On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 September

1719

Cromer Lighthouse is lit for the first time

Cromer Lighthouse: a light is first exhibited from a coal fire enclosed in a lantern. Before the erection of a lighthouse at Cromer lights for the guidance of vessels were shown from the tower of the parish church, these were small, but served a useful purpose for many years. A number of ecclesiastical lights such as this were exhibited around the coast in medieval times.

During the first twenty years following Charles II’s restoration in 1660 many proposals were put forward for lighthouses on all parts of the coast. One of the petitioners, Sir John Clayton, suggested no less than five lighthouses on four different sites – at the Farne Islands off Northumberland, Flamborough Head in Yorkshire, Foulness at Cromer and Corton near Lowestoft.

Despite opposition to his schemes Sir John, together with a George Blake obtained a comprehensive patent in 1669 and at a cost of £3,000 erected towers at each of the four sites. The patent would last for 60 years and specified rates of dues to to be paid (voluntarily) by the owners of passing vessels.

Unfortunately the cost of maintenance was high and many of the shipowners were unwilling to pay the dues required so that Clayton could not afford to kindle fires in the tower at Cromer. However the unlighted tower served as a beacon and together with the other towers are marked definitely as lighthouses on sea charts after 1680 with references such as “a lighthouse but no fire kept in it”.

The owner of the land at Foulness, Nathaniel Life, considered that the situation required a lighthouse and it is said that he built a tower in 1717 hoping to be granted a patent for the light. It is more likely, however, that Life merely took steps for lighting the shell of Clayton’s tower. Assisted by Edward Bowell, a Younger Brother of Trinity House, he persuaded the Brethren to apply for a patent. They obtained it in 1719, the dues to be ¼ penny per ton of general cargo and ½ penny per chaldron (25 cwt) of Newcastle coal. Life and Bowell jointly received a lease at a rental of £100, on Life’s undertaking that the tower with one acre of ground should pass to Trinity House when the patent expired in 61 years.

The patentees exhibited a coal fire enclosed in a lantern on 29th September, 1719. In 1792 Trinity House, now in possession, fitted here its second flashing light; 5 reflectors and argand oil lamps on each of the 3 faces of a revolving frame.

The present lighthouse, a white octagonal tower standing about ½ mile from the cliff edge, was built in 1833 and converted to electric operation in 1958. In June 1990 the station was converted to automatic operation and is now monitored from the Trinity House Planning Centre at Harwich.

Cromer Lighthouse

Cromer Lighthouse

 


1795

Longships Lighthouse is first lit

The tower was established on Carn Bras, the largest of the Longships Rocks which rose 12m above high tides.

The circular tower, designed by Trinity House architect Samuel Wyatt, had three storeys; the lowest contained water tanks and stores, the next formed a living room and the lightkeepers used as a bedroom the top storey under the wood and copper lantern. The lantern was elevated 24m above the sea, and held 18 parabolic metal reflectors and Argands, arranged in two tiers.

From the terrific seas which swept over the rock during storms, the lantern was so often under water that the character of a fixed light could not be determined with certainty. This eclipse by the waves was the reason given for the replacement of Wyatt’s tower by the present circular tower of grey granite built by Sir James Douglass, Trinity House engineer, in 1875.

Longships Lighthouse

Longships Lighthouse


1957

The crew of the St Gowan Lightvessel station are given a television

Notice in Flash magazine:

“The Master and Crew of St. Gowan Light Vessel on the 29th September 1957 were presented with a Television Receiver by the members of the Tenby Rotary Club. This now means that the crews of all the Light Vessels on the Swansea District can now watch Television, and it is thus the first District to be able to do so.”

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