On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 March


The Elder Brethren commission new glazing for the St. Agnes Lighthouse

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Mr. Norman attended as he was desired with a plate of glass for the lanthorn of ye Scilly light and informed ye board that the Glass Grinder himself was without, and was called and asked the price thereof, who said he could not take under 11s. 6d. per plate & withdrew. There being another person desirous to serve the Corporation with plate Glass he was likewise called in and asked what he would have a plate, the sample being showed him, and offered to serve the Corporation for 10s. a plate, to the same dimensions and in every respect as white, thick and as clear as the sample and promised to bring a plate next Saturday.”

St. Agnes Lighthouse Scilly

St. Agnes Lighthouse Scilly

On This Day in Trinity House History – 28 March


Trinity House Elder Brother helps establish King George’s Fund for Sailors

King George’s Fund for Sailors is formed by a meeting of representatives of the Marine Charities, Shipowners, Merchants, etc., held at Dixon House, Lloyd’s Avenue, with Captain A W Clarke (afterwards Sir Arthur Clarke) an Elder Brother of Trinity House, in the Chair. It was then decided to arrange for a “Sailors’ Fund Day” to be held in London. The amount collected to form a Fund to be distributed to Sailors’ Charities, on the principle of King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London.

Today the King George’s Fund for Sailors is known as Seafarers UK, a charity that helps people in the maritime community by providing vital funding to support seafarers in need and their families.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 March


Sir Francis Bacon voices support for Trinity House

Portrait of Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban, by John Vanderbank, 1731

Portrait of Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban, by John Vanderbank, 1731

Sir Francis Bacon, Keeper of the Great Seal and later Lord Chancellor, addresses the Privy Council to deliver an eloquent ruling supporting the authority of Trinity House:

“Lighthouses are marks and signs within the meaning of the charter. That there is an authority mixed with trust, settled in that corporation, for the erecting of such lighthouses, and other marks and signs, from time to time, as the accidents and moveable nature of the sands and channels doth require, grounded upon the skill and experience which they have in marine service: And this authority and trust cannot be transferred from them by law; but as they are only answerable for the defaults, so they are only trusted with the performance; it being a matter of an high and precious nature, in respect of salvation of ships and lives, and a kind of starlight in that element.”


HRH Prince George, the Duke of Kent is elected Master of Trinity House 

Trinity Monday: HRH Prince George, Duke of Kent KG KT GCMG GCVO is elected Master of Trinity House, on the death of the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.

Sadly, he died only a few months later on 25 August, making his tenure as Master the shortest in the corporation’s history. He was the fourth son and fifth child of George V and Mary of Teck, and younger brother of Edward VIII and George VI. He held the title of Duke of Kent from 1934 until his death in 1942.



THV Mermaid (3) is launched

The lighthouse tender THV Mermaid, the third tender to bear that name, is launched at the yard of J S White & Co., Cowes.

She went into service in September in the Yarmouth district. She was launched Mrs. Noakes, wife of Elder Brother Captain George Noakes. Sister ships THV Siren and THV Stella followed into service in the two years after.

Mermaid (3) 1959 copyright Trinity House

Mermaid (3) 1959 copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 22 March


New uniform style for the Elder Brethren of Trinity House

“Her Majesty Queen Victoria has been pleased to command that, after the present date, the uniform of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House, London, shall be of the Royal Navy pattern for the time being, save as respects the colour of the collar and cuffs of the full dress coat, and the description of lace, buttons, badges, and other distinguishing marks specified in the Order dated 22 March, 1866, which shall remain as at present.”

Edward VII (1841-1910) in Trinity House uniform

Edward VII (1841-1910) in Trinity House uniform


On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 March


Trinity House asks Charles I to protect sailors against pirates

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Trinity House to the Privy Council: They find that there are twelve, thirteen or fourteen hundred Englishmen captives in Sally: all of the greatest part of them taken within twenty or thirty miles of Dartmouth, Plymouth and Falmouth. When the winter takes, then the Sally men go to Flushing and Holland, where, having supplied all wants and the winter past, they go to sea again. If they want men in these places with the Dutch they are furnished. The writers complain that the coast is not guarded by some handsome ships to defend the King’s subjects, and that our friends are not restrained from arming and aiding the infidels.”

The Elder Brethren of Trinity House are here referring to the Salé [“Sally”] Rovers, a band of Barbary pirates who eventually formed the Republic of Salé on the Moroccan coast.

The Elder Brethren were very much active in the fight against high-seas piracy. The Court Minutes for many years between 1610-1670 make references to persons taken captive by Turkish and Algerian pirates, with the ransom demanded for their release, and further references to pirate attacks and measures to be taken against them.Here are a few examples:

“1617, June 16. Council letter to the Trinity House:

Within these few years the Turks have captured above 300 ships of England and Scotland. The merchants of London have offered £40,000 from the merchants. and owners of ships in the port of London as a fund against the Turks. They ask the Trinity House to assemble and decide what they will contribute.”

Trinity House responded to the above with a contribution amounting to £1,068.

“1621, May 26. Petition by the Trinity House to the Privy Council:

They have received the collection for the £1,000 per annum, according to the rates presented to the Council and mentioned in their letter of 7th July, 1620, to the Custom House, towards the charge of the ships at sea against the Turkish pirates.”

“1670, Nov. 9:

Towards the redemption of captives now at Algiers every Elder Brother is to allow a turn, and if the next turn does not amount to £3 it is to be made up to £3, and every Younger Brother to allow 6/8, and their next turn is to be stopped for it.” [NB. ‘Turns’ were a form of payment to the Elder Brethren that predated salaries]

“1670, Nov. 16:

The Deputy Master acquaints the Board of the payment of £200, towards the redemption of captives at Algiers, to the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

A Sea Fight with Barbary Corsairs by Lorenzo A Castro, 17th century

A Sea Fight with Barbary Corsairs by Lorenzo A Castro, 17th century

On This Day in Trinity House History – 19 March


The Masters and Mariners of the Thames petition Henry VIII 

501 years ago today, on 19 March 1513, a guild of mariners—troubled by the inexperience and poor conduct of unregulated pilots on the Thames endangering life and cargo—petitioned the King for license to set up a fraternity enabled to regulate pilotage on the Thames. This fraternity was already in ownership of a great hall and 21 almshouses for the benefit of distressed seamen and their dependants, suggesting an already well-established body.

The petitioners put forward the following case:


To the king our sou(er)aigne lord.

In the moste lowly wise shewen unto your excellent highnes yor humble subgiects and true liegemen the maisters rulers and maryners of yor navye within your Ryver of Thamys and other places that wher moste mercifull redoubted prince that of tyme owte of man is mynde as long as due order good rule and guyding were sufficed to be had in yor said Ryver and other places by auncient Englissh maisters and lodesmen of the same the said rivers and places and the daungers of the same were then by theym thrughly serched so surely that fewe shippes or noon were perisshed in defaulte of lodemanage now it is so moste gracious sovereign lord that dyvers and many yongmen namyng theym self mariners beyng owte of all good order and rule not havyng the perfyte knowlege ne experience in shipmens crafte neither of sufficiency experience approved ne of age in the same to knowe the surance and saufconduyte of shippes by the connyng of lodemanage dailly unseytly medlen therwith to great and hurte and losse of moche of the said Navye And also not willeng to entre into the actuell aventure and paynes of saillyng in the mayn see wherby experience and knowledge of sailleng from Realme to Realme might clerely growe and be lerned and also by the same your navye and marchaunts shulde be the more in nombre and your custumers greatly encreased whiche can not be had but by the connyng and science of shipmans crafte by greate laboure and aventure of the see sailleng from land to land taken in yowth but the said yongmen not intendyng to learne the said science and crafte ne to aventure for the obteyning of the same ne for the weale nor for the avauntage aforsaid dailly applye their myndes to easier labor to be pilotts and lodesmen in yor said Ryver of Thamys oonly whiche was somtyme the lyveng of auncient maryners whan they myght no lenger for bruseys and maymes had upon the see in the Kings warres or for pure age labor any more in the crafte and aventure aforsaid

And so by reason of the said yongmen wull no ferther lern but pilotship oonly in yor river aforsaid whan auncient maisters and maryners of this yor realme that now ben whiche am very feble and many ben expended and goon Then ffewer maryners of science and connyng to saille by sees shall then be·lefte behynde theym

And so this yor Realme whiche here tofore hath florisshed with navye·to alle other lands dredfull and connyng maisters and maryners in the same yor Realme to guyde the said navy through all Cristendom is sees shall then be utterly destitute and unpurveyd of suche sure and connyng maisters and maryners at tyme of nede That God defend

And howbeit soueraign lord that among yor said subgietts there ben many and dyvers conyng men aswell maisters as lodismen that be of great age and perfyte connyng to convey and bring into the said Ryver and owte of the same any carrak gayly or vessell of what burden however it be yete for all that for lak of good ordre and due correccion amongest us as well Scotts Flemmyngs Frenshmen as other straungers borne not beyng yor naturell subgiects take upon theym to be lodismen in yor said river and other places of this yor roialme

And to enserche and knowe yor stremes and the daungers and secrets of the same contrary to yor olde lawes and customes And all the good policye of this yor roialme By reason wherof thissame yor Realme myght be put in great jeoperdy as experience of olde tyme hath shewed in so muche that fewe yeres sens it hath ben seen within yor said river and other places of this yor reelme in tyme of werre Frenshmen and other then beyng enemyes By knowlege of the secrets of yor said Ryver have comen as fer as Gravesende and fette owte Englissh shippes to the great rebuk of this realme

And if the auncient maisters and maryners therof that now been had the rule or ordryng of the premisses as their predecessours in dayes paste have had There shuld noon suche straungers have the rule of lodemanage nor take any charge upon theyme in yor said ryver as they now have and fewer shippes or noon shuld perisshe in defaulte of lodemanage as now of late have doon But many moo shippes shulde come in to yor said river and other places then of a greate season have doon to the great avauntage of yor custumers and also sufficient maisters and maryners of connyng wolde every day encrease more and more so that in tyme of nede soueraign lord it shuld not requyre to seke straungers to do yor grace service at yor high pleasure ne to serve yor marchaunts in any besynes

And so in conclusion moste rightwis and our moste drad soueraign lord yor said subgiects must nede shortly perisshe and yor said Navye utterly mynyssh and decay to all straungers most greatly rejoysyng and to all true Englishmen moste pitiously lamentyng withoute yor moste tendir pitye and mercy to theym in this case be shewed

WHEREFORE the recontinuaunce and reencreasing aswell of yor said maisters & maryners as of yor Roiall whiche ben greatly abated and decayed over that they were and have ben of late tyme And in consideracion gracious leige lord that all princes and kings cristenys have speciale favor & preferment to the Marchaunts maisters &maryners of their regions contreyes & lands for the encrease and mayntenyng of their Navye for the greate perfitt and custumers that come therby to the said kings and princes and for the great honor and comonweale of their said regions contreys & lands

IT MAY pleas therfor you most mercifull soueraign lord syns ye be the moste noble cristen king and have the moste noble region in comodities with merchaunts maisters maryners and navie of the worlde if they be maynteyned and cherisshed as other nacions ben now at this tyme for Godds sake and in wey of charite calling to yor gracious remembraunce how that it were a blissid dede to breke all the forsaid ill rules and mysguydings and to reforme and bryng to good use and ordir every thing towchyng the premysses and to helpe to set it in good wey to the pleasure of God honor and worship to you soueraign lord and of this yor Roialme

And to the great joy and comfort of all trew English merchaunts maisters lodismen and maryners And for the speciall encreas of yor navie and custumes to graunt to yor said subgietts yor gracious letters patents in due and ample form to be made and enseelid under the greate seale after the tenor ensuyng And they shall every pray to God for the preservacon of your most noble and roiall estate long to endure in as moche joy and felicite as ever did Cristen prynce.

As Henry was engaged in his first war with the French at the time of petition, it was 14 months before the charter could be finally signed, incorporating that body of mariners as The Master, Wardens and Assistants of the Guild or Fraternity of the most glorious and undividable Trinity and St. Clement in the Parish Church of Deptford Strond, although this name would be slightly altered in a later charter to The Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St. Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond, in the County of Kent.

Trinity House petitions Henry VIII 1513

Trinity House petitions Henry VIII 1513 copyright Trinity House

UK lighthouse rental: Anvil Point, Dorset – Telegraph

UK lighthouse rental: Anvil Point, Dorset – Telegraph

A lovely article describing a stay at one of our former keepers’ cottages:

“…It makes you think of “Casablanca”, in which the fitful beam of a lighthouse, a famous continuity nightmare, so heightened the romance.’

Which is why, on a filthy night in the rainiest January since records began, with storm warnings across the country and the year’s highest spring tides on the rise, my old friend Louise and I were on the Dorset coast near Swanage, bumping down a road booby-trapped with dripping five-bar gates and a cluster of teenage cows (with horns).

All at once, through the darkness and rain, came a gleam as solid and reassuring as a packet of Rich Tea biscuits and a cup of tea…”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 18 March


Portland Bill Lighthouse is automated

Portland Bill Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart; monitoring and control of the station was transferred to the Trinity House Operations & Planning Centre at Harwich.

The current lighthouse was built in 1906, and a light has been exhibited from the point since 1716.Today the operational lighthouse is open to the public for much of the year as a visitor centre.

More information about the lighthouse and the towers that preceded it is available at the Trinity House website.

Portland Bill Lighthouse by Ian Cowe

Portland Bill Lighthouse by Ian Cowe

On This Day in Trinity House History – 13 March


HRH Prince Alfred is elected Master of Trinity House 

Trinity Monday: HRH Prince Alfred KG KT, later Captain HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh KG KT RN, is elected Master of Trinity House, on the death of Viscount Palmerston.

He sat as Master for the consecutive years until 1894.

Alfred (6 August 1844 – 30 July 1900) reigned as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1893 to 1900. He was the second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and was known as Duke of Edinburgh from 1866 until he succeeded his paternal uncle Ernest II as the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the German Empire.

More about Prince Alfred at Wikipedia.

Portrait of HRH Alfred Duke of Edinburgh, 1875 (Georg Koberwein) at Trinity House London

Portrait of HRH Alfred Duke of Edinburgh, 1875 (Georg Koberwein) at Trinity House London

On This Day in Trinity House History – 9 March


Trinity House Vessels return to France after war service

The lighthouse tenders Andre Blondel and Georges De Joly were returned to the French maritime authorities after years of valuable wartime service for the Corporation.

Both vessels were taken over by Trinity House in 1940, after the fall of France during the Second World War, and both had significant roles to play in Trinity House’s contribution to the war effort.

In preparation for the D-Day landings, Trinity House was responsible for marking the Swept Channel routes for the invasion of Normandy, laying 73 lighted buoys and mooring two fully-manned lightvessels (JUNO and KANSAS) to indicate a safe route to the landing beaches.

Six Trinity House tenders, Alert, Discovery II, Warden, Patricia, Georges de Joly and Andre Blondel were assembled in the Solent three weeks prior to D-Day in order to be loaded with their first consignment of buoys to mark the swept lanes for the assault forces and the subsequent passage of some 7,500 vessels. This operation was repeated until all the necessary stations had been established. The Georges de Joly was under the command of Captain J R Meyrick, the Andre Blondel under Captain G Sherman.

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944 copyright Trinity House