Association of Lighthouse Keepers

Welcome to our Forum!

Association of Lighthouse Keepers
Start a New Topic 
William Bird of Hoylake lighthouse 1819-1855

Hi there,

I have an unusual request for information if anyone has anything they can share.

From what I've read, the lighthouse keeper at Hoylake, more particularly the lower lighthouse keeper, had a dual role as the coxswain of Hoylake lifeboat. I can see that the role was jointly held by Thomas Seed 1803-1808 and Joseph Bennett 1809-1822. From a book by Jeff Morris, the next acknowledged coxswain is George Davies in 1840 and during the interim period - somewhere around 1826 - the link between keeper and coxswain ceases to be official. In your records, there appears to be a William Bird present between 1819 and 1855 when he retired and then a John Bird as coxswain from 1865 to 1890, which I would hope was some relative of William. It would seem sensible that William followed Joseph Bennett into the role of coxswain but I have nothing to corroborate the assumption, especially as William appears in both the 1841 & 1851 censuses as lighthouse keeper, formerly at the Lower and laterly at the Upper. Would there be any detail anywhere - National Archives offices, anything, anywhere else that helped me with that search for the Hoylake lifeboat coxswain that held the position between 1822 & 1840?



Re: William Bird of Hoylake lighthouse 1819-1855

The book "Lighthouses of Liverpool Bay" by John and Diane Robinson has quite a bit of information about the Hoylake lifeboat in chapter 3 (which is mostly about the Hoylake lighthouses). You can usually find a copy on ebay or abebooks. John and Diane Robinson also compiled the information about the lighthouse keepers of Liverpool Bay which is on the ALK website:

As you say, William Bird kept Hoylake Lower from 1819 until his retirement in 1855. Another Bird, Henry, kept Hoylake Lower from 1860 until his death in 1868. If they were related, I have not found the connection (but I haven't really looked). Nor am I aware of any connection between the John Bird that you mention and Liverpool's lighthouse service. Bird was a common name in North Wirral, especially amongst fisherman in Hoylake.

John and Diane write on page 73 "Joseph Bennett seems to have become less active, perhaps through old age, in the years following the Earl Moira incident. By the end of 1825 the whole of the lifeboat service, locally, had become moribund, so a special committee was set up to deal with the problem. After a year a full report was produced. This resulted in a new and improved lifeboat service that operated from all points around Liverpool Bay. Joseph Bennett remained keeper of the Upper Lighthouse until he died in 1828." They don't give a source for this particular statement. But it does suggest that the relationship between the lighthouse and lifeboat probably altered around 1825.

The Merseyside Maritime Museum Archives hold the extensive Mersey Docks and Harbour Board collection (which is incompletely catalogued). Now, the MDHB wasn't established until 1858, so its primary records won't be contemporaneous with the period you're interested in. Nonetheless there may well be information in those archives that touches on your questions.

Prior to 1858, the lighthouses (and I presume, lifeboats) were operated by the city of Liverpool. So you might have some joy from their records; Liverpool Central Library would be a sensible place to start.

Hope this helps.


Re: William Bird of Hoylake lighthouse 1819-1855

Thanks Stephen, I'll go to the maritime museum next week and will make a visit to the central library art the same time. Can you tell me what the Earl Moira incident was please? Cheers, Dave

Re: William Bird of Hoylake lighthouse 1819-1855

Actually Stephen, I've found it now thanks, there are of course several newspaper articles about the Earl Moira and I've also read Joseph Bennett's log today with his comments on it - interestingly he didn't name the vessel but the date of Aug 9th 1821 was present and I could put 2 and 2 together to fill in the gaps. We also have a sea chart from the early 1900s where we could identify the Gut no.1 buoy and Wharf Bank which aren't on modern day charts.

Thanks for the info, very interesting!