Seaforth Radar Station

In this post, we’ll take a detailed look at Seaforth Radar Station, both the original situated on the northern sea wall of Gladstone Dock, and the current derelict station, situated on the northern sea wall of Seaforth Dock.

History

Seaforth Radar Station, in the current form, was built in 1969 as a result of the construction of Royal Seaforth Dock.

The radar replaces the old radar station, which was on the northern sea wall of Gladstone dock, which was built and opened in 1948.

Old Radar Station

The old Seaforth Radar Station, on the northern wall of Gladstone Dock.

Shortly after World War 2, countries were finding new and innovative uses for the new radar technology that had just helped win the war. One of these proposed uses was the tracking of marine traffic in the Liverpool Bay, which would help with navigation during bad weather, and also keeping tabs on what ships were in the docks and river, allowing for better planning.

A video showing the old Seaforth Radar Station, known then as the “Liverpool Radar”

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board (MDHB) contracted Sperry Gyroscope Company Limited, to design and build a harbour radar installation to monitor the Mersey shipping channel in 1948. A large rotating radar scanner was built atop a 80ft steel tower, with a control room at the base.

The radar station was a landmark achievement, as upon completion Liverpool became the first port with radar assistance in the world.

One of the pioneers of radar, Sir Robert Watson-Watt, responsible for Chain Home Radar System and the Huff Duff System, was heavily involved in the project. Sir Robert led many international delegations to promote maritime safety using radar-assisted port operations.

Three radar operators initially operated the radar, with the number eventually raising to six, to provide 24 hour coverage of the channel.

The operator’s console at the Seaforth Radar Station.

The new radar immediately put two lightships out of action, as the function of the radar as a poor weather shipping aid rendered them redundant.

In the first year of operation, from 29 July 1948 to 28 July 1949, 213 merchant vessels made use of the radar assistance from the radar station. In addition, 3 Royal Navy ships had been given assistance, the largest of which was H.M.S. Eagle.

In addition of navigation assistance, the radar station provided the following services:

  • Monitoring of hoppers – to ensure they were dumping spoil within designated deposit sites.
  • Radar fixing of floating seamarks – to ensure buoys and other navigational aids remain in the right position.
  • Radar fixing of grounded vessels – to broadcast to the coastguard and lifeboats exactly where a vessel was.
  • Hourly situation reports – to give pilot boats the position of all vessels at anchor, or underway in the approaches to the port.
A video showing the operation of the old Seaforth Radar Station.

The radar station remained in use, until the construction of Royal Seaforth Dock in the late 1960’s required it to be moved northwards.

New Radar Station

Seaforth Radar Tower
The current Seaforth Radar Station.
Image by Sue Berry

Active Bounty!

We’re offering a £20 reward for good quality images of the interior of the Seaforth Radar Station!

To find out how to contribute your images and claim this bounty, visit our contributions page.

The current Seaforth Radar Station stands on the northern sea wall Boundary of Royal Seaforth Dock and Crosby beach.

The current radar was constructed in 1973, after the completion of the dock, and is an 86ft high octagonal tower on a 17ft square base with a cantilevered control room 47ft wide.

The current radar was constructed by Mears Construction Ltd, who also built the container packing sheds and the canteen for Royal Seaforth Dock.

In 2007, a competition was run by the Mersey Basin Campaign and the Royal Institute of British Architects to design a replacement tower for the crumbling radar station. The winning design, dubbed the “Mersey Observatory”, was a bold replacement for the station.

The winning design for the Mersey Observatory, by Duggan Morris architects.

However, any hopes of a replacement for the iconic radar station were squashed by the 2008 financial crisis, and resulted in the plans being shelved, and eventually, forgotten.

Today, the derelict radar station remains, serving as a polarising local landmark, awaiting the day when it is eventually demolished.

Photos of Seaforth Radar Station

Location of Seaforth Radar Station


Contributions

  • 21/04/2020 – Initial Post – Sefton Digital Team

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