The horizon off Southport and Formby was once full of ships with vessels from all over the world carrying cargo and passengers to and from Liverpool, then the busiest sea port in the world. But while Southport and Formby are picturesque towns popular with tourists, the Irish Sea can often be unpredictable – and treacherous.
The coast is littered with a number of mysterious shipwrecks which have met their doom over the past two centuries. Sometimes, changes in tide and weather reveal one of our coastal relics, before they vanish from sight again.
The sea is just as dangerous today as it was back then, with brave souls from Southport Lifeboat working hard to keep everyone safe.
A booklet by Green Sefton officer John Dempsey has detailed the wrecks which are known to exist under either the waters or sands of our coast.
Here are some of the ones you can spot, with Green Sefton occasionally organising guided tours. But please be warned that approaching any of these vessels without an experienced guide can be dangerous.
Star of Hope
Wrecked: January 20, 1883
This mysterious wreck, which keeps vanishing beneath the waves before re-appearing, was lost during a Force 10 storm and theories exist that she was in collision with another craft before running ashore.
Located on the southern end of Ainsdale Beach in Southport this well-known 36-metre vessel can often vanish beneath the shifting sands for long periods. Despite the dreadful conditions, the crew of this German-made ship managed to escape thanks to the Crosby lightship.
Wrecked: February 2, 1917
Sheep were aboard this cargo ship which hit the Horse sandbank off Southport although all animals did make it to shore before the ship was broken up.
The steamship wreckage is so far out from the shore that a buoy marks its place today so that modern vessels are aware of its presence below the waves.
The wreck was known to fishermen as the Mugships or the Treacle Can, owing to part of its cargo – treacle and mugs.
Wrecked: November 24, 1939
Luckily nobody perished when this vessel ran aground just two months after Britain went to war against Germany.
It was what was left behind in the hold that aroused such interest locally – whisky. Barrels of the stuff.
While the Pegu was firmly stuck in the Crosby navigation channel, prematurely ending its voyage from Glasgow to Rangoon, rumour has it that the men of Formby managed to get out to it and liberate the bottles before the customs team got to it.
The mast remained a landmark on the coastline for around 50 years before a collision with a tug in the late 1980s saw that too sent to the waves.
Wrecked: December 9, 1886
The worst maritime tragedy to take place off our coastline, with 27 brave lifeboat men losing their lives. They are celebrated at the Fisherman’s Rest pub in Birkdale.
The Mexico, a German-owned ship, ran aground at Birkdale having set off from Liverpool. Conditions were so ferocious that night that the lifeboat crews which went out to help soon found themselves in desperate trouble. Twenty-seven of them, 14 from Southport and 13 from St Annes, died.
Another lifeboat sent from Lytham, the Charles Biggs, saved the Mexico crew.
The Mexico was able to set sail again but was finally wrecked for good in 1900 off the North Berwick coast.
Wrecked: November 25, 1939
A terrible storm led to this boat running aground at Ainsdale.
Ten people were saved in lifeboats but another 23 died. There was confusion when the crew called for help when emergency services believed they were in trouble in North Wales waters and not in the shadow of Southport.
When people gathered on the shore the next day to see the wreckage, crew members could still be seen clinging to the mast.
Wrecked: February 21, 1918
With this boat being wrecked towards the end of World War I, little information is known about it due to reporting restrictions during a time of conflict.
It was on the way to Italy from Liverpool carrying a cargo of copper ore and the wreck has since moved for its original landing spot due to shifts in the tide.
It’s possible to see the remains of the two-masted steamer from the Southport shore.
Wrecked: July 31, 1933
This steam-powered trawler broke her lines as she was being towed up the Ribble towards Preston.
She initially settled just south of Southport Pier but then drifted north to where she remains today.
Attempts by two dredgers to set Endymion free proved unsuccessful but like other wrecks in Liverpool Bay, she proved useful for RAF target practice during the Second World War.
Wrecked: January 27, 1883
This was carrying salt from Liverpool to the Americas when she was lost in the same year as the Star of Hope.
All on board survived the incident but the ship could not be saved and had to be left to the mercy of the tides.
In the 1980s, her remains and nameplate were rediscovered by Sefton lifeguard Verdi Godwin and his colleague Paul Lowry.