On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 August


The Elder Brethren order a tidy up of English lighthouses and buoys

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Ordered, that a letter be written to our lightkeepers and buoy keepers to keep their lights carefully and buoys clean and in their proper places against his Majesty’s arrival from Holland.”

Anticipating George II‘s arrival back in English waters, the Elder Brethren issue a reminder to all lighthouse keepers and buoy attendants to keep everything in good order.

Enter the Trinity House 500th anniversary quiz for great prizes

Enter the Trinity House 500th anniversary quiz for great prizes

As part of its 500th anniversary celebrations, the Corporation of Trinity House is offering the chance to win a copy of the new Trinity House photography book Light Through A Lens and a Trinity House-themed print by renowned illustrator Peter Kent.

We’ll post more about the book on this blog closer to its publication on 11 September 2014. In the meantime, you can read about it on the Bloomsbury website.

To find out more, please visit the Trinity House website. Good luck!

On This Day in Trinity House History – 28 June 2014 – Centenary of First World War


The First World War begins

As nations around the world today (28 June 2014) mark the centenary of the First World War, Trinity House vessels Patricia, Galatea and Alert will be among those flying their flags and ensigns at half-mast at 1700 UTC.

The men and women of the Corporation of Trinity House all played their part in the effort, and many even gave their lives.

Although lighthouses and lightvessels at this time were ordered to maintain strict neutrality, the Trinity House Steam Vessel Service was thrust forward, busily buoying shipping lanes, Swept Channels and Naval operations, and moving and replacing lightvessels; over 200 additional lighted buoys and 361 additional unlighted buoys were deployed, and the Corporation covered points as far-flung as the White Sea and the Persian Gulf. Continue reading

On This Day in Trinity House History – 23 June


New rule for admitting Younger Brethren of Trinity House

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The Master letting the Board know the Scandal this house lay under in their having admitted heretofore Younger Brothers being Dissenters from ye Church & ill affected to ye Government, it was debated how the evill should be prevented hereafter, and Resolved, that no late or any other Younger Brother to be made hereafter being a Seaman and expecting a Branch from this House shall be admitted into this Corporation, without bringing a certificate from ye Minister & Church Wardens of ye Parish to which he belongs of his conformity to ye Church of England as by Law established & of his frequenting the same.”

The ‘Scandal’ would appear to be fallout from the enormous changes brought about by the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth and the subsequent Restoration.

The ‘branch’ referred to is the certificate issued to Younger Brethren by Trinity House.


Trinity House establishes the Gunfleet Beacon

Gunfleet Lighthouse drawing copyright Trinity House

Gunfleet Lighthouse drawing copyright Trinity House


Trinity House Board Minute:

“Mr. Baker (buoy keeper at Harwich) to attend on 7 July to go down with the Gunfleet Beacon, and in the meantime to lay a buoy near the place where the Beacon is to be set, and that it may stand dry at Low Water if possible. He is also to clean the buoys on his passage up. The Board is informed that the buoys at the Spitts lie too far to the westwards, and he is to observe them, and if he finds them so, to put them in a proper place.”

A buoy was first laid at the Gunfleet sand in the northern Thames Estuary in 1629. A lighthouse (pictured here) was established to mark the position in 1850, until it was discontinued in 1920. Today the area is marked with a number of buoys.

Trinity House and D-Day – On This Day in Trinity House History – 6 June


Trinity House plays its part in the D-Day landings

The Corporation of Trinity House’s staff, lighthouses, lightvessels, tenders and pilots played a vital role in the success of Operation Neptune, the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord) during the Second World War.

Soon after the declaration of war in September 1939 the Admiralty sought out the services of Trinity House, requiring the exhibition of navigational lights and the establishment of buoys to mark swept channels.

Trinity House established 73 lighted buoys in various depths at given positions between England and France; the buoys were laid according to schedule and in spite of the weather. After the venue for the landings had been agreed a decision had to be taken as to the number of swept lanes and buoys required.

Trinity House’s Chief Superintendent Captain A G Carrick (d.1953) summed up the detailed work encountered on Operation Overlord in 1951:

“Firstly, after the venue of the invasion had been chosen, the number of swept lanes required across the Channel and the number of buoys in each lane sufficient to meet ordinary conditions of visibility had to be decided upon. This would determine the number of buoys required, which would also give the depth of water of each buoyed position. With the foregoing information, the length of chain cable and the sinker necessary to hold these buoys in position could be determined.

“Secondly, the shape and colour of the superstructure that each buoy had to carry in order that these buoy positions could be identified was considered. In order that this identification could be carried out in hours of darkness, different characters of flashing lights were allocated. These were chosen so as to avoid confusion between neighbouring buoys.

“The work of preparing these moorings into their various lengths, preparing the buoys according to their appropriate colours, charging them with gas cylinders and assembling the lamps with their pre-selected characteristics was taken in hand.

“On completion of the above, the task of transporting them to the port of assembly was next to be considered, when it was found that the fighting services were all requiring transport to this same port, and all naturally demanding a high degree of priority for their requirements. However, the Admiralty released several LCTs [Tank Landing Craft] which were, about this period, making a passage within a few days of each other from east coast ports to the southward, and which they detailed to call at Harwich for the purpose of loading these buoys and transporting them to Cowes in the Isle of Wight.

“The next point to be considered on the arrival of these buoys and moorings at the port of assembly was the question of their storage, as they had to be kept immediately available and ready for service. With the heavy demand on every foot of quay space, deep water berths and shore lifting cranes, the answer to this problem was difficult, and as the LCTs had to be released as soon as possible for their other duties, it was decided that the Thames lighter [barge] should be used for this purpose of storage. Here again the question of priority was paramount, but 20 of these craft were allocated, together with three small tugs.

“These lighters were moored to buoys in the River Medina. The ocean buoys and moorings, according to their groups, were stored therein and then towed from there to the operating vessels as required.

“Six Trinity House Vessels—Patricia (Captain R Goodman), Warden (Captain J Le Good), Georges De Joly (Captain J R Meyrick), Alert (Captain T J White), Andre Blondel (Captain G Sherman) and Discovery II (Captain J J Woolnough)—were detailed to assemble in the Solent three weeks prior to D-Day, in order to be stored, victualled and loaded with their first consignment of buoys in readiness to mark the lanes for the assault forces and the subsequent passage of innumerable craft of every possible description necessary for an operation of this magnitude.

“After dealing with their load of buoys, these vessels would immediately return to the port of assembly and reload in readiness to sail on their second assignments. This operation was repeated until all the necessary buoys had been laid.

“These channels having been established and marked, it can well be understood that with the amount of traffic plying continually between the two coasts, collisions with, and mishaps to these light buoys would occur. Few would appreciate that the number of casualties amounted to 350 within the period of some four months, and at one time reached the alarming figure of 7.5 per day. This of course kept the Trinity House Vessels fully occupied in supplying and fitting spare parts or lamps, according to the nature of the casualty, and continually servicing the buoys in one way or another in order to maintain the lighted channels.

“The fact that the above laying and servicing was carried out without hindrance, and that later two fully-manned lightvessels were established off the coast of France, shows the complete mastery which our fighting services had obtained over the enemy, and more so when it is realised that swept channels were marked by light buoys close along the coasts of France, Belgium and Holland, up to the opening of the River Scheldt by the Allied Forces, and later along the coast and into the ports of Germany itself.”

During the three years prior to Overlord much shipping was diverted to the east coast ports; as the traffic to London was greatly reduced, over fifty London District Pilots undertook pilotage duties in the Clyde. Traffic in the Port of London increased again with preparations for the invasion and the responsibility fell on Trinity House for piloting all the commercial vessels and many of the service vessels engaged in those operations. All the Mulberry [portable temporary] Harbour Units which were constructed on the Thames were towed to their parking places under the supervision of Trinity House pilots.

In the month following D-Day nearly 3,000 ships were handled by 88 River Pilots and nearly 2,000 by 115 Sea Pilots. During that period many pilots worked day and night unceasingly without relief and pilots had to be recalled from the Clyde and the Royal Naval Reserve.

Juno (No. 72) Lightvessel was established on 18 June 1944 remaining on station until 27 January 1945 when she was towed to Le Havre for damage repairs following various collisions and heavy seas. One month later she was relaid in a new position at a station named Seine. On 3 March 1946 she was replaced by a French Light Vessel named Le Havre and towed to Harwich.

No. 68 marked the Kansas station and was laid on 16 July 1944 remaining until 11 November the same year when she was towed to Ryde then to Cowes.

On 3 September 1944 Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief sent the following message to Trinity House:

“I wish to place on record my High appreciation of the invaluable work performed by the vessels of Trinity House and their crews, as well as by those who have been responsible for the organisation and preparations ashore, during recent operations involving the landing on the Continent of Europe of the greatest seaborne expedition in History. The great success achieved was due in no small part to the contribution of Trinity House.

“2. The smooth way in which the buoy-laying has progressed has been in particular due to the work and splendid co-operation of your Superintendent at Cowes, Captain Barber. Without his willing help and advice at all times both before and during the operations the many problems which arose could not have been so easily overcome.

“3. Success is seldom achieved without loss, and it was with great regret that I learned of the loss of THV ALERT on 16th June. She had done fine work close off the enemy coast and it was most gratifying to know that none of her crew was lost.

“4. I shall be grateful if you will convey my appreciation to all of Trinity House.”

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944 copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 1 June


An early buoy yard for Harwich

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Mr. Baker [the Buoy Keeper at Harwich] attended with his proposals and it was agreed that he be allowed seventy pound per annum for laying buoys in place of such which may from time to time break away. To clean, Pitch and paint and shift them every six months at his own charge. To pay the freight on the buoys stones and chains from London to harwich and in case any of the beacons do break way to place buoys in their room, as also all manner of contingencies except smiths and coopers work, which is said to be allowed him on producing sufficient vouchers for the same, all of which he agreed to perform under ye penalty of forfeiture of one years salary, to commence at midsummer.”



A tragedy at St. Catherine’s Lighthouse

A bombing raid destroyed the engine house at St. Catherine’s Lighthouse, killing the three keepers on duty who had taken shelter in the building.

R T Grenfell, C Tomkins and W E Jones were buried in the local cemetery at Niton village and a plaque in remembrance of them is displayed on the ground floor of the main tower.


HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh pay a royal visit to Trinity House staff at Gravesend and Harwich

The following is the official report of the visit by the then Master HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh to the Trinity House Gravesend Pilot Station and the Trinity House Harwich Depot by Captain David T Smith, Elder Brother, which appeared in Flash magazine:

“H.M. The Queen, accompanied by H.R.H. The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T., G.B.E., The Master of Trinity House, arrived at Tilbury during the early forenoon of 1st June, 1976, in the Royal Yacht Britannia following her state visit to Finland. Her Majesty had been escorted up River from the vicinity of the Sunk Light Vessel by the Elder Brethren embarked in Trinity House Vessel Patricia.

The Master disembarked from the Royal Yacht in Gravesend Reach at 6930; he was escorted to the Royal Terrace Pier by the Deputy Master, Captain M.B. Wingate, who had transferred from THV Patricia to the fast launch THPV St. Clement for the passage inshore.

After meeting civic dignitaries at the Pier, The Master proceeded to Alexandra House, the new combined Pilot Station and Tug Company Office building close to the root of the Royal Terrace Pier. A large number of Pilots and their families together with employees and their families from the Thames Navigation Service and the Alexandra Towing Company Ltd., were there to greet His Royal Highness.

The Master met senior officers of the Pilotage Service and a representative of the President GCBS outside the main entrance to the building before proceeding inside to the Main entrance of the Pilot Station, on the second floor, where he unveiled a plaque to signify the opening of the station; at this time the Master’s flag and Trinity House ensign were broken at the masthead and gaff respectively and the new Pilot Station was formally commissioned.

After a short tour to inspect the layout and facilities being provided for Pilots in the new building The Master joined a large representative body of Pilots drawn from the River Thames, Channel and Medway Districts in their lounge for informal discussions.

At 1030 The Master was received at the Tug Offices and later at the Thames Navigation Service following which he departed from the Royal Terrace Pier for Tilbury escorted by craft of the P.L.A., Kent and Essex Constabularies and the Trinity House.

After a tour of the Tilbury Container complex The Master entertained a representative party of guests to luncheon in the Royal Yacht.

After luncheon H.R.H. accompanied by the Deputy Master and other representatives departed in a helicopter of the Queen’s Flight for Harwich. The party landed at Harwich Green at 1440 his flag being broken at the Trinity House Depot. The Master was welcomed on the green by Civic dignitaries before leading his party on foot along the esplaoade to the Port Navigation Service Building, passing several hundred townsfolk, many of them children who had turned out to greet him on this enjoyable occasion.

He was received at the Port Navigation Service by the Vice Chairman of the Harwich Conservancy Board and, after meeting officers of the Board, he inspected the operations centre and was briefed on the arrangements exercised jointly by the Port Authority and Trinity House Pilotage Service for control of shipping using the port.

The Master and his party then proceeded by car to the newly completed Trinity House Pilot Station at Town Quay which had then been functioning for some 14 days. At 1523 he unveiled a commemorative plaque in the lobby and formally commissioned the Station. He then proceeded on a walk round inspection of the various facilities and to meet Pilotage Service Personnel in their duty locations. Following this he visited the Pilots’ lounge on the observation deck of the Station where a large body of Pilots representing the Inward (North Channel), Ipswich and Essex River Pilots were assembled to be presented to him. After a period of informal discussion The Master departed at 1635 and subsequently took off from Harwich Green, piloting the helicopter himself for the flight back to Buckingham Palace.

The 1st June 1976 was unique for the Pilotage Service since The Master had in the course of one day been able to observe the Pilot Cutter performing its role at the Sunk Station, the Trinity House Pilot in his operational environment on the bridge at sea, the new Gravesend Pilot Station nearing completion and the new Harwich Pilot Station recently operational. In addition he had the opportunity to meet and talk to about 70 personnel of the Trinity House Pilotage Service.”



The current Patricia is named

In a ceremony attended by the Master HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh and Deputy Master Captain Sir Miles Wingate, The Countess Mountbatten of Burma named the new flagship THV Patricia.

THV Patricia at Skokholm Lighthouse 2012 copyright Trinity House

THV Patricia at Skokholm Lighthouse 2012 copyright Trinity House