On This Day in Trinity House History – 30 June


THV Irene leads the Royal Squadron through the newly-built Tower Bridge

The Trinity House flagship THV Irene leads the Royal Squadron through Tower Bridge, known at the time as London Watergate, in celebration of its opening by HRH The Prince of Wales.

THV Irene

THV Irene


Trinity House remembers one of it’s more remarkable characters

From Trinity House’s Flash magazine:

“A Lifetime of Service:

The following notice was posted in Flash to mark the close of the remarkable career of Commander C E K Kendall-Carpenter, who finally retired from the service after 56 years on 30 June 1962:

“When one’s day of retirement finally arrives, it is not unnatural to look back with pride over some 40 to 45 years of service, but, when on retirement one can lay claim to 56 years of service, it must certainly be a unique occasion. Such is the proud record of Commander C. E. K. Kendall-Carpenter T.H.S. (Ret’d) who finally retired from the Service on 30th June 1962.

Kendall-Carpenter’s service life spanned the years between 1906 and 1962, and a more chequered career one cannot imagine. ‘Tim’, as he is known to his many friends, was always a big man in every sense of the word, and during his career took more than his fair share of knocks. In fact the story of his service life reads almost like a chapter of accidents.

On 17th May, 1906, Kendall-Carpenter, then 15½ years old, joined the Steam Vessel Service as an apprentice, and his service life very nearly ended in tragedy during the following winter. He was at that time serving aboard the old Satellite at Harwich, and, on a particularly cold night, his fellow apprentice stoked up the stove in their quarters and shut off all the ventilation. Both were very nearly asphyxiated, but were luckily rescued and revived by the watch on deck.

Between then and the outbreak of the First World War he attended several Royal Fleet Reviews, and succeeded in collecting two injuries; the first two of many. One being a particularly nasty crack on the head from the jib of the crane at Blackwall. Early in 1914, Kendall-Carpenter volunteered for service in the Imperial Lighthouse Service of Ceylon and shortly after the outbreak of war sailed for Ceylon in their ship Beacon. On the voyage the Beacon was twice intercepted by the German cruiser Emden, but managed to take evasive action on both occasions. Kendall-Carpenter, however, received an injury to his right leg, and on arrival in Colombo, had to proceed to hospital for two operations. After a few months of treatment he was able to take up his appointment in Beacon.

During his service in Ceylon, he managed to get himself involved in the native riots which were flaring up at that time, serving as a captain in the native auxiliary military forces. Needless to say he was soon in the thick of it, and once again suffered several hard knocks, this time at the hands of the rioting mobs.

His service in Ceylon was cut short in 1916 by malaria and an attack of tropical neurasthenia, and as a result he returned to England. After a period of recuperation, he was back with his first love, the Trinity House Service. In typical style, he was soon volunteering again, this time for buoy laying duties off North Russian in liaison with the Royal Navy. He set off for Russia in H.M.T. Wirral but she was unfortunately torpedoed by an enemy submarine off Norway. Kendall-Carpenter was picked up and landed in the Shetlands. Undaunted, he again volunteered for the duties in the White Sea, and this time, although his ship was again attacked, he managed to get through.

The revolution in Russia was in full swing, and after a short and uncomfortable stay, all were ordered back to the United Kingdom. Eight ships, loaded with refugees, left in convoy, but only two got through. For once, Kendall-Carpenter was one of the lucky ones.

For the remainder of the war, he served in Trinity House Vessels in the Dover Patrol Area, seeing plenty of action, laying anti-submarine nets, decoy buoys etc., and he was aboard Argus as acting 1st Officer at the Zeebrugge landings, laying buoys for the attacking forces. Once again, his reward for zealous service, was yet another injury, this time to his right arm, and indeed, he lost the use of the arm as a result of the injury.

He was in and out of hospital for several months but having been patched up, he again returned to serve in Trinity House Vessels. During the twenties he served in many vessels as 1st Officer. In 1930, in view of his distinguished War Service, he was chosen to represent the Trinity House Service at the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey.

Then came the Second World War and once again ill-luck struck a blow. This time he was injured aboard Satellite at Yarmouth whilst manning the ship’s guns during an air attack. This led to more operations, but yet again he came back. For the remainder of the war he managed to steer clear of physical injury, and continued to serve at sea until 1951 when the many injuries which he had sustained again began to take their toll and he was forced to retire from active sea service.

However, the prospect of an inactive retirement did not appeal to this forceful character and he then took on the job of telephone watchkeeper at Penzance Depot. During these latter years it must have been most gratifying for him to see his son making an illustrious name for himself academically and in the field of sport; captain of both the Oxford and England rugby teams over two years.

All things must come to an end, however, and the time has now arrived for ‘Tim’ to say goodbye to the Service. Most of his contemporaries in the Steam Vessel Service have long since gone their separate ways, but one thing is certain and that is that all his friends and acquaintances will want to join in wishing him and his wife many happy years of well deserved retirement.

For our part we are proud to be able to announce that in recognition of his long and loyal service, the Elder Brethren have granted him the rank of Commander T.H.S. (Retired) – truly a well deserved tribute to one who has served the Trinity House so faithfully and so well throughout almost the whole of his active life.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 June


The new Dungeness Lighthouse is opened

Dungeness Lighthouse (Artists Impression)

Dungeness Lighthouse (Artists Impression)

The opening ceremony of the new Dungeness Lighthouse building is performed by the Master HRH The Duke of Gloucester, when a plaque commemorating the occasion and one taken from the old lighthouse were unveiled.

On the previous day, HRH The Master had inspected Harwich Depot and Service personnel before sailing in THV Patricia to Dover.



Sir Richard Branson’s powerboat Virgin Atlantic Challenger II passes Bishop Rock to win world record

From Trinity House’s Flash magazine:

“Sir Richard Branson’s VIRGIN ATLANTIC CHALLENGER II passes the finishing line at Bishop Rock Lighthouse 3 days, 8 hours and 31 minutes after leaving the Ambrose Light Tower in New York Bay, beating the eastbound transatlantic record set in 1952.

Principal Keeper E J Dobbin with Assistant Keepers D Price and T Elvers had been avidly watching the television news and weather forecasts for news of the speedboat’s arrival, and eventually they heard the following over the marine radio: “Bishop Rock Lighthouse this is V.A.C.II we’ll be with you in about half an hour.” V.A.C.ll passed Bishop at 1934 BST with a time of 3 days, 8 hours, 31 minutes. The crew on Bishop Rock responded to this success with three blasts from its Supertyfon Fog Signal giving the “little boat people” a bit of a fright! BBC TV news was informed and a caption was superimposed over the World Cup Final. Sir Richard and his crew were presented with a handsome model of Bishop Rock Lighthouse mounted inside a 1500 watt lamp on behalf of the people of the Isles of Scilly.

V.A.C.II‘s navigator was Dag Pike, a former Chief Officer in the Trinity House Support Vessel Service.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 28 June 2014 – Centenary of First World War


The First World War begins

As nations around the world today (28 June 2014) mark the centenary of the First World War, Trinity House vessels Patricia, Galatea and Alert will be among those flying their flags and ensigns at half-mast at 1700 UTC.

The men and women of the Corporation of Trinity House all played their part in the effort, and many even gave their lives.

Although lighthouses and lightvessels at this time were ordered to maintain strict neutrality, the Trinity House Steam Vessel Service was thrust forward, busily buoying shipping lanes, Swept Channels and Naval operations, and moving and replacing lightvessels; over 200 additional lighted buoys and 361 additional unlighted buoys were deployed, and the Corporation covered points as far-flung as the White Sea and the Persian Gulf. Continue reading

On This Day in Trinity House History – 25 June


Trinity House workers try to avoid being press-ganged

Trinity House Board Minute:

“The Whitaker Beacon being ready to be carried down, and a small yacht of which Mr. Jones is Master being hired for that purpose, A request to the Officers impressing seamen was granted under the seal of the Corporation not to impress him or eight men employed in carrying it down and placing it, on their going down and on their return to London.”

The above once again shows the trouble that Trinity House had in keeping its workers away from the Royal Navy impressment officers who scoured the coast looking for able bodies to join their ships (whether they wanted to join or not). The most famous instance of this was at the Eddystone Lighthouse in the construction of the famous Smeaton tower circa 1759, when press ganging had become a problem, so to ensure that the men would be exempt from Naval Service, Trinity House arranged with the Admiralty at Plymouth to have a medal struck for each labourer to prove that they were working on the lighthouse.

1780 press gang caricature

1780 press gang caricature

On This Day in Trinity House History – 24 June


PVB light source used for the first time

The Paraffin Vapour Burner (PVB) light source widely adopted in Trinity House lighthouses is first exhibited, at Dungeness Lighthouse, Kent.

These burners came to replace in many lighthouse the multi-wick oil burners and incandescent oil burners used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The burners came in four sizes, viz.: with autoform mantles 35 m/m, 50 m/m, 75 m/m and 100 m/m diameter.

Paraffin Petroleum Vapour Burner diagram

Paraffin Petroleum Vapour Burner diagram

On This Day in Trinity House History – 23 June


New rule for admitting Younger Brethren of Trinity House

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The Master letting the Board know the Scandal this house lay under in their having admitted heretofore Younger Brothers being Dissenters from ye Church & ill affected to ye Government, it was debated how the evill should be prevented hereafter, and Resolved, that no late or any other Younger Brother to be made hereafter being a Seaman and expecting a Branch from this House shall be admitted into this Corporation, without bringing a certificate from ye Minister & Church Wardens of ye Parish to which he belongs of his conformity to ye Church of England as by Law established & of his frequenting the same.”

The ‘Scandal’ would appear to be fallout from the enormous changes brought about by the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth and the subsequent Restoration.

The ‘branch’ referred to is the certificate issued to Younger Brethren by Trinity House.


Trinity House establishes the Gunfleet Beacon

Gunfleet Lighthouse drawing copyright Trinity House

Gunfleet Lighthouse drawing copyright Trinity House


Trinity House Board Minute:

“Mr. Baker (buoy keeper at Harwich) to attend on 7 July to go down with the Gunfleet Beacon, and in the meantime to lay a buoy near the place where the Beacon is to be set, and that it may stand dry at Low Water if possible. He is also to clean the buoys on his passage up. The Board is informed that the buoys at the Spitts lie too far to the westwards, and he is to observe them, and if he finds them so, to put them in a proper place.”

A buoy was first laid at the Gunfleet sand in the northern Thames Estuary in 1629. A lighthouse (pictured here) was established to mark the position in 1850, until it was discontinued in 1920. Today the area is marked with a number of buoys.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 22 June


Trinity House vs. the ‘scandalous language’ of John Locksmith

Trinity House Court Minute:

“John Locksmith Mariner being somoned to appeare, there being lnformacon given against him for uttering of scandalous language against this Corporacon did appeare, but denyed the same although proved by one witnesse, the matter was deferred untill more witnesses wilbe had to prove the same.”

But that was not the last of John Locksmith, as we can see from later Court Minutes:

“At Stepney July 13, 1661.

John Locksmith upon his humble submission to the Master Wardens and Brethren and confession of his offense for wch. he was very sorry and praied pardon hee having given it under his hand not to doe the like, or to molest his accusers he was remitted paying a mulcke [mulct] of 10s. to the use of the poore.”

“July 27, 1661.

John Locksmith desiring to be admitted a Pylott [Pilot] and to have a Warrant from the Corporacon wch. was put to the question, But in regard he still persisted in his abusive carriage towards the Corporacon, It was concluded by the Board that he was neither worthy nor fit to be allowed of by them.”

Proof that it’s always wise to mind your Ps and Qs!