The Congleton Lighthouse.
Although the town of Congleton may seem somewhat insignificant, apart from swopping the town bible for a dancing bear, it did for a short number of years in the 1920s hold the title of being the only place in the country that had an inland lighthouse!
The lighthouse was constructed at the traffic lights at the top of Rood hill, which became known locally as “Deathtrap” junction.
Back in 1922 the borough surveyor came up with a plan to improve the junction by taking off some of the corner and building a retaining wall, and he also came up with the idea of building a lighthouse with large white panels with red lettering on them, telling drivers to select a low gear because of the steepness of the hill they were about to negotiate. Back in those days the braking systems of the vehicles were fairly basic compared with the sophisticated brakes of the vehicles of today. This had resulted in considerable loss of life over the years when brakes had failed and the drivers had lost control of their vehicles.
The lighthouse was officially opened on March 8th 1924 by Sir Henry P Maybury, Director General for roads and the Ministry of Transport. The lighthouse was constructed from ferro – concrete and stood 28 feet high, the lower portion of the building conained two 6ft square windows which were covered with white canvas and on this white canvas written in red letters 16inches high were the words “Dangerous hill. Change to low gear”. At night a gas burner of 2000 candle power illuminated the sign so it would stand out to any motorists approaching the hill.
The lower portion of the lighthouse contained a room 9ft square which contained a washbasin and a stove and the plan was to rent it to the RAC, the tower and upper floors contained more illuminated signs, indicating danger, right or left turn and steep ascent or descent. The tower was crowned by a lantern fitted with suitable lenses, occulting screens and rotating mechanisms operated by hot air.
“The speed of the screens was controlled by the angle of the vanes in the rotating mechanism which attained its maximum velocity when the vanes were set at an angle of 45 degrees.” Adjustments for the lantern were made from an iron gallery attached to the rear of the building, which was reached by an iron ladder inside the building. And to make sure that every part of the lantern was accessible, it was mounted on ball bearings controlled by a locking device.
Much like the Congleton Steamboat, the lighthouse outlived its usefulness and it eventually fell into disrepair, however it did survive until the first week of August 1939 when it was taken down to make way for the bypass that exists today.