As I mentioned back in “The Case of the Missing Letterbox“, we live on an unnamed road. It’s a narrow lane that runs up the hill from Boundary Road to the Lighthouse and Observatory on Bidston Hill.
But we can change that! As long as all the residents and owners agree on the new name, and we pay for the road signs, we can give our road a name. So, what should we call it?
We could name the road after one of the historic buildings to which it leads.
There’s been a lighthouse on the site since the 1771, when the first Bidston Lighthouse was built, further from the sea than any other lighthouse in Britain. This was after the Lower Sea Light at Mockbeggar Wharf had been destroyed by storms. The Upper Sea Light (the present Leasowe Lighthouse) became the Lower Sea Light, and Bidston Lighthouse became the Upper Sea Light. It featured a massive parabolic reflector, 12 feet in diameter, developed on-site by William Hutchinson, which enabled the light to be seen at a distance of 21 nautical miles. The present Bidston Lighthouse was built by Mersey Docks and Harbour Board in 1873, after the original lighthouse was damaged by fire and demolished. Lighthouse Lane might be a good name for our road.
The Observatory was built in 1866, when the Liverpool Observatory relocated to Bidston Hill from what is now Waterloo Dock. It’s had many uses over the years, including chronometer calibration, tide prediction, meterological observations, signalling the firing of the One O’Clock Gun at Morpeth Dock, and offices for oceanographic research. The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory was based here until 2004, when it relocated to the University of Liverpool. But it would be confusing to name the road after the Observatory, because there’s already an Observatory Road nearby.
Braehead Cottage used to sell teas. It was located outside the boundary wall that surrounds the Observatory and Lighthouse, near to the old coach house. It fell into disrepair after the war, and was demolished.
The Bidston Signals were once a prominent feature along the skyline of Bidston Hill. More than 100 flagpoles along the ridge of Bidston Hill signalled the approach of ships into Liverpool, allowing the merchants time to ready their crews for unloading. The signals service was augmented by a semaphore based telegraph system that connected Anglesey to Liverpool. The original Signals Station predated the first lighthouse. In 1873, the signals function was incorporated into the new lighthouse. Signals Road? Semaphore Lane? Too obscure, perhaps?
Or we could name the road after a historical person.
Richard Wilding was the first lighthouse keeper of Bidston Lighthouse, having served previously at Leasowe. When he died in 1797, his wife, Elizabeth took over as keeper, and served until 1800. Elizabeth Wilding was Liverpool’s first female lighthouse keeper. She got the job on the strict condition that “she shall continue to behave properly … and shall not attempt to employ or use the said Building called the Bidston Lighthouse or any of its Appendages as a Publick House”. Wilding Way has a certain ring to it.
Dr. Arthur Thomas Doodson (31 Mar 1890 – 10 Jan 1968) was a British oceanographer. He was Associate Director of the Liverpool Observatory and Tidal Institute when it formed in 1929. He is perhaps best known for the Doodson-Légé Tide Predicting Machine, the mechanical computer that was used to predict the tides for the D-Day landings. He lived and worked for a time at Bidston Observatory, and is buried in Flaybrick Cemetery. Mary Connell remembers him fondly. At Christmas he gave presents to the two Connell girls who lived in the Lighthouse Cottages, saying “here’s two-and-six for you and half-a-crown for you”. Mary was convinced that she was somehow missing out. Doodson Drive or Doodson Lane might be good names for our road.
Joseph Proudman (30 Dec 1888 – 26 Jun 1975), CBE, FRS, was Honorary Director of the University of Liverpool Tidal Institute. The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory and the Joseph Proudman Building were named after him. At the moment, there is some controversy about the future of the Joseph Proudman Building. A vocal few want it turned into a drumming school and Grade-II listed. We think it is an eyesore and should be demolished.
What do you think we should call our road?
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