On This Day in Trinity House History – 7 August

1861

Smalls Lighthouse is lit for the first time

Smalls Lighthouse (the current tower) is lit for the first time.

For over 200 years the Smalls Lighthouse has been acting as a guide and hazard warning to passing ships. John Phillips, a Welshman, first conceived the idea of setting a lighthouse on the Smalls, one of two tiny clusters of rocks lying close together in the Irish Sea, 21 miles off St. David’s Head in Wales, the highest peak of which projects only 3.5 metres above the highest tides. He advertised for designs and chose one submitted by Henry Whiteside, a musical instrument maker from Liverpool. Whiteside had designed an octagonal house or hut of timber, 4.5 metres in diameter, perched on nine legs or pillars, five of wood and three of cast iron, spaced around central timber post. During the Winter 1775-1776, Whiteside erected the whole structure temporarily at Solva, a small Welsh Haven over 25 miles from the Smalls. In the Spring of 1776, and thanks to the preliminary assembly during which the parts were carefully fitted together, work proceeded so well that by September the oil lamps were lit.

Authoritative accounts of this lighthouse bear witness to a tragic episode which appears to have occurred before 1801. Apparently one of the two keepers on the station died and the survivor, fearing that he might be suspected of murder if he committed the body to the deep, put it into a box which he made from the interior woodwork of the house and lashed it to the lantern rail. Passing ships noted this strange object but raised no alarm before the usual relief boat arrived to succour the unhappy survivor. After this episode three keepers were appointed to the lighthouse.

The present lighthouse was built under the supervision of Trinity House Chief Engineer, James Douglass. Its design was based on Smeaton’s Eddystone tower taking five years to build being completed in 1861.

In 1978 a helideck was erected above the lantern and the lighthouse was automated in 1987.

Smalls Lighthouse by Ian Cowe

Smalls Lighthouse by Ian Cowe


1980

THV Patricia’s crew waves farewell to HM The Queen

The ship’s company of THV Patricia cheer ship for H.M. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family in HMY Britannia on their departure for the Western Isles and Aberdeen.

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