On This Day in Trinity House History – 17 October


Unbecoming Words Between the Elder Brethren

Trinity House Board Minute:

“The debate ending about one o’clock, some unbecoming words happened to arise afterwards betwixt Captain Panuwell and Captain Selby, and Captain Selby using words to this or the like effect, that whoever said that was a liar, Captain Panuwell immediately struck him twice upon the arm with a cane. Afterwards much opprobious language was given on both sides, tho’ they were several time called upon to desist, by the Master (Sir Thomas Hardy) in the chair, who thereupon appointed a court to be held on Saturday 31st. inst.in order to lay the proceedings before the said Court.”

An instance of discord between the Brethren, but one that we hope was hopefully resolved without any further use of the cane.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 16 October


John Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse is lit for the first time

When John Rudyerd’s Eddystone Lighthouse burned down in 1755, mariners were anxious to have it replaced as soon as possible. Trinity House placed a light vessel to guard the position until a permanent light could be built. In 1756 a Yorkshireman, John Smeaton, who had been recommended by the Royal Society, travelled to Plymouth on an assignment which was to capture the imagination of the world. He had decided to construct a tower based on the shape of an English Oak tree for strength but made of stone rather than wood. For such a task he needed the toughest labourers, and many of the men employed had been Cornish Tin Miners. Press ganging had become a problem amongst the workforce, 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.

Local granite was used for the foundations and facing, and Smeaton invented a quick drying cement, essential in the wet conditions on the rock, the formula for which is still used today. An ingenious method of securing each block of stone to its neighbour, using dovetail joints and marble dowels was employed, together with a device for lifting large blocks of stone from ships at sea to considerable heights which has never been improved upon. Using all these innovations, Smeaton’s tower was completed and lit by 24 candles on 16 October 1759.

Smeaton watched from Plymouth, and remarked that “it is very strong and bright to the naked eye, much like a star in the fourth magnitude.” The light source was was a candle-burning chandelier. The lighthouse was built by a private consortium under lease from Trinity House.

In the 1870’s cracks appeared in the rock upon which Smeaton’s lighthouse had stood for 120 years, so the top half of the tower was dismantled and re-erected on Plymouth Hoe as a monument to the builder. The remaining stump still stands on the Eddystone Rock.

Smeaton's Eddystone Lighthouse

Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse


Birthday of Sir James Nicholas Douglass

Sir James Douglass Engineer-in-Chief

Sir James Douglass Engineer-in-Chief


James Nicholas Douglass was an English civil engineer, the first to hold the permanent Engineer-in-Chief role for Trinity House; he is perhaps most famous for the design and construction of the fourth Eddystone Lighthouse, for which he was knighted.

Died 19 June 1898.


Trinity House Vessel Winston Churchill enters service

THV Winston Churchill is commissioned into service as the East Cowes District Tender, replacing THV Siren, which was transferred to Harwich district.

THV Winston Churchill 1979

THV Winston Churchill 1979

On This Day in Trinity House History – 13 October


Trinity House Gets a New Royal Charter from James I

A new Charter of Incorporation is issued by James I, making the first proper mention of Elder Brethren and Younger Brethren.

At the start of the 17th century the duties of Trinity House had gradually accumulated, and now included survey duties afloat, inspection of naval stores, examining and licensing pilots, placing and maintaining beacons and buoys and administering the Ballastage Office, as well as the considerable ongoing charitable works. This ever-expanding range was formally recognised when the 1604 charter of King James I increased the small band of governing officials from 13 to 31 by the addition of 18 deputised Elder Brethren. The remaining members of the Corporation then became known as Younger Brethren.


The Royal Trinity House Volunteer Artillery is formed to defend the Thames

An invasion by Napoleon being feared, the Elder Brethren undertook the defence of the Thames.

The Royal Trinity House Volunteer Artillery was formed, a body of 1,200 men was enrolled, the officers being Colonel William Pitt (Master), Lt. Colonel Joseph Cotton (Deputy Master), the Elder Brethren were Captains, and some of the Younger Brethren were Lieutenants. A flotilla of frigates was moored in the Lower Hope: Daedalus, Unite, Vestal, Modeste, Retribution, Quebec, Iris, Solebay, Heroine, Resource and Royal Charlotte.

The volunteers appear to have been a curious assortment; they are described on the Muster Sheets as “Seamen Landsmen, Volunteers, Pilots, Lascars, Harbour Volunteer Marines, River Fencibles, Greenwich Pensioners, Trinity House Pensioners, East India Company Pensioners.”

The flotilla was removed in October 1805 when the danger was considered passed.

Trinity House defends the Thames in 1803

Trinity House defends the Thames in 1803

On This Day in Trinity House History – 12 October


The Master of Trinity House Gets A Change to the Uniform

Duke of Connaught Master of Trinity House 1910-1941

Duke of Connaught Master of Trinity House 1910-1941

“His Majesty King George V has been pleased to command that in the future the Master of the Trinity House shall wear, as the distinguishing mark of his office, a band of gold lace one and three-quarter inches broad (corresponding to that worn by a Rear-Admiral in the Royal Navy) above the cuffs and on shoulder straps in lieu of the band of gold lace one inch broad prescribed for the Elder Brethren.”

Note: In all other respects the uniforms of the Master and the Elder Brethren are identical.

Notified by a letter from His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, K.G., Master of the Corporation of Trinity House.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 7 October


Orfordness Lighthouse washed away

Board Minute:

“An express from Orford, that the Lower Lighthouse there was washed away by the sea on the 5th. but that a representative of the proprietor and a workman to replace it as soon as possible, and to supply a light in the best manner that is possible till a new lighthouse can be built


12 October:

“Reporting that a lantern three feet high was raised to the height of 25 feet from the ground wherein a good light would be maintained, and that for the two nights before a coal fire light had been kept there.”

View of Orford Ness 1822

View of Orford Ness 1822



Trinity House Mathematical Examining Committee Gets Its Own Maths Whizz

A Court Minute authorised the Appointment of a Mathematical Examiner to assist the Examining Committee, and ordered arrangements to be made for conducting voluntary examinations at Trinity House on and after 1 Nov. 1845.

Mr. Boulter Bell was appointed Mathematical Examiner, his remuneration to be as follows, viz.; for examination of Masters and Mates £50, for examination of Masters and Pilots, R.N., £50, for examination of Christ’s Hospital Boys £20: a total of £120 per annum. In the first twelve months, to 1 November 1846, ninety (90) Candidates presented themselves for examination. These voluntary examinations continued to be carried out until compulsory examinations were instituted by the Board of Trade under the Act of 1850.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 6 October


Maplin Beacon disappears

Board Minute:

“The board informed that the Maplin Beacon is gone; Ordered that Mr. Baker be directed to lay a buoy there forthwith, with a flag on it to distinguish it from other buoys in those parts, till a beacon can be replaced, and to send up notice when it has been laid so that notice of the same may be advertised in the public prints.”


On This Day in Trinity House History – 5 October


The Elder Brethren arrange for the manning of HM ships

Court Minute:

“Trinity House ordered to send in the names of thirty-eight persons fit to be Masters of H.M. ships in present expedition.”