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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Bidston History as seen in 1848

Bidston in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England (1848)

 On an elevated site is a lighthouse, which was purchased by the corporation of Liverpool, under an act obtained in 1762, and is supported by a duty levied on all vessels sailing to and from that port. Bidston Hall, an ancient mansion, was a seat of the earls of Derby, and is said to have been a favourite residence of the Earl William, chamberlain of Chester in the reign of James I. There are extensive views embracing the Welsh mountains and river Dee, westward; southward, the county of Chester; eastward, the Mersey, Liverpool, and Everton; and northward, the Channel, bounding the horizon.
1864 Due to the expansion of Waterloo Dock, the decision was taken to close the Liverpool Observatory and build a new one on top of Bidston Hill, where there was also the advantage of clearer skies for astronomical observations.
1866 Land was purchased from a local landowner, Mr Vyner, who owned Bidston Hall, and Bidston Observatory was built, faced with sandstone excavated from the site. There was an equatorial telescope in the west dome, which was used mainly for the observation of comets, and a transit telescope in the east dome, which was regularly used for the determination of time from the stars. These telescopes are now in Liverpool Museum. There was a large instrument room - the through room on the ground floor - which contained two warm air chambers. Each of these could hold up to one hundred chronometers. These chronometers were tested over several months at varying temperatures and had to be very accurate before they were considered safe to take to sea. Sextants, barometers and thermometers were tested in the basement.
One o'clock was still indicated to the citizens of Liverpool, but now by the One O'clock Gun. This was situated at Morpeth Dock, Birkenhead and was connected by telegraphic line to Bidston Observatory. It was fired from here by the staff each working day, except for a six-year break during the Second World War. It was also fired at midnight to mark the beginning of the 20th century. The original cannon was a relic of the Crimean wars, and after it was replaced by a naval Hotchkiss gun, was on display in the Observatory grounds for many years.
1867 Meteorological observations began.
1872 The original lighthouse was replaced by the present one.
1875 The windmill ceased working.
1897 Several seismographs were set up in the deep cellars for experiments in the then new science of seismology.
1913 The lighthouse ceased operations, having acted as a guide to mariners for 142 years.
1918 The Mill again loses its roof in a gale
1924 The Liverpool Tidal Institute, under the directorship of Professor Proudman at Liverpool University, relocated to Bidston Observatory. Tidal predictions, which were calculated by hand, were produced on a commercial basis.
1929 The Liverpool Observatory of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and the Tidal Institute of the University of Liverpool amalgamated to become the Liverpool Observatory and Tidal Institute. Two tide predicting machines were now in use, and the tidal expertise of the institute received worldwide acclaim. Weather forecasting at Bidston ceased, although observations continue to be made to the present day.
1939-1945 Much valuable work was done during the Second World War. The staff worked seven days a week, from early morning to late at night, analysing and predicting tides towards the war effort. Tidal predictions were swiftly predicted for the seas around Burma, France and Holland. During these years one of the tide predicting machines was placed in an underground room in the Observatory grounds for security reasons. Photographic facilities were obtained, so that further copies of the predictions could be quickly provided in the event of their loss at sea.
1961 On the retirement of the Director, Dr Doodson, The Liverpool Observatory and Tidal Institute was renamed The University of Liverpool Tidal Institute and Observatory.
1969 The Institute became a component body of the Natural Environment Research Council and was renamed the Institute of Coastal Oceanography and Tides. An expanded marine research programme was embarked upon, with a corresponding increase in staff. The One O'clock Gun was fired for the last time on July 18th.
1970 The Institute's first mainframe computer was installed.
1973 Three previously separate NERC Institutes were amalgamated, becoming the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, including the Bidston Observatory.
1975 The Joseph Proudman building in the Observatory grounds was completed, to accommodate the increase in staff and also the latest computer.
1987 The Institute at Bidston was renamed the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory.
1992 An automatic weather station was installed, replacing the manual station which had been operating since 1867.
1994 The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, together with the Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory near Oban, and Plymouth Marine Laboratory became the Centre for Coastal and Marine Sciences.
2000 The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory once again became an independent institute under the Natural Environment Research Council.

2012. The Observatory currently sits empty and is apparently up for sale. The nearby Lighthouse is in private hands.
2014. The Observatory is no longer in use and is up for let as living accomodation

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