The Windmill sails
With this type of windmill the "cap" could be turned so that the sail could catch the wind, whatever direction it was blowing in. The large wooden chain wheel used to turn the roof around by a rack and gear system can still be seen. The mill used to have two doors on opposite sides of the mill. One day the unfortunate mill owner used the wrong door, was struck by the sails as they came close to the ground and was killed.
The Mill stones
The millstones were made of French burnstone. These stones weighed 1.5 tons each and lasted 2 years. A set of French burnstones now costs about £6000.
One hundred weight of flour was produced every 3 - 5 minutes.
Tam O'Shanter - Urban Farm
Tam O'Shanter Cottage, at the edge of Bidston Hill, was probably built about 300 years ago by a heath squatter. It had no particular claim to fame until 1837 when the present occcupier Richard Lea adorned the building with a carved stone slab depicting Burns poem "Tam O'Shanter" in which Tam pursued by witches sought to reach the bridge in the belief that the witches would not dare to cross running water. Tam indeed escaped but his mare poor Maggie lost her tail. Hence the cottage was known as Tam O'Shanter Cottage and became a favourite subject for artists and visitors alike.
The cottage had suffered from decay and fire, once in 1954 and again in 1975 after which Birkenhead History Society won permission from the local council to rebuild and restore it to its former glory. Rather than having a residential function it has been utilised as a field study centre for use by local school children. its also a delight for many adults too. There is not an a huge collection of animals but it also serves as a handy coffee shop and information centre as walking trails start from here to the other interesting sights of Bidston.
Ancient Rock Carvings
Close by the Observatory is an ancient Sun God carved into the sandstone by the Norse Irish, dating from about 1000 ad. There is also a carving of a horse in the same vicinity but this has almost been obliterated by the ravages of time, weather erosion and countless thousands of trampling feet. I couldn't find the sun godess one and almost missed the horse one, indeed I actually walked over it without noticing it. Any way here it is....not much to rave about either so don't worry if you miss it.
Bidston Lighthouse was used as a replacement for Lower Mockbeggar Light at Leasowe, on the coastline, which had been washed away by storm and tidal actions seven years after its construction. Incidentally the Upper Mockbeggar Light - the leasow Lighthouse is still in existence and is the oldest surviving brick built lighthouse in Europe.
An Act of Parliament had to be obtained for Bidston lighthouse as it is 2 miles inland. The light was installed in an octagonal stone tower 22 metres high and was built in 1771. This tower was replace by a more modern building in 1872 which was equipped with a powerful"Dioptic" light and last shone 9th October 1913. The 1872 lighthouse is still in existence today and forms part of the Proudman Tidal Observatory Estate.
Originally built in 1866 the Observatory housed telescopes for astronomical confirmation of the correct time for the "One O' Clock Gun" - a cannon that was fired at exactly one o' clock, notifying workers that their lunch break was over!
In later years, the Observatory calculated tide heights for all major ports worlwide, based on sample readings taken at certain times. There is a tide height meter at Hilbre Island where the warden takes the readings and passes them on to the Observatory. A mechanical "analogue" computer was constructed in 1924 by Arthur Thomas Doodson, the Head of the Birkenhead Tidal Institute, for this purpose. This tidal computer was the most accurate calculator of it's type in the World and was operated by Doodson's daughter in law until well into the 1960's but is now in the Observatory's museum under the ownership of "Proudman Oceonographic Institute".
Bidston Windmill was built on the hill's summit in 1800 and was used to produce flour up to 1875. It has suffered through the ravages of time but has recently been restored and received new sails in the 1990's. It is open to the public on the first sunday of each month in the afternoon when the interior and operating machinery can be inspected and the views from the top of the surrounding Merseyside area admired on clear days.
As I said there are not too many animals on the farm but Dave was taken with this pig.......perhaps something to do with the fact that it is an Oxford Sandy!!
Climbing the Windmill
Its open the first Sunday in each month from 2-4pm...but take care of the metal ladders they are quite steep....and its worse coming down too!