On This Day in Trinity House History – 30 October


St. Agnes Lighthouse is lit for the first time

St. Agnes Lighthouse on St. Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly is built by Trinity House and lit for the first time.

Excerpt from Observations on the ancient and present state of the islands of Scilly: and their importance to the trade of Great-Britain by William Borlase 1756:

“The greatest ornament of this Island is the Lighthouse, which, as you may never have seen one, give me leave to describe. It stands on the highest ground, and is indeed a fine Column. The building, from the foundation to the bottom of the Lantern, is of stone, fifty-one feet high, the Gallery four; the Sash-lights eleven feet six inches high by three feet two inches wide; each pane of glass is one foot nine inches and an half high by one foot five and an half wide of the best Crown-glass, the number of Sashes sixteen. The Column is divided into three Stories, marked by three Lists or Astragals; the Stairs … are of stone, but [above] are of timber; on the floor of the Lantern is laid a platform of brick, upon which stands a substantial Iron Grate, square, barred on every side, in which the coal fire is lighted every night, and a Bellows (of the same size and make as a Smith’s Bellows) so fixed as to blow the fire when it wants that assistance.

The Lantern, consisting wholly of timber-work and glass, is a spacious room; it has a coving canopy roof, in the middle of which there is one large Chimney, which has many subordinate funnels round it, all piercing the roof, and contributing to discharge the smoke. To supply the fire they use a great deal of coals, which are drawn up through a trap door by means of a Windlass; what cinders the fire leaves are thrown into a gutter-hole above, and descending through a hollow passage made purposely in the Buttress, are discharged. […] there is a Gallery quite round round the Lantern, railed in; this Gallery serves for air to the Fire-men, and to clean and repair the windows, and as is mentioned before, collects the rain water which descends through the Lead-pipe into the Cistern. The whole Stonework is plaistered white, which makes it as useful a mark by day for Ships coming from the Southward as the light of the fire does by night.”

St. Agnes Lighthouse Scilly

St. Agnes Lighthouse Scilly



The Elder Brethren are ordered to assist with pressganging

Trinity House Court Minute:

“By his Majesty in Councell
To the Trinity House.

Whereas his Majesty has been pleased for the more easy and speedy Supply and furnishing His Fleet with Able and Sufficient Mariners and Seamen, to Direct the Commissioners of Customs to cause Lists to be made of the Names of all the Mariners and Seamen in the Severall Ports of the Kingdome. And the said Commissioners having represented that your Assistance will contribute to the easier Effecting thereof, Wee do therefore in His Majesty’s Name and by His Command’ pray and require you, as much as in you lies, aide and assist the Officers of Their Majesty’ s Customes, who shall make application to you for that purpose, in making Exact lists of the Names and Sirnames together with the ages and Place of Abode of all Mariners and Seafaring Men not only on the River of Thames and Medway, but in all other places where you may in any way assist in perfecting such lists.

A like letter to the Master Wardens and Assistants of the Trinity House of Newcastle.”


Casquets Lighthouse is lit for the first time

Casquets Lighthouse: Thomas Le Cocq, under patent from Trinity House, first lights the three lights called St Peter, St Thomas and Dungeon.

About 1722, the owners of ships passing certain dangerous “Rocks called the Casketts” off Alderney in the Channel Islands, applied to Thomas Le Cocq, the proprietor of the Rocks, to build a lighthouse and offered him ½d. per ton when vessels passed the light. Le Cocq approached Trinity House and a patent was obtained on 3 June, 1723.

Trinity House decided that a light of particular character to distinguish it from those on the opposite shores of England and France was needed. Three separate lights in the form of a horizontal triangle were proposed, and three towers containing closed fires, i.e. coal fires burning in glazed lanterns were erected. These three lights called, St Peter, St Thomas and Dungeon were first exhibited on 30 October, 1724.

The lease granted to Le Cocq by Trinity House lasted for 61 years at a rent of £50 per annum. The three Casquets lights reverted to Trinity House (in 1785) and were converted to metal reflectors and Argand lamps on 25 November 1790; a revolving apparatus was fitted to each tower at the Casquets in 1818, and the three towers were raised by 30ft in 1854.

The Casquets Lighthouse and rocks have been the scene of many shipping disasters, among them the SS STELLA in 1899 with a loss of 112 lives.

The three original towers at the Casquets are still in use, although only the North West Tower still exhibits a light. A helideck is mounted on the third tower.

Casquets Lighthouse by Matthew Clarke

Casquets Lighthouse by Matthew Clarke

On This Day in Trinity House History – 28 October


Famed Lighthouse Engineer James Walker is Born

James Walker's Greenland Dock memorial

James Walker’s Greenland Dock memorial

James Walker was an influential civil engineer.

In 1821 he built his first lighthouse, the West Usk Lighthouse, near Newport, South Wales. His company Walker, Burges and Cooper first consulted Trinity House about 1824 and he was associated with them until his death. He designed and built many important lighthouses in the first half of the nineteenth century, including Belle Toute, Start Point, St Catherine’s, the Needles, the Smalls, Trwyn Du and the Bishop Rock. Walker’s firm designed some 29 towers for Trinity House.

He died on 8 October 1862.


On This Day in Trinity House History – 27 October


Lives Saved at Coquet Lighthouse

Notice in Trinity House’s Flash magazine:

“The keepers at Coquet [Lighthouse] have been highly commended for the assistance which they rendered to the Amble lifeboat when it put to sea to help a local fishing coble during a severe northerly gale on 27th October. The lifeboat was unable to see the cable due to the broken state of the sea. The keepers, however, were able to sight it and by passing directions over the R.T. [radio telephone] guided the lifeboat to the coble, which was then escorted to a sheltered bay.”

Coquet Lighthouse by Ian Cowe

Coquet Lighthouse by Ian Cowe

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 October


The Elder Brethren Are Out of the Office

Court Minute:

“No Court, because all the Elder Brethren were present, according to custom, at a launch of a great ship of the King’s.”

The ship in question was HMS Royal Katherine. Samuel Pepys remarked of the launch:

“At Woolwich; I there up to the King and Duke, and they liked the plate well. Here I staid above with them while the ship was launched, which was done with great success, and the King did very much like the ship, saying, she had the best bow that ever he saw.”

HMS Royal Katherine

HMS Royal Katherine


A Pilotage Complaint is Brought Before Trinity House

Board Minute:

“Captain Edward Carteret of the Italian Merchant lately arrived from the Streights attended and complained that on 8th. February last as he was outward bound on his last voyage outward from London to the Streights, Francis Lilly being then his Pilot down the South Channel towards the Downs, he the said Francis Lilly ran the said ship aground on the Last at Noon-day, near High Water, the Weather being clear, Light winds Westerly and the buoys in sight. Captain Carteret said that when the the ship first touched the ground, He cry’d Hard a Starboard, which if Lilly had suffered to be done, the Ship would have got Clear, But he (Lilly) Crying Hard a Port at the same time, the man at the Helm Observed him, which laid the ship across the said Last Sand, where she almost dry’d at Low Water, The ship being Aground, Lilly insisted that she was on the Spell, which the Captain not being satisfied of, took his boat, and on sounding himself, found that she was on the Last. The Captain said further that the Loyal Jane, Sabine Chandler, Commander, then bound for the Downs was in company with his ship (the Italian Merchant) and a head of her in the arrows, and went clear.

Ordered, that the Rt. Hon. the Master be acquainted with this complaint before any further proceedings be taken thereon.”

2 Nov. 1734:

“The Master ordered a court be held on the 13th. inst. to hear the complaint.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 25 October


The Night of the ‘Royal Charter Storm’ at South Stack Lighthouse

Over the course of the Royal Charter Storm, 25-26 October 1859, over 200 vessels were either driven ashore or totally wrecked with the loss of 800 lives.

The steamship Royal Charter was among these, and she sunk within yards of help with the loss of almost 500 passengers and crew.

On that evening South Stack Lighthouse Assistant Keeper Jack Jones had been making his way across the iron bridge on to South Stack so that he could join the Principal Keeper Henry Bowen, already on duty.

As the story goes, a rock was swept from the cliff by the strong wind, fell and struck Jones on the head. Covered in blood, almost senseless with concussion, he dragged himself up the gale lashed path. Feebly he cried out for help, then, head in hands, he lay unable to move any further. Henry Bowen found him in the same place on the Wednesday morning, groaning and unable to move, his hair matted with blood. Jack Jones died three weeks later of a compound fracture of the skull.

South Stack Lighthouse

South Stack Lighthouse


Trinity House Replaces Lost War Tonnage with THV Ready

THV Ready is commissioned, to become the Harwich district tender.

THV Ready (1947-77)

THV Ready (1947-77)

On This Day in Trinity House History – 21 October


 The Rebuilt Trinity House is Reopened After the Second World War by HM The Queen

Having being destroyed during the Blitz, the rebuilt and improved Trinity House is opened by HM The Queen on Trafalgar day.

Architect Professor (later Sir) Albert Richardson initially submitted plans for building a new house, but the Brethren were determined to not only reinstate Wyatt’s building as it had been, but also to demolish the old Pilotage Service office building and build in its place a new library, grand enough to host functions and banquets, laid with carpet of the same pattern used in cabins of ships of the line at the end of the 18th century, as well as offices and sleeping quarters elsewhere in the building. In addition, an entirely new seven-storey office block was built at the rear, with laboratories, a research department and recreation rooms.

HM Queen Elizabeth II reopens Trinity House London 21 Oct 1953

HM Queen Elizabeth II reopens Trinity House London 21 Oct 1953


End of an Era: North Foreland Lighthouse is Converted to Automatic Operation (But Not Formally!)

North Foreland Lighthouse is converted to automatic, unmanned operation, the last Trinity House lighthouse. The formal closing ceremony would come on 26 November 1998.

North Foreland Lighthouse copyright Trinity House

North Foreland Lighthouse copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 19 October


HRH Prince Albert is elected Master of Trinity House

Trinity Monday: HRH Prince Albert, Prince Consort, KG KT KP GMB GCMG is elected Master of Trinity House, on the death of Arthur, 1st Duke of Wellington.

He sat as Master for the consecutive years until 1862.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (later The Prince Consort; 26 August 1819 – 14 December 1861) was the husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

HRH Albert Prince Consort

HRH Albert Prince Consort