On This Day in Trinity House History – 31 December


“Unbecoming Words and differences” between the Elder Brethren

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The Court proceeded to consider of some effectual means to prevent unbecoming Words and differences at future Meetings; and Unanimously Resolved that if any Elder Brother of this Corporation shall hereafter give or return any such language to any other Elder Brother, at any Court or By Board, as the said Court or By Board shall judge to be quarrelsome or abusive, provoking or reproachfull, he shall forfeit ten pounds for every such offence; To be deducted out of his next Ensuing Turns for the use of the poor of the Corporation.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 December


Charles II addresses the Corporation

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Trusty and well beloved we Greet you well, Whereas wee have been gratiously pleased to renue and confirme your Charter with Severall additional powers and priviledges both for the advantage of our service and the Publique Wee cannot but lett you know that we expect you should be very carefull in the choice of such as are to be admitted Members of your Society, that they being persons of exemplary piety, prudence and integrity wee may with confidence hope for Gods blefsing in theire endeavours for ours and the Kingdomes service. Wee will and require you therefore that you elect none to be of your body that have sate in any of the late pretended high Courts of Justice, or who signed any Peticon for the Triall of our Father of Blefsed memory, or who continue disaffected to the Peace of theis Kingdomes under our Government, and refuse the Oathes of Allegiance and Supremancy wch. the Lawes exact of all our subjects, And for the better discharge of the Trust reposed in that Society you are to admit none to be Elder Brethren but able and experienced Seamen and Mariners. And soe we bid you farewell.

Given at our Court at Whitehall this 26th. December 1660”

1280-360 Charles II to TH 1675


On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 December


Trinity House and the Royal Navy

Two Trinity House Court Minutes:

“Commissioners of Navy consult Trinity House as to three (3) decked ships and as to the height of lower tier of guns above water.”

“A survey by Trinity House of all ships in Thames suitable for H.M. service.”


George V bestows an honour upon the Elder Brethren

George V issues a Warrant confirming the longstanding custom of the Elder Brethren using the style and title of “Captain” after Captains in the Navy:

“Now know ye that in the exercise of Our Royal Prerogative We do hereby declare Our Royal Will and Pleasure that in all times hereafter the Elder Brethren of the said Corporation of Trinity House shall be styled “Captain”, and shall on all social and ceremonial occasions have place and precedence next and immediately after the place and precedence which maybe accorded to Captains in Our Navy.”


Trevose Head Lighthouse is automated

Trevose Head Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart. The lighthouse was first lit 1 December 1847.

The existing optic was retained but the rotation speed was slowed to alter the character to one flash every 7.5 rather than every 5 seconds. The red screens were removed to give a white light. The lamp was changed to 35 watt metal halide in a two position lampchanger. A Tideland ML300 lantern mounted on the lantern gallery hand rail gives an emergency 10 sea mile light. The air fog signal was replaced by an electric omnidirectional signal controlled by a fog detector. The light is controlled by a photocell mounted on the lantern murette; telemetry equipment was also installed for remote monitoring and control from the Trinity House Planning Centre at Harwich in Essex.

A lighthouse was first proposed for this area of the North Cornish coast as early as 1809 there being no light at that time to guide ships trading in the Bristol Channel other than the Longships to the south and the old Lundy light to the north.

The position was further considered by Trinity House in 1813 and again in 1832, but it was not until 1 December 1847 that an oil light comprising wicks backed with reflectors, was first lit at Trevose Head.

The light is situated on the north west extremity of the head, with gigantic cliffs of grey granite rising sheer from the sea to a height of 150 feet or more. The area, like so much of the Devon and Cornish coastline is constantly threatened by sea mists that make even the most powerful lights seem like candles.

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

On This Day in Trinity House History – 10 December


Trinity House and the Royal Navy

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Trinity House submits a scheme for manning the Navy Royal.”

A description of the various duties of the Elder Brethren around this time can be found in Trinity House of Deptford Strond by C R B Barrett in 1893:

“What at this time were the duties of the Corporation? They had the charge and expense of laying buoys and erecting beacons, the responsibility for the naval stores at Deptford, and the care of the shipbuilding yard there. Ships for the Royal Navy, to be either built or purchased, were laid down on their designs, or were, in the second case, accepted or rejected on their certificate. Provisions, cordage, ordnance, and ammunition, both for royal and merchant vessels, all passed through the hands of the Trinity House. Pilots, as of old, received their certificates from the House at Deptford. Masters were recommended for the royal ships by them, and in times when enlistment was slow, to the Master, Wardens, and Assistants was, committed the unpleasant duty of pressing both masters and seamen for the King’s ships. The right to appoint certain foreign consuls lay with the Guild, the consuls at Leghorn and Genoa being instances in point. Acting as hydrographers to the navy, all questions regarding the limits and boundaries of seas and channels were referred to them. Causes in the Admiralty Court were partly adjudicated by the members, certain Elder Brethren acting (as they still act) as, assessors. Arbitrations on matters in dispute between owners, captains and seamen were of frequent occurrence; being cases specially referred to the professional skill of the Brethren. No fleet left our shores without its number, armament, and equipment being subject to a careful survey by and the opinion of the Brethren. To all of these multifarious duties we have to add the intricate questions involved in the suppression of piracy, the investigation of Iosses by sea, and the redemption of captives. Finally, the charitable work of the Corporation had to be considered; the Bedefolk, the outside pensioners, and the casual poor all needed attention. Who, then, were the men who performed these manifold duties?”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 3 December


The Elder Brethren to examine Masters of Royal Navy

A Court Minute establishes a Special Committee of four Elder Brethren to carry out examinations of Masters in His Majesty’s Navy.

A note on this important duty from Memoir on the Origin and Incorporation of the Trinity House of Deptford Strond by Captain Joseph Cotton, 1818:

“The Committee of Examiners… it consists of four Brethren, chosen annually, and constitutes not the least interesting or useful portion of the Corporation.

They never adjourn their sittings beyond an interval of one day, if there be any Master or Pilot to be examined. When the examination is one of national importance, such as that of a Master of a first or second rate man-of-war, upon whose ability and experience, as Master of the flag-ship, the safety of a fleet, and its service to the country may depend, the Deputy Master and the whole committee attend, and certify his ability for that charge; but Masters of ships under that class are examined and certified either by four or two of the Brethren, the committee dividing for dispatch, if necessary, into two sub-committees. This duty, of the examination of Masters in the Royal Navy, is a voluntary and gratuitous service to the public, not originating in the conditions or stipulations of any grant or charter…”


This duty ceased in 1874.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 2 December


The Elder Brethren draft By-Laws for British shipping

Found in the Trinity House Court Minutes, the By-Laws for ships written by the Elder Brethren:


Whereas the Kings most excellent Majesty Charles the Second, and several former Kings and Queens of England, by their Letters Patents under the Great Seal, have given full Power and Authority to the Master and Brethren of Trinity House, to make by-Laws and Orders for the good Government and preventing Disorders in Navigation; and thereupon we the Persons so Authorized by the said Charter, have in pursuance thereof made certain by-Laws: viz.

Item. It is Ordered, That if at any time hereafter any Mariner or Seaman, having first Shipped himself with any Master of a Ship for a Voyage shall desert and leave the said Master, and ship himself with another Master, that the Master with whom he goeth that Voyage shall upon notice given on the behalf of the Corporation, detain Two Shillings in every Pound of the Wages of the said Mariner or Seaman for the time he serveth in the said Ship, to be paid to the Corporation for the poor thereof.

If any Man shall swear, Curse, Or Blaspheme the name of God, for every such Offence he shall pay to the Poors Box 0. 0. 6d.

If any Man shall lye a-shore, not having the Masters consent, for his first Offence he shall pay to the Poors Box 0. 2s. 6d.
For his Second Offence 0. 5s. 0.
For his Third Offence 0. 7s. 6d.
For his Fourth Offence 0. 10s. 0.
And so to advance according to proportion so often as the said Offence shall be committed.

If any Man shall be Obstinate and Stubborn in not obeying the Masters Commands, or any of his Mates, or the Boatswain, in the Masters absence, he shall pay for every such default to the Poors Box. 0. 2s. 6d.

If any Man shall tell a Lye, and be evicted of the same by proof, be shall pay to the Poors Box. 0. 0. 4d.

If any Man shall absent himself from Prayers, and not make his appearance at ringing of the Bell, he then being in health, for every such Offence he shall pay to the Poors Box. 0. 0. 6d.

If any Man be Drunk, for every such fault he shall pay to the Poors Box. 0. 1s. 0.

If any Man shall be abusive when he is Drunk, for every such Offence he shall pay to the Poors Box. 0. 1s. 0.

Item. It is Ordered, That every Commander or Master of a Ship that ships any Mariner or Seaman to sail with him upon any Voyage to Sea, shall take it in Writing under his Hand upon what Accompt he is Entertained, and also that he doth submit himself to the by-Laws of Trinity House.

Item. Whereas by reason of Powder being taken aboard Ships before their departing out of the River of Thames and by Keeping Powder aboard at their coming home in the time of their unlading: As also by heating Pitch and Tar aboard Ships, there hath often happened great losses to Merchants and Owners, It is Ordered, that no Ships shall receive their store of Powder aboard for the Voyage, above Four and Twenty hours before they do set Sail from Blackwall or Woolwich directly for Gravesend outward bound, upon penalty of £5. 0. 0.

Item. That all Ships homeward Bound do put a-shore their store of Powder within Twenty-four hours after coming to an Anchor in the River, at Blackwall or the usually unlade their Goods, if the Weather shall permit; and they unshot all their Guns, upon penalty of every such Offence to forfeit to the use of the Poor of the Corporation £6. 13s. 4d.

Item. That no manner of Pitch, Tar, or Rozen be heated aboard any Ships, Barks, or Hoys over any Fire, but with a Shot or other Iron, upon penalty of paying to the Poor of the Corporation £3. 0. 0.

Item. That all Masters of Vessels shall cause their Bread Rooms to be dried and appoint able and sufficient Man to take care of the same, and not to keep any Fire in their Bread Rooms in the Night time, upon Penalty of £5. 0. 0.

Item. Whereas by occasion of Dirt-Boats, which carry fruit, Wine, and other Strong-Waters to sell to Ship-Keepers and others aboard Ships, there is much wrong done to the Owners in the purloyning of Cordage and other Materials, It is therefore Ordered, that all Masters of Ships for the preventing of the evil aforesaid, do from henceforth give Orders to their Servants, that no Dirt-Boats be permitted to pass in the River to have recourse to any Ships; and all Commanders of Ships are enjoined once a Week to order the sailors to put the Dirt into their own Boats at seasonable hours in the Day and to lay it on shore, and not to buy or sell any thing with them: And upon such default of notice by the Master or Commander, or if any Dirt or Filth be thrown into the River River, every such Commander shall pay to the use of the Corporation toties quoties £1. 0. 0.

Item. And every Sailor or Servant for every neglect of his Duty therein, upon warning as aforesaid shall receive Corporal punishment from his Commander or in default thereof, the Commander shall pay the sum of £1. 0. 0.

Item. It is Ordered, That all Masters of Ships shall have a particular Copy of the By-laws of the said Corporation, they paying the Clerk for Copies thereof, to the end that they may the better known and observed.

But if any Person or Persons shall be found Offenders against the above mentioned By-laws and Orders, it shall then be left to the Liberty of the Commander of the Ship, with the advice and consent of his Officers, either to inflict Corporal Punishment, or receive and take the penalties aforesaid, for their breach of the said Laws before named: But if it shall happen that the said Persons have not present Money to Satisfie what is Ordered for their Offence, then it may be required, That he or they subscribe their Names to the Pursers Book, that it may be defaulted out of their Wages next Pay Day following.”


On This Day in Trinity House History – 25 November


HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester is elected Master of Trinity House

HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester KG KT KP GMB GCMG GCVO is elected Master of Trinity House, on the death of the Duke of Kent.He sat as Master from 1942 to 1969.

Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (31 March 1900 – 10 June 1974) was a soldier and member of the British Royal Family, the third son of King George V of the United Kingdom and Queen Mary. The Duke served as a soldier for most of his life. At his death, he was the last surviving knight of the Order of St. Patrick. Also at the time of his death in 1974, he was the last surviving child of King George V and Queen Mary.

Portrait of HRH Henry Duke of Gloucester by Aubrey Claud Davidson-Houston, 1963

Portrait of HRH Henry Duke of Gloucester by Aubrey Claud Davidson-Houston, 1963


On This Day in Trinity House History – 16 November


The Elder Brethren advise the King’s Navy

Trinity House Court Minutes:

“Commissioners of Navy to Trinity House asking them to consider a plott for a baracado in the Medway.”

“Commissioners of Navy asking Trinity House to examine and report on ship MayfIower, offered for sale as a man-of-war to the King.”


On This Day in Trinity House History – 9 November


The Elder Brethren Sacrifice Their Salary For Victims of Piracy

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Towards the redemption of captives now at Algiers every Elder Brother is to allow a turn, and if the next turn does not amount to £3 it is to be made up to £3, and every Younger Brother to allow 6/8, and their next turn is to be stopped for it.”

‘Turns’ were the payment to Elder and Younger Brethren before salaries were introduced in 1822.


Trinity House During the Second World War

The Corporation’s steam vessel THV lrene was sunk near the Tongue, with the loss of twenty-one lives, including the Master, after contact with a mine when on special service.

PHILLIPS, Hugh Leopold Master, THV Irene
THOMAS, Harold Frederic 2nd Mate, THV Irene
DEWAR, Henry Ritchie 1st Engineer, THV Irene
ALDERSON, Joseph Coxswain, THV Irene
BARBER, Walter Henry Seaman, THV Irene
BARNES, Edward Stephen Seaman, THV Irene
BATT, Walter Edwin Trimmer, THV Irene
BAYLEY, Robert William Cook, THV Irene
BLAKEMORE, Alfred Fireman, THV Irene
CLARKE, George Fireman, THV Irene
COOK, William George Fireman, THV Irene
EADES, George Augustus Fireman, THV Irene
GIBBS, William Edward Fireman, THV Irene
GODFREY, Thomas William Seaman, THV Irene
HAZELL, Frederick William Trimmer, THV Irene
HILL, David Trimmer, THV Irene
KERR, Thomas Seaman, THV Irene
MERRALLS, William Thomas Fireman, THV Irene
MURRELL, Walter Steward, THV Irene
POWELL, Percival Arthur Seaman, THV Irene
TRICKER, William James Steward, THV Irene
WALKER, William James Kinsey Seaman, THV Irene
THV Irene 1907

THV Irene 1907

On This Day in Trinity House History – 2 November


The Elder Brethren of Trinity House identify ships fit for His Majesty’s Navy

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Trinity House reports that there are fit to serve His Majesty, as men-of-war, capable of carrying thirty guns and upwards: forty-seven in Thames and seventy at sea.”