The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 2 of 4

The following account of one woman’s life as both a daughter and a wife of men serving in the Trinity House lighthouse service was published in the April and July editions of Flash magazine in 1961.

This fascinating recollection was written by Aurelie Trezise, wife of Cyril Trezise BEM. Cyril (b.1900, d. 1970) joined Trinity House as a Supernumerary Assistant Keeper in 1919 and retired in March 1962.

Part 1 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 2 of 4: 1920 – 1925

“November 1920 we were transferred to Hartland Point Lighthouse. The nearest railway station, Bideford, was 18 miles and the village of Hartland 5 miles. Another out of the way place but this I did not mind so much as I was always fond of the countryside and cliffs.

I was now 17 years old and once again the only young girl on the station, which was rather disappointing to me, as with all the Lighthouses I had already been to I never had a girl companion. Anyway I soon settled down. The grocer delivered our main groceries once a week, but every Saturday I walked to the village of Hartland, 5 miles, to fetch meat from the Butcher and other oddments which were needed. After a week or so of this my parents bought me a bicycle. As it happened there was a single keeper on the station who offered to teach me to ride the cycle, which the keeper said was his doom, as a few years later he became my husband. The bicycle was a blessing to me as it saved me many a long walk. To get to the nearest town one had to walk to Hartland, the nearest bus service. I very often cycled the 18 miles to Bideford and back for, a day’s outing and shopping which, [during] summer time, to me was quite enjoyable for it was such nice scenery along this part of North Devon.

Hartland Point Lighthouse

Hartland Point Lighthouse

On one of my cycling excursions to Bideford and accompanied by the single keeper, who also had a cycle, we started off in glorious sunshine, arrived in Bideford and obtained various articles which my mother required and then had lunch. During our lunch the sky clouded over so we decided to collect our parcels, put them on the cycles and to make our way home – 18 miles to ride. During this return journey it commenced to rain heavily with an increasing wind. By the time we arrived within a mile of the Lighthouse we were soaked to the skin and the wind which was head on was blowing with such gale force that we had to leave our cycles at the nearest form. The farmer’s wife loaned us two large baskets to put our parcels in and then we made our way on foot over the headland to the approach road leading to the Lighthouse. The walk down this road I shall never forget, the wind in our faces and blowing with such force that we had the utmost difficulty in reaching the Lighthouse. We were being blown in all directions, with the rain beating into our faces that we could hardly see. The large baskets we were carrying were swinging about like ladies’ handbags. It took us well over half an hour to walk this last half mile. When we got inside my home, we were utterly exhausted and to make things worse some of the small parcels were missing out of the baskets. After a short rest we braved the elements again, retraced our steps up the approach road hunting for the missing parcels which we found were blown to the top of the road. We struggled back again and weren’t we pleased to get back into dry clothes and have a refreshing cup of tea. So ended what we thought was going to be a perfect day’s outing.

After a few visits to the village of Hartland I was introduced to a young girl of my own age. We liked and took to one another right away and became very firm friends, the first girl friend I’d ever had. She had a cycle and we had many happy times together visiting each other’s homes, going to occasional Whist Drives and dances, and I got to know a great many friends, in fact, I experienced some of the happiest times of my life while living there.

We had been at Hartland 2 ½ years when my father received orders for transfer to the Maplin Lighthouse. In those days keepers still did their own packing up of furniture to be ready for transport. Anyway, my father and I started packing up, a job which both of us liked, my mother was useless at it. Eventually we finished packing and waited for final orders when to leave. At that time the Trinity Service maintained a certain amount of essential furniture in the Lighthouse cottages so while waiting we utilised this furniture and our own necessary requirements such as cooking utensils, bedding and crockery which one always kept in readiness to take as personal luggage when travelling as more often than not one arrived at one’s destination a week, sometimes up to three weeks, before the furniture arrived. In those days it was usually transported by rail. However, we had been waiting three weeks, all packed up, when a letter arrived cancelling our orders and instructing my father to remain as a large reconstruction programme of work to the buildings was to be carried out. Two single keepers were being sent to relieve the other two married assistant keepers (the previous single keeper had left the station some 18 months before), so this meant unpacking again which as it happened we were not sorry to do, as my parents and I did not really want to live in the London area.

About three months later reconstruction work commenced when in full swing between 40 and 50 men were at work on station which included building a sea wall and knocking down part of the high headland nearby which had been very dangerous for those using the approach road, many a morning when I walked up this road to the nearby farm for our milk huge boulders of rock and rubble which had loosened from the cliff top had fallen on to the road. In these conditions it always kept one ever watchful whenever going up and down this road. Up to now my life at Hartland Point had been quiet but now with all this reconstruction work the place soon began to look like a breakers yard, what with all the masonry, debris, dust and lorries flying around. My mother and I certainly had a busy and hectic time of it as we were the only women on the station. When work on the houses was in progress we were always moving from room to room until each particular part was completed, so one can imagine how happy things were. But I must say all the workmen were very nice and considerate under the circumstances. I had many a good laugh and exciting incidents such as minor injuries to the men which were frequently happening. My father and I would have made good nurses for almost every day one or other of the workmen would be calling at our door with either injured fingers, bruised limbs, foreign matter in the eyes etc. which we attended to. Mother always kept plenty of hot water and bandages ready for such needs. I always remember one outstanding incident for me, one of the men was struck on the head with a piece of flying rock which almost severed his ear. When brought to the house the greater portion of the ear was hanging down. We did the best we could for him such as cleansing and stopping the bleeding. In the meantime a lorry was at the door to take the injured man to the nearest hospital at Bideford 18 miles away. It was left to me to accompany him and I had to hold the ear in position until we arrived at the hospital where it was stitched together. Eventually this man got well again and returned to his old job of work at the lighthouse.

Close upon this incident I was preparing for my forthcoming marriage which was to take place in the month of August. My parents were greatly concerned how to arrange the Wedding Reception for me as under the then existing conditions it was impossible to hold it at the Lighthouse. It was arranged therefore to hire a marquee locally for the occasion which was erected in a field near the approach road to the Lighthouse. Permission was given to use the field by a very friendly neighbouring farmer. The fixing of my Wedding date was left in abeyance until after the arrival after the arrival of my husband to be, who was an assistant keeper on the South Bishop Lighthouse. He was relieved on the 17th August and arrangements were quickly made for my Wedding to take place on the 20th August 1925. For me this great day passed off very well indeed, and after spending our honeymoon in Cornwall we returned to Neyland in Pembrokeshire, at that time a Trinity House Depot. We arrived on the Friday night and my husband was due to go off to the South Bishop Lighthouse on the following Monday September 5th, so the weekend was a busy one for me preparing for my husband’s departure with the usual custom of cooking a few delicacies, gathering clothes together to take off with him on the rock and ordering from the shops meat and main groceries etc., I had to visit the wives of my husband’s colleagues to collect their letters and parcels for their husbands who were on the rock, the bulk of the relief gear being collected and put aboard the relief Tender the previous day in readiness for the departure of the relief the following morning. My husband, of course, left on the Monday with the relief.

South Bishop Lighthouse

South Bishop Lighthouse

Needless to say I was none too happy about all this being just under 22 years of age and the first time I had ever left home. I was now alone, a stranger in new surroundings, which I must admit made me feel a little lonesome, and with the thoughts of only one letter from my husband during the next two months. Unfortunately this particular winter was very rough one and in the first five months of my marriage I saw my husband for 17 days only owing to overdue reliefs. This I thought was not a very good start to my young married life.”


Mrs. Trezise’s story will continue in the very near future.

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2 thoughts on “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 2 of 4

  1. Pingback: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 3 of 4 | Trinity House History

  2. Pingback: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 4 of 4 | Trinity House History

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