughted in and volunteers were selected for
regiments from the Liverpool area. In addition 56 heavy guns were set up to defend the River channels, two
battery's of which were set up at New Brighton. These positions were thought to be near Perch Rock and the sand
hills. The position of both these emplacement are very strategic as it allowed the artillery to fire at the bow of the
ships as the vessels could not manoeuvre properly in the rock channel. The battery's were decommissioned several
years later, although the importance of the Black Rock area was noted as a defensive position. In 1803 war broke
out again between Britain and France and a proposal for a permanent fort at Perch Rock was drawn up. The
Liverpool Corporation submitted £2000 and the Dock Committee gave £1000 towards the cost of defence but the
fort was overlooked. After several other benefactors a total amount of £11,530 was raised towards defence and 9
guns were placed at the noses in New Brighton and another 20 in the Liverpool area.
In 1814 Colonel Pilkington of the Royal Engineers produced plans for a Fort at Perch Rock capable of holding 7
mounted heavy guns. The idea of building the fort here had many tactically advantages including the ability to fire at
sea level which greatly increased the chances of scoring a hit as apposed to firing from above and having to drop on
a target. In 1815 Wellingtons victory at Waterloo negated the requirement for a defence structure and the plans
were once again put on the back burner. Nearly a decade later in 1824 pressure began to mount on the Board of
Ordinance for a permanent defencive structure near the river Mersey and in soon after they gave in. The erection of
the new Lighthouse at New Brighton in addition to a permanent fortification was soon on the cards. Other ideas
included cannons on a lighthouse and a fort with a lighthouse on top. When the designer "Captain Kitson"
approached the board of Ordinance he proposed building a large strange shaped fort with fifteen 32 pounder guns
mounted on board. He goes on to say:
"The heaviest fire is in the principal ship canal which it nearly enfilades and by presenting the silent angle of the North
West i increased the fire in the narrowest part of the channel opposite the intended lighthouse and the battery will be
better protected from heavy seas from that quarter".
What the designer is referring to is that the lighthouse sits in the line of sight of the cannons and would cause
problems when attempting to hit the ships from certain angles. To get around this he proposed an unusual shape
which would also help diminish the waves during poor weather conditions. Soon after the plans were approved and
work began on the fortification in 1826 under command of Captain Kitson. By 1829 the fort was completed at a final
sum of £26965 which came in surprisingly under budget. The amenities and living conditions of the fort were poor
for the time as water was pumped from a well in the forts basement area. The forts arsenal consisted of sixteen 32
pound cannons. Two of which were on the East face, Four on the North face, Six on the West face and a single gun
on each tower. In addition, two smaller 18 pound cannons were mounted in the towers to defend the entrance to
the fort from enemies trying to storm it from land, which could be loaded with grape shot to maximise casualties.
The powder magazine was a large building in the middle of the fort which had facilities to be flooded by water should
it catch fire during an exchange of fire.
As the years drew on so too did the requirement for stronger and more long range weapons. In 1861 eight of the
forts 32 pounders were removed and replaced with 68 pounders. By this time technology had improved and two
7" breach loading guns were placed in the towers. The guns were the first change from cannon balls to shells. The
fort was maintained and garrisoned by men from the Cheshire Artillery Volunteers and was around 60 strong. In
1897 all of the armament from the fort were removed and replaced with two early maxims machine guns designed to
protect the front entrance. In 1984 the fort underwent major refurbishment which included reducing the size of the
forts towers and filing in the magazine box. By 1899 the fort had once again received its new guns which were
mounted around the fort ready to once again protect the river from enemy ships this time to be used in conjunction
with the newly produced "search lights". A further upgrade came in 1910 when 6" guns were added to the forts
defence. After the outbreak of WW1 a Norwegian sailing ship had entered the channel and ignored signals from
Perch Rock to halt. As a results the commanding officer order a warning shit to be fired across the bow of the ship.
The shell overshot the vessel and landed in the sand dunes of Hightown Liverpool. A second shot was then fired
which hit the bow of the vessel rendering it immobile. When later questioned as to why they did not stop, the
captain replied that he was unaware of the outbreak of the war and that he though the shot was a joke". The shell
was later retrieved from the sand hills and placed on display in the officers quarters at Fort Perch Rocks with a
message reading "A Present from New Brighton".
Over the next 30 years many alterations were made including an observation post and search light in the East
tower, living quarters were increased, the draw bridge was removed and replaced by a solid causeway and an
electricity supply was added to the fort. Shortly after the outbreak of WW2 the first shot of the war was fired from
the fort just 14 minutes after the deceleration. A small fishing smack had entered the Rock Channel and was
dangerously close to merchant ships. After being told to halt a warning shot was fired across the bow of the vessel.
It later transpired that the vessel was friendly and had been out at sea since the regulations came into force which
prohibited vessels getting too close to shipping. In preparation for defence against German bombers the forts
surface was painted green to look like grass with grey path leading across it. The camouflage even went so far as
to put writing on the floor so as to make it look like tea rooms. The guns of the fort were last fired in 1951 for the
Festival of Britain celebrations and removed 3 years after. For several decades the fort changes hands and uses, it
became everything from a nightclub to a exhibition. In recent years it was owned by Doug & Alice Darroch who
showed great passion for the fort. Sadly both of them passed away in 2006, the fort now holds collection of
memorabilia including WW2 artifacts from the Wirral and the occasional gig for local bands.