On This Day in Trinity House History – 13 August


Trinity House Becomes Responsible for the Last of the Private Lighthouses in England and Wales

An Act of Parliament empowers the Corporation to buy out the last of the privately-operated lighthouses: Harwich High and Low, Dungeness, Winterton, Hunstanton, Orfordness High and Low, Smalls, Longships, Tynemouth, Spurn Point and Skerries.

Reinforced by the recommendations of a Royal Commission Report of 1834, and the desire of shipowners and government to bring the last private aids to navigation under the steady arm of Trinity House, an act was passed on 13 August 1836 empowering the Corporation to buy out all remaining private lighthouses, whether held by the Crown or by Perpetual Lease under Act of Parliament, being twelve in total. The buy-out money was raised—£1,182,546—against the funded properties of the Corporation and the Pilot Fund, with a loan of £150,000 from the Treasury and money raised upon the Corporation’s bonds. The Skerries Lighthouse leaseholders held out until 1841, reluctant to relinquish an average annual profit of £12,525.

Although the act of 1836 arguably sowed the early seeds of the modern lighthouse service, it was the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1854 that officially constituted Trinity House as the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the adjacent seas and islands, and Heligoland and Gibraltar.

As Trinity House became responsible for these remaining lighthouses, it undertook the upgrading of the various architectural and technological aspects of each lighthouse.

Skerries Lighthouse section copyright Trinity House

Skerries Lighthouse section copyright Trinity House

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