Coastal heritage


Coastal Heritage

A Chronology for the Sefton Coast

A record of important events of relevance to the Sefton Coast and its management.


c1316 Storms caused the closure of the medieval port of Kenfig, near Port Talbot on the coast of south Wales. Further storms in 1344 and 1480 finally buried the former Roman coast road.

Some time after 1385 Formation of a great belt of sand dunes enclosed and protected the flat land, known as Morfa Harlech, closing for good the mediaeval port of Harlech.


1413 The mediaeval township of Forvie on the coast of Aberdeenshire buried by sand. This followed storms of 1401 to 1404.

1423 Record from the Netherlands of artificial establishment of marram grass by planting, so principles of dune stabilisation were probably well known in the 15th Century.


1630s 'Hawslookers' appointed for the first time by the Manors of Ainsdale and Birkdale. In 1637 three local inhabitants were fined for gathering marram grass.

1667 Record of Henry Blundell and Robert Formby establishing rabbit warrens at Formby and setting their boundary at Wicks Lane. Agreement for division of 'Hawes Sandie Hilles and Coney Warrans of Formbie' LRO DDFo/34/1

1671 Henry Blundell given 300 year lease of wreck of the sea in manors of Formby, Birkdale and Ainsdale.

1689 Greenville Collins' map of the Mersey area. First useful map.

1694 Great storm at Culbin, Morayshire with loss of 16 farms, manor house and 2000-3000hectares of farmland. This followed severe storms in 1663 and 1676

1697 Great sand-blow disaster at Udal on the island of North Uist on the Outer Hebrides obliterated a site that had been inhabited for 4000 years.


1710 From this date it was a sometime manorial duty to plant marram and from 1711 landowners began to insert clauses in leases compelling tenants to plant marram.

1715 Customs officials describe the coast as "a place of the greatest smuggling in the country". The Isle of Man had declared itself independent in 1523 and became a major route for smuggling goods into Britain.

1719 Formby landmark (lighthouse) built.

1720 A great inundation of the coast on 18-19 December. The sea flooded over 660 acres (267 ha) of land and demolished many houses.

1727 First record in Court Leet of a fine for marram cutting

1729 List of Court officals for Formby includes for the first time "lookers that no person get Star and set where need requireth"

1730 First record of a fine for not planting marram.

1736 Bold Estate map of 1736 shows "New Marsh" on site of present Lord Street.

1739 Sandstorm buries village of Ravenmeols.

1742 Act passed "for the more effectual preventing of the cutting of Star or Bent"

1753 Thomas Radcliffe of Ormskirk, attorney, draws up an agreement by the lessees of commons, Coney-Warrens and waste grounds of Formby to prosecute stealers of rabbits. Obviously the warreners were fed up with poachers.

1757 "Starr Setters" appointed by the manors of Ainsdale and Birkdale to oversee the planting of marram. From the mid 1760s all new leases included a requirement to plant marram grass.

1765 Act of Parliament passed in an attempt to give protection to rabbit warrens from poaching.

1776 Britain's first lifeboat station established at Formby.

1779 Alt Commissioners appointed under 1778 Alt Drainage Act. New floodgates built on Alt.

1797 Alt Commissioners start reclamation work (first 20 acres (8 ha)completed by 1818)


Early 1800's River Ribble training between rubble walls started near Preston.

1828 Formby Point erosion recorded (E. Eyes).

1829 Formby General Court Order reinforces the 1729 order and asks Star-lookers to work extra days. Other activities are forbidden, including sod-cutting, collecting driftwood, cockling and bait digging.

1833 "Highest Tide of the 19th Century" 31st December 1833. 7.18m above O.D. at Hesketh Arms. (Bland/Barrow)

1835 first promenade and sea wall at Southport

1839 6-7 January. Great storm. Loss of life and damage to shipping in Liverpool.

1840 Training of the River Ribble started at The Naze.

1841 First National Census shows Ainsdale and Birkdale as agricultural communities.

1845 Tithe map and schedule for Formby.

1846 Southport Improvement Commissioners (the first "Council") nominated by Act of Parliament.

1847 Thomas Weld-Blundell wins seven year legal battle to gain the Ince Blundell estate.

1848 Completion of Liverpool-Southport railway.

1848 First Ordnance Survey map of Formby.

1855 St. Lukes Church (the little church in the sandhills) built.

1855 Reclamation of Balling's Wharf (Altcar Rifle Range) complete and rented for grazing.

1857 Public notices created at Birkdale, Ainsdale and Formby reminding readers of the punishment for cutting marram.

1860 Construction of Southport pier.

1860 Establishment of Altcar Rifle Range. Range opened by Lord Sefton on 28th July.

1867 Southport receives its charter.

1870 - 1900 Reclamation of Massams slack.

1873 West Lancashire Golf Club founded.

1875 Establishment of Formby Land and Building Company (wound up in 1902)

1880s Cheshire Lines railway constructed between Central Station Liverpool, and Lord Street Southport, sited very close to high water mark on the Ainsdale to Birkdale shore.

1880 Dumping of refuse in Liverpool Bay started.

1884 Formby Golf Club founded.

1885 Southport Corporation purchase the town foreshore.

1885 Hesketh Golf Club established.

1887 First conifer planting experiments by Charles Weld-Blundell.

1889 (Royal) Birkdale Golf Club founded.

1890 First dredging in River Mersey, at Bar.

1893/94 Large scale afforestation projects started by Charles Weld-Blundell and Jonathon Formby.

1894 Southport and District Wildfowlers' Association formed.

1895 Southport petitions Parliament against proposed extension of River Ribble training walls (Petition unsuccessful).

1895 Marine Drive built around first Marine Lake

1896 Dumping of Sewage Sludge in Liverpool Bay commenced.


1904 Construction of Fort Crosby at Hightown

1905 Ainsdale becomes part of Birkdale.

1907 Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club established.

1909 Work begins on the training banks of the outer Mersey. (Taylor's Bank)


1910 Early flying experiments at Freshfield. Five hangars set up near Victoria Road.

1911 Mr C.S. Weld-Blundell and Jonathon Formby give evidence to the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation.

1912 Hillside Golf Club established.

1912 Ainsdale and Birkdale amalgamated with Southport.

1913 West Lancashire Territorial Association purchase 500 acres of foreshore at Altcar from Mr F.N. Blundell.

1914 Southport sea bathing lake opened.

1915 Ainsdale and Freshfield dunes listed in survey of "areas worthy of protection" by the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves.

1916 Final closure of Formby Lifeboat Station

1919 Coast erosion on Lancashire and Cheshire coasts causing local press comment.

1919-1920 Coast erosion causes concern at Blundellsands due to migration of River Alt.


1921 Efforts to control rabbits started at Altcar Rifle Range.

1924 Dredging of the River Mersey reaches its peak at 25 million hopper tons/yr 1924-1925.

1927 Storm surge on the night of 28th to 29th November at 6.1 metres above O.D. causes serious damage.

1928 Remainder of Birkdale and Ainsdale foreshore purchased by Southport Corporation. Subsequently the sandhills were also bought.


1933 Construction of Ainsdale Lido.

1936 River Alt diverted by training wall north of Hall Road.

1937 Training of the River Ribble completed (South Salters Spit).

1938 Tank training started at Altcar (a new area was provided in 1948).

1939 Southport Corporation purchase remainder of northern foreshore from the Hesketh Estate.

1939 April sees the opening of Marine Gardens, Waterloo by the Mayor of Crosby.


1941 R.A.F. Woodvale established on the site of the former Freshfield Golf Club.

1942 Tipping of rubble along Crosby-Hightown shore started.

1945 War Office propose that Formby Point be used for military training.

1945 First accurate aerial photography carried out by RAF.

1946 Southport-Ainsdale shore bus service introduced.


1950s Dumping of refuse in Liverpool Bay by Liverpool and Salford stopped after campaign by Southport.

1952 Southport and Cheshire Lines extension railway closed. Closure opens possibilities for development south of Southport, because shore will be accessible.

1953 Publication of Sandy Shores in South Lancashire by R.K. Gresswell.

1955 Newspaper reports mercy killings of myxomatosis rabbits (2000 in 3 months), implying that the disease was widespread by 1954. Evening Express 1.2.1955.

1956 British Nicotine Company begin tipping in dunes south of Victoria Road.

1956 Cheshire Lines railway closed.

1956 Formby Point caravan site established at Lifeboat Road.

1956 Southport Sanctuary designated. (the second such site to be designated in the UK under Protection of Birds Act 1954)

1957 Fort Crosby becomes redundant.

1957 Completion of River Mersey Training Banks.

1958 Formby Coast Protection Order under Coast Protection Act (1949).

1959 Pinetrees caravan site relocated at Victoria Road due to marine erosion. This site was abandoned and relocated in 1981.


1960s Southport Marine Lake was further extended northwards to Fairway using a small suction dredger.

1960 - 1965 Major extension of Hillside Golf Course.

1961 Pine Tree Cafe collapses into the sea after storm erosion on 24 October

1963 Permission given for housing development at Hightown. MOD sell Fort Crosby Coast Defense Battery to Crosby Borough, including 417 acres of foreshore.

1963 Declaration of Formby Sand Dunes SSSI.

1964-68 Former Cheshire Lines railway track converted to Coastal Road.

1965 Lifeboat Station, now used as a cafe, demolished.

1965 National Trust launch Enterprise Neptune.

1965 Declaration of Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR and SSSI.

1965 First Formby Point visitor survey carried out by Lancashire County Council.

1966 Declaration of Southport Sand Dunes and Foreshore SSS1.

1966 Lancashire County Council publish the Formby Area Report with plans for a coastal regional park.

1966 First sand extraction from Horsebank by W. Rainford Ltd, (the idea was first mooted in 1961).

1966 Mersey Channels deepened by dredging from 24ft to 28ft: new ruling depth.

1967 Demolition of Fort Crosby, Hightown

1967 National Trust purchase Freshfield Dune area

1967-1968 Numerous storm surges cause increased rate of erosion around Formby coastline.

1968 Pontin's Holiday Village opened at Ainsdale


1970 First efforts at Altcar Range to conserve natterjack toads.

1971/72 First artificial scrapes dug on Birkdale Hills by Lancashire Naturalists' Trust.

1971 Flood protection bank completed at Cabin Hill by Mersey and Weaver River Authority.

1972 Alt pumping station opened.

1973 Hovercraft service launched at Southport.

1973 Little Balls Hill (Ainsdale) removed and dunes stabilised.

1974 Local Government Reorganisation.

1974 Proposals by Mountrule Land Development Company for country park at Formby Point.

1974 Tobacco waste tipping ceased at Formby.

1975 Mersey channels allowed to revert to 24ft ruling depth.

1975 Merseyside County Council Formby Point Visitor Survey.

1977 Storm Surge 11 November. 6.11 metres above O.D.

1977 Merseyside County Council start dune restoration projects at Formby Point.

1978 Formby Land Company agree to lease Lifeboat Road and Ravenmeols Dunes to Sefton Council.

1978 Formal agreement to establish Sefton Coast Management Scheme. Partners were Merseyside County Council, Sefton Borough Council and Countryside Commision

1979 Project Officer for Sefton Coast Management Scheme appointed.

1979 Military use of Cabin Hill area for grenade training ceases. Area officially declared safe in 1983.

1979 Altcar Sand Dunes and Foreshore SSSI designated.


1980 Closure of the Port of Preston - No further maintenance or dredging in the River Ribble.

1980 Designation of Ainsdale and Birkdale Hills Local Nature Reserve.

1980 Formby Point Visitor Survey by Sefton Council.

1981 Pinetree Caravan site (Victoria Road) moved inland due to coast erosion.

1982 The Ribble Estuary SPA (Special Protection Area ) classified on 31/8/82

1983 Storm Surge, January 31. 6.0 metres above O.D.

1983 Sefton Coast Management Scheme extended to south of River Alt.

1983 Coast Management Plan published by Sefton Council.

1983 Open Golf championship at Royal Birkdale

1984 Cabin Hill National Nature Reserve leased from the Formby Trust.

1984 Freshfield Dune Heath SSSI notified 18/02/84 (subsumed into Sefton Coast SSSI in 2000)

1985 The Alt Estuary SPA classified and the Alt Estuary Ramsar site designated on 28/11/85

1986 Notification of Altcar Sand Dunes and Foreshore SSSI 10/08/86

1987 First edition of Coastlines - the biannual newsletter of the Sefton Coast

1987 Major dune restoration project at Lifeboat Road

1987 Erection of experimental beach barrier on Ainsdale beach

1987 Development of Wick's Lane Lake into an amenity area.

1987 Provision of permissive bridleway route at Formby Point.`

1989 Sefton Council wins national Councils for Wildlife award for its work through the Sefton Coast Management Scheme

1989 Oil spill at Bromborough affects Sefton Coast (19 August)


1990 Experimental grazing with Herdwick sheep begins at Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR

1990 Storm surge. February 26th - 28th. 6.3 metres above O.D.

1991 Designation of Cabin Hill National Nature Reserve.

1991 Notification of Formby Sand Dunes and Foreshore SSSI, Ainsdale Sand Dunes SSSI and Southport Sand Dunes and Foreshore SSSI 10/07/91

1991 Coast Management Scheme extended to include all the undeveloped coastal zone and beaches within Sefton.

1991 Open Golf Championship at Royal Birkdale

1991 Alt Centre opens

1991 Sefton Coast Education Project launched.

1991 1 April. Formation of English Nature from former Nature Conservancy Council.

1992 Establishment of Queens Jubilee Nature Trail.

1992 Completion of first phase of pinewood clearance to restore open dune landscapes at Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR.

1992 Establishment of the Alt 2000 campaign to improve the environment of the River Alt.

1992 National Trust purchase 10 hectares of agricultural land at Formby

1993 Publication of The Sand Dunes of the Sefton Coast.

1993 Introduction of Beach Management Plan and zoning of access to beaches between Ainsdale and Birkdale.

1993 Sefton Coast Management Scheme (Sefton Council, English Nature and National Trust) win Eurosite Quality Award for coastal management.

1994 Sefton twins with Gdansk in Poland. UK Know How Fund grant for project to develop coastal mangement initiatives in Poland.

1994 RSPB establish nature reserve at Marshside.

1994 National Trust provide toilet facilities at Victoria Road.

1994 Rare Leatherback Turtle found washed up on Birkdale Beach.

1995 The Ribble and Alt Estuaries SPA classified and Ramsar site designated on 16/02/95 subsuming the Alt Estuary SPA, Ribble Estuary SPA and Alt Estuary Ramsar site.

1995 Centenary of the National Trust

1995 Launch of NPI Red Alert North West to promote the conservation of the Red Squirrel

1995 Publication of Walks on the Sefton Coast guide.

1995 Sefton Council purchases Ravenmeols dunes.

1995 High water levels in dune slacks, March 1995. Aerial photography commissioned.

1995 Phase 2 of English Nature's open dune restoration project at Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR

1995 Sefton Coast candidate Special Area of Conservation proposed by UK Government.

1995 Liverpool Bay Wader Study Group launched.

1995 Formation of NPI Red Alert North West initiative for the conservation of the Red Squirrel.

1995 Funding received from EU Life-Nature fund for Sefton Coast Life Project, a partnership between Sefton Council, English Nature and the National Trust to develop a conservation strategy for the Sefton Coast cSAC.

1996 Establishment of Environment Agency

1996 First CoastNet conference held in Southport.

1996 Proposal for establishment of a Crosby Coastal Park

1996 Completion of North West Water's Sea Change project to upgrade Southport Waste Water Treatment Works.

1997 Second review of Sefton Coast Management Plan 1997-2006 published

1997 Construction of sand lizard vivarium in Chester Zoo.

1997 Sefton Coast hosts Eurosite workshop on the conservation of protected species.

1997 Work commences on Phase 1 of the Southport Floodwall and Promenade

1997 Formby, Lifeboat Road beach first entered for Seaside Awards programme. Award given.

1998 Open Golf Championship at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.

1998 European Dune Symposium held at Southport as part of Sefton Coast Life Project.

1999 Establishment of Countryside Agency from former Countryside Commission (a key partner in the Sefton Coast Management Scheme) and the countryside functions of the Rural Development Commission.

1999 Book 'Sands of Time' by Phillip H. Smith published by National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside.

1999 European Award for Sefton Council for the dissemination of information through the Sefton Coast Life Project.

1999 Development of the Ainsdale Discovery Centre (former Lido pavilion) by Sefton Council's Coast and Countryside Service.

1999 Altcar Rifle Range Conservation Advisory Group runners-up in MOD Sanctuary award for the conservation management of the Altcar Rifle Range estate.

1999 First meeting of Sefton Coast Forum


2000 Work begins on the refurbishment of Southport Pier

2000 All three designated bathing beaches (Formby, Ainsdale and Southport) pass water quality criteria for first time. (

2000 Quality of Coastal Towns project co-financed by the EU Interreg IIC fund. Major visitor surveys undertaken on coast.

2000 RSPB open the second bird-watching hide at Marshside.

2000 Notification of Sefton Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on 16/08/00

2000 Application to the Forestry Commission for the development of a Forest Plan for the Sefton Coast Woodlands. Project coordinated by The Mersey Forest (Plan operational in 2002).

2001 Sefton Coast Partnership launched and Sefton Coast website launched.

2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak closes much of area. No outbreaks in area.

2001 High spring water levels in the dune system (recorded by aerial survey)

2001 Launch of North Merseyside Biodiversity Action Plan (22/09/01)