Peter Hesketh of Rossall Hall sank his fortune into building the brand new town of Fleetwood, on a stretch of the deserted coast where the River Wyre meets the sea. He commissioned the architect Decimus Burton to design the layout of the town and some of its key buildings. Burton selected Top Hill, a large natural sand hill to become the focal point of the town. Top Hill was renamed The Mount and the new streets radiated out from it.
Two buildings were constructed on the Mount- a pavilion made in 1838 and a lodge in 1841. The Lodge was a neo classical style low building split into two houses for the grounds keeper and the gardener of the Regency style garden. The original pavilion on top of the Mount was a ten sided Chinese style pagoda, and was used for decades as a tea room. It also had a secondary function as a weather observation station.
By 1859 Hesketh’s big gamble of building a new town and bringing the railway to it was not paying off. Now heavily in debt, he sold the North Euston Hotel to the government. This was converted into a military barracks and then into a school of Musketry.
Fleetwood residents began to worry that the Mount too would be taken over for military use. A wall had been constructed by Hesketh’s agents, blocking off part of the Mount and so a public meeting was held. During this an angry demonstration by some of the attendees resulted in parts of the wall being demolished. The result of all of this concern ultimately resulted in a right of way being granted on the Mount for everyone, and the local council leasing it from Hesketh. However, the residents did have to share its use with the military as in 1862 a Royal Naval Reserve Volunteers gun battery of two three ton cannons was constructed on the seaward side, firing at targets out at sea.
The proximity of the Mount to the sea meant that it was repeatedly battered by storms. Part of the sand hill was destroyed, the Pavilion kept getting damaged and the gun battery had to be relocated. New sea defences were placed in front of the Mount and this counteracted some of the worst effects of the weather. In 1902 a brand new Pavilion was put up and this is the present one we see today, made by the Portable Building Company of Fleetwood.
Huge floods in 1927 meant that the sea defences needed to be further strengthened. On the shore in front of the Mount the Marine Gardens were built so that the sea no longer came up to the base of the Mount.
In the 1980s restoration of the Mount was begun. The south side had begun to badly erode so it was planted with pine trees to stabilize it. The Pavilion was by now derelict and had been vandalized. Fleetwood Civic Society and Wyre Borough Council spent £42,000 to restore it and it is still in very good condition today. Thirty years on there is a bid in with the Heritage Lottery Fund for further restoration for the whole of the Mount.
Much has already been achieved- the Grade II registered gardens are now being replanted and restored to their original format. The metal railings topping the wall around the gardens that were removed in Second World war have now been replaced with ones that have the same design and colour as the originals. The public shelters have also been renovated.
The next stage of the bid is to renovate and open the Pavilion and Lodge for public use. Plans for the Lodge include reopening the ground floor and unblocking the windows. The Pavilion is to be repainted to its original colour scheme, new louvers for its top and the balcony refitted to its original design.
The weather station in the Pavilion is also going to be restored, which seems appropriate given the long use the building has been put to in the monitoring of local conditions. In 1886 the Meteorological Office put in a Robinson Cup anemometer to measure wind speed. An allowance of £10 per year was made to pay the keeper to change the graph paper and send weather reports down to Greenwich. The anemometer lasted until 1923, when it was replaced by a 10 foot high pressure wind vane. This lasted incredibly until 2009, when it suffered storm damage.
The memorial clock installed after the First World War is still going strong. Made by the Potts company at Leeds it is still maintained by them all these years later, striking the quarter of the hour for all to hear.
It is the aim of Fleetwood to make its promenade the finest in England. With its sculptures, historical interpretation boards, iconic lighthouses, town museum and now this restoration project they are well on the way to doing just that.
The Mount and Pavilion area are open access and can be seen at any time during daylight hours. The interior of the Pavilion is not generally open, but plans are afoot to bring it back into public use. It does open for the National Heritage Days every September and there is a movement to start opening it up for events in the school holidays. See Wyre Council website for the latest news about the Mount here
For more on the history of Fleetwood, visit their excellent museum here or type in fleetwoodmuseum.co.uk into your internet browser.
Nearby, just a very short walk away, Fleetwood’s Victorian Lighthouses
An Historical Timeline of the Mount In Fleetwood, Joan Ratcliffe, Fleetwood Civic Society leaflet (undated), currently available from Fleetwood Civic society
Reviving The Mount Wyre Council on site interpretation board 2017
Fleetwood Civic Society temporary display inside the Pavilion (Heritage Days September 2017)
Burton’s Fleetwood, Fleetwood Civic Society, leaflet (undated) currently available from Fleetwood Civic society
Fleetwood A Brief History, leaflet (undated) currently available from Fleetwood Civic Society