On This Day in Trinity House History – 23 December

1566

The Seamarks Act is passed in the House of Lords

An Act “concerning Sea-marks and Mariners” is read for the first time and passed in the House of Lords.

This Act, passed by Elizabeth I enabled Trinity House

“at their wills and pleasures, and at their costs, [to] make, erect, and set up such, and so many beacons, marks, and signs for the sea, in such place or places of the sea-shores, and uplands near the sea-coasts, or forelands of the sea, only for sea-marks, as to them shall seem most meet, needful, and requisite, whereby the dangers may be avoided and escaped, and ships the better come into their ports without peril.”

 


1977

The Last Trinity House Oil-Burning Lighthouse

St. Mary’s Island Lighthouse is the last of the Trinity House lighthouses to be converted to electric operation.

The paraffin vapour burner (PVB), which had been in use since 1898, was replaced by a temporary portable lamp which was used at the lighthouse for two months while a permanent electrical system was installed.

SI. Mary’s Island, sometimes called Bait Island, lies north of the popular holiday resort of Whitley Bay which is a long stretch of sand with low rocks running far out from the shore. Steep banks of grass front the sea and the many acres of lawn make it a very attractive resort. A causeway links the island to the mainland, and at low tide holiday makers can cross to the lighthouse on the small island and scramble over the rocks.

The lighthouse was built for Trinity House by Messrs. J. Miller in 1898. During the excavation for the foundation of the lighthouse, the workmen unearthed several skeletons and stone coffins from what used to be the burial ground for the monks of Tynemouth Priory. The white round tower is 37 metres high and is connected by service rooms to the keepers’ dwellings.

Postcard from St Marys Lighthouse

Postcard from St Marys Lighthouse

Advertisements

On This Day in Trinity House History – 7 October

1730

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

NOTICE TO BE GIVEN IN THE GAZETTE.”

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

 


1845

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

1733

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 – 19 August

1738

London’s poor receive a gift from a ship’s ‘swear jar’

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Mr. Matthew Cooper, Master of the Scrope of Bristol, and a Younger Brother of this Corp: having sopped sixteen shillings from the wages of several of his seamen in his last voyage to and from Jamaica by way of penalty for Swearing and Drunkenness, pursuant to the By Laws of this Corp: he attended and paid the same into the poor’s box”

 


1931

Zeppelin Over Souter Point Lighthouse

From the Shields Gazette:

“Graf Zeppelin, the giant German airship which is making a tour of the British Isles, travelled hundreds of miles during the night and is still in the air. The airship was clearly seen over several Tyneside towns, passing over South Shields at about eight o’clock. In response to the salute with the siren at Souter Lighthouse, the airship gracefully dipped in acknowledgement.”

Souter Point Lighthouse was built in 1871 by Trinity house to ward ships from the dangerous rocks at Whitburn Steel; the development of new technology like GPS and satellite navigation led to its decommission in 1988 after 117 years of service to shipping in the North East.

Souter Point Lighthouse, Marsden, Tyne and Wear

Souter Point Lighthouse, Marsden, Tyne and Wear

On This Day in Trinity House History – 10 August

1737

Storm Damage to Lighthouses

Trinity House Board Minutes:

“Agent at Yarmouth reporting that great damage has been done to our lighthouses at Castor [Caister or Caistor] by the late storm, and that he had done what was immediately necessary for keeping in the lights, and asked for further directions. Ordered, to repair the lighthouses forthwith in such a manner as he shall judge necessary, with due regard to good husbandry and to the safety of navigation.

Letter from a master of a vessel forced into Fowey by bad weather, that he found great difficulty in entering the harbour for want of the mark of St. Saviour’s church lately blown down, and recommending the repair of it, to this Corporation. It was not thought incumbent upon this Corporation to repair the same, and as we receive no Duties on that account we cannot layout the Poors money thereon.”


 

1822

Preceding the Monarch

The Trinity Yacht departs Greenwich for the Nore to join the Royal Squadron bound for Scotland, awaiting the arrival of the Royal George from Greenwich where King George IV had embarked. So began the privilege of Royal escort that became the tradition, whenever the monarch went afloat in English or Welsh waters, of the Elder Brethren preceding the Royal Yacht in pilotage waters.

The twentieth century kept the Trinity House flagships very busy: in 1969, the Corporation was paraded in full public view, as THV Patricia (1938-82) would attend HM The Queen on no less than three high profile occasions: the review of the NATO Naval Force’s 20th Anniversary, the review of the Western Fleet and the departure from the Humber of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh for the royal visit to Norway.

The Corporation and its flagship would discharge this same duty again in 1977, leading as Royal Escort for the Jubilee Fleet Review. Later occasions would include the Queen Victoria’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Reviews, the Sea Service’s Thames Water Pageant in 1919, marking the end of the First World War, and the Royal Navy review in the Coronation Year.

HRH Princess Royal took pride of place when Trinity House Motor Boat No.1 led the vanguard of the Diamond Jubilee procession upon the Thames, as the Corporation continued its long-standing engagement with the nation’s most famous waterway; the Corporation would shortly after escort the royal barge Gloriana as she carried the Olympic Torch downriver from Hampton Court to Tower Bridge.

Jubilee Procession 2012 - Copyright Ambrose Greenway

Jubilee Procession 2012 – Copyright Ambrose Greenway


1854

Trinity House is Officially Constituted as a General Lighthouse Authority

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 constituted Trinity House the General Lighthouse Authority for England and Wales and the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, and the adjacent Seas and Islands, and in Heligoland and Gibraltar.

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. The act opened an account with the Paymaster General to establish the new Mercantile Marine Fund as the repository for Light Dues, although this early pool was simply a catch-all fund for all manner of maritime activities: Local Marine Boards, Shipping Offices, Surveyors, Receivers of Wreck, and so on.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1898 replaced the indiscriminate Mercantile Marine Fund with the General Lighthouse Fund, an account for Light Dues overseen by Government for the dedicated purpose of ensuring the provision of an aids to navigation service.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 30 July

1974

HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh visits two Trinity House lighthouses

His Royal Highness Prince Philip in his capacity as Master of the Corporation of Trinity House visited Beachy Head and Royal Sovereign Lighthouses.

The following brief account appeared in Flash magazine:

“Prince Philip flew and landed a Wessex Helicopter from the Queens Flight onto the Royal Sovereign platform, and was subsequently heard to remark that the landing strip colour should be changed to make it stand out more.

He spent an hour aboard the Sovereign, and not only inspected the lighthouse in great detail but was obviously very interested and impressed by all he saw aboard the ‘lighthouse of the seventies’.

After the inspection of the Royal Sovereign, Prince Philip flew into Eastbourne by helicopter and transferred to T.H.V. PATRICIA which took him out to Beachy Head Lighthouse where he carried out a similar inspection.”

HRH Duke of Edinburgh on Royal Sovereign Lighthouse

HRH Duke of Edinburgh on Royal Sovereign Lighthouse

 


1997

Trinity House Hands Helgoland Lighthouse to German Authorities

St. Catherine’s Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart. A lighthouse had been first lit in March 1840.

St Catherine’s Lighthouse is situated at Niton Undercliffe, 5 miles from Ventnor on the Isle of Wight and comprises a white octagonal tower with 94 steps up to the lantern. The light is a guide to shipping in the Channel as well as vessels approaching the Solent.

There is a fixed red subsidiary light displayed from a window 7 metres below the main light and shown westward over the Atherfield Ledge. It is visible for 17 miles in clear weather, and was first exhibited in 1904. Both lights are electric, and standby battery lights are provided in case of a power failure.

A small light was first set up at St. Catherine’s in about 1323 by Walter de Godyton. He erected a chapel and added an endowment for a priest to say Masses for his family and to exhibit lights at night to warn ships from approaching too near this dangerous coast, both purposes being fulfilled until about 1530 when the Reformation swept away the endowment. Neither the present lighthouse tower lighted in March 1840, nor the chapel of which the ruins remain, held these ancient lights.

The present tower was constructed in 1838 following the loss of the sailing ship Clarendon on rocks near the site of the present lighthouse.

The lighthouse itself is now monitored and controlled from the Trinity House Planning Centre at Harwich in Essex.

St Catherines Lighthouse by Neil Thomas

St Catherines Lighthouse © Neil Thomas

On This Day in Trinity House History – 28 July

1983

Beachy Head Lighthouse is automated and demanned

Beachy Head Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart. A lighthouse had been first lit in 1902.

It is said that as early as 1670 a light shone to guide passing vessels from the top of the cliffs at Beachy Head, the 90 metres high seaward termination of the Sussex Downs.

In 1828 James Walker erected Belle Toute Lighthouse, a 14 metre high circular tower, on the headland. This remained in operation till 1899 when it was abandoned due to being frequently shrouded in mist and threatened with collapse because of recurrent falls of chalk from the cliff.

In 1902 under the direction of Sir Thomas Matthews, the Trinity House Engineer-in-Chief, the present lighthouse was brought into service, sited about 165 metres seawards from the base of the cliffs. It took two years to complete and involved building a coffer-dam and a cableway from the top of the cliffs to carry materials down to the site. 3,660 tons of Cornish granite were used in the construction of the tower.

Beachy Head © Mirek Galagus

Beachy Head © Mirek Galagus