On This Day in Trinity House History – 01 May


First electric light installed at St. Catherine’s Lighthouse

Electric light was introduced into St. Catherine’s Lighthouse.

The first experimental trial of Professor Holmes’ magneto-electric machine was made at Blackwall in 1857, and an electric light then introduced on 8 December 1858 into South Foreland High Lighthouse.

A small light was first set up at St. Catherine’s in about 1323 by Walter de Godyton. He erected a chapel and added an endowment for a priest to say Masses for his family and to exhibit lights at night to warn ships from approaching too near this dangerous coast, both purposes being fulfilled until about 1530 when the Reformation swept away the endowment. Neither the present lighthouse tower lighted in March 1840, nor the chapel of which the ruins remain, held these ancient lights.

The present tower was constructed in 1838 following the loss of the sailing ship Clarendon on rocks near the site of the present lighthouse. The lighthouse was built of ashlar stone with dressed quoins and was carried up from a base plinth as a 3 tier octagon, diminishing by stages. The elevation of the light proved to be too high, as the lantern frequently became mist capped and in 1875 it was decided to lower the light 13 metres by taking about 6 metres out of the uppermost section of the tower and about 7 metres out of the middle tier, which destroyed its beauty and made it appear dwarfed.

St Catherine’s Lighthouse was automated in 1997 with the keepers leaving the lighthouse on 30 July.

The lighthouse itself is now monitored and controlled from the Trinity House Planning Centre at Harwich in Essex.

St Catherines Lighthouse by Neil Thomas

St Catherine’s Lighthouse by Neil Thomas



Trinity House Vessel Stella is launched

THV Stella, the third of three ‘Mermaid’-class lighthouse tenders built by Messrs. J S White at Cowes, was launched by Mrs. Drake, the wife of Elder Brother Captain Kenneth McMillan Drake. Stella then proceeded to the Penzance District, replacing Satellite which had been in service since 1924. Stella remained in service until 1989.

THV Stella (built 1961)

THV Stella (built 1961)

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