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Point Of Ayr Lighthouse;y Parlwr Du

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Map ReferenceSJ18NW
Grid ReferenceSJ1210085272
Unitary (Local) AuthorityShropshire
Old CountyFlintshire
PeriodPost Medieval
This lighthouse retains one of the earliest lanterns in Wales. It was a landfall light marking the entrance to the treacherous Dee estuary and was directional, beaming put to the north and west only. The tower largely corresponds with the 1776 estimate for its build and was modelled on the existing Liverpool Docks Board light at Hoylake - measuring 16m (52ft) high and with an external diameter 7.8m (25.75ft) at the bottom and 4.9m (16ft) at the top. A considerable part of the top of the tower is contemporary with a new lantern being fitted in the 1820s when ownership passed to Trinity House. This rebuilding may well have followed a partial structural collapse. The internal stair was rebuilt circa 1840. The base of the light bears the initials of the local architect and builder, H.T. (Henry Turner).

Event and Historical Information:
The small size of medieval ships allowed Chester, at the head of the difficult estuary, to grow into a very important port trading with the French wine ports, Dublin and the boroughs of the north Wales coast. In 1562 the boundaries of the port extended from Barmouth as far as the River Duddon, below Carlisle. The lighting arrangements for the important medieval port of Chester are obscure, as is the date and function of the `Pharos' at Whiteford Garn in Flintshire. Hilbre Island, on the Lancashire side of the mouth of the Dee, had a light by about 1236, for which the Earl of Chester paid 10s annually for its upkeep. The bill for the canalisation of the Dee in 1733 was designed to allow bigger vessels to safely enter Chester and to end the post-medieval decline of the port. The bill included proposals for a lighthouse but was opposed by a powerful Liverpool lobby. However the issue was given renewed impetus by the loss of two Dublin packets, the NONPAREIL (see NPRN 240551) and the TREVOR (see NPRN 240552) in a north-westerly hurricane on October 19, 1775 with the loss of over 200 lives and 46,000 worth of cargo. Ambitious plans by Chester merchants for two Point of Ayr Lighthouses and systems of buoys and landmarks were not supported by the Dee River Company on grounds of costs and by Liverpool merchants, supposedly because mariners might confuse new lights with the existing ones on the Liverpool approaches. To reduce possible costs, the committee asked Mr. Turner, a well-known architect from Hawarden to design a timber-built lighthouse that would top the surrounding hills by 9.1m (30ft). However, a new lighthouse was built modelled on the existing Liverpool Docks Board light at Hoylake. Detailed estimates were prepared by William Hamilton and a Mr. Meredith. The total cost was estimated at 349 8s 1d. Trinity House took over from the Point of Ayr Lighthouse Trustees in 1819 and the lighthouse structure was much altered around 1820 when the present lantern was fitted. What appears to be the existing 12m (40ft) high brick tower is well illustrated by W. Daniell in c.1810, and a good drawing by W. Latham in 1824 shows the surviving lantern and fenestration. The light was superseded by a piled structure in 1844, since removed. Sailing Directions dating to 1870 note '...65 feet high, it has a red top, and is painted with alternate red and white bands to its base. The light is a fixed one, 53 feet above high water, and is visible 9 miles in clear weather; distinguished as follows; - from between bearings of E 3/4 W to SE it shows white, between SE and W by N 1/4 N it is red, and hence N by W it is again white. A bell is sounded in foggy weather.'

Sources include:
Admiralty, 1870, Sailing Directions for the West Coast of England from Milford Haven to the Mull of Galloway including the Isle of Man, pg116
Gruffydd, K L, `Maritime Dee during the Later Middle Ages', Cymru a'r Mor: Maritime Wales 9 (1985), pg7-31.
Hague, D, 1994, Lighthouses of Wales, pg 37-41
Hawkes, G I, `The Point of Ayr Lighthouses', Cymru a'r Mor: Maritime Wales 9 (1985), pg32-43.
`Estimate for Building a Lighthouse at Point of Ayre, Flints', City of Chester Record Office, CB 165

Maritime Officer, RCAHMW, September 2014.