On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 December

1940

Trinity House on Tower Hill is Destroyed

Trinity House falls victim to the most severe of the air attacks on London.

When incendiary bombs landed on the wooden beams of the house, fire fighters were able put out the first fire caused by the bombs, but the shortage of water prevented their efforts to extinguish subsequent fires. On the morning of 31 December 1940 the staff found the whole of the Wyatt building and the offices at the back with their walls more or less intact, but the interiors completely gutted; apart from the separate East Wing, the only surviving portion of the building was the basement wine cellar. Many archives, rarities, fine models, hangings and paintings were destroyed, save for the paintings that had been at Bayham Abbey, and some archives and books that had gone to the countryside.

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On This Day in Trinity House History – 18 December

1944

Trinity House During the Second World War

German U-Boat U-1209 strikes the Wolf Rock Lighthouse.

The crew abandoned her and ten men, including her commander Oberleutnant Ewald Hulsenbeck, were killed.

The U-Boat ran aground, but was soon pulled back under the water. This incident was witnessed by lighthouse keeper Jack Cherrett who reported that the vessel found her way clear of the rocks but was holed and sank within the hour.

Wolf Rock Lighthouse

Wolf Rock Lighthouse

On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 November

1945

THV Alert is launched

Originally intended as a wartime cable-laying ship, Alert was taken over by Trinity House during the building stage for work as a lighthouse tender.

Although she required a considerable amount of time to get up to steam using her water tube boilers, she performed faithful service for 24 years and was decommissioned in 1970.

 


1961

The current Dungeness Lighthouse was first lit

The current Dungeness Lighthouse was first lit after being officially opened by HRH The Duke of Gloucester, the Master of Trinity House.

A lighthouse at Dungeness was first lit around 1615.

Dungeness Lighthouse (1975)

Dungeness Lighthouse (1975)

On This Day in Trinity House History – 9 November

1670

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.


1915

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 – 25 October

1859

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


1947

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

1953

 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


1998

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 – 12 September

1793

William Pitt Lays The Foundation Stone of Trinity House on Tower Hill

The foundation stone of the current Trinity House was laid by William Pitt, the Master, in the south-west corner of the building.

By 1793 the Trinity House in Water Lane was in need of extensive repair. The Corporation sold the property  to the Commissioners of Customs, and took over a vacant site on Tower Hill. Master carpenter-turned architect and engineer Samuel Wyatt, appointed Surveyor to Trinity House in 1792, drew up plans for a new house, which he can be seen presenting to the Elder Brethren in Gainsborough Dupont’s immense group portrait of 1794. William Pitt, Prime Minister, laid the foundation stone on 12 September 1793, and the first Court inside the acclaimed new headquarters was held on 23 May 1796.

Trinity House, built 1796, rebuilt 1953. Copyright Trinity House

Trinity House, built 1796, rebuilt 1953. Copyright Trinity House

 


1962

Ex-Trinity House Vessel Discovery II is Paid Off

Discovery II is paid-off from the Service of the National Oceanographic Council, after an active life of almost 33 years.

She did invaluable work for Trinity House during the Second World War; one Trinity House clerk from the time remembered that “Discovery II did very good service in the War, and always appeared to be in the War Zone, having “fun and games” as her Captain used to call it.”

Her sea-going life was written up in a 1963 edition of Trinity House’s Flash magazine:

“Originally built for the Discovery Committee, Colonial Office, by Ferguson Brothers, of Port Glasgow, as a research ship, and with Class I strengthening for navigation in ice, she was laid down early in 1929, was completed late in November the same year and within a few weeks (14th December) sailed on her first commission to Antarctic waters, where she was to examine the habitat of the whale.

This was to be the first of six such 2-year commissions, five of which were completed before the Second World War and, with the completion of the sixth in 1951, a major biological and physical survey of the Southern Ocean had been made. Outstanding problems still remain, of course, but these do not materially affect the overall picture now available in respect of the distribution of whale food, the configuration of the sea bed and the general circulation of the ocean. On all the cruises, the DISCOVERY II was a Selected Ship for weather observations, in voluntary co-operation with the Marine Division of the Meteorological Office. Twice was the Antarctic continent circumnavigated in winter — in 1932 and 1951 — and further winter observations on or near the ice-edge were obtained south of Cape Town during a series of repeated cruises in the winter months of 1938. It is probable that the meteorological logs kept during these periods form the greater part of the meteorological information even now available from such high southern latitudes in winter — in oceanic areas.
A further voyage close around Antarctica was made in the summer of 1938-39 and the meteorological observations then obtained must be of considerable value. The meteorological data from the logbooks has been punched on to Hollerith cards and is used as and when necessary for climatological purposes. Moreover, whenever the ship was within the zone appropriate to sending weather reports to Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, coded messages were sent. Since DISCOVERY II was normally approaching from a westerly or south-westerly direction, and, from areas from which incoming weather reports were virtually nil, the information was much appreciated by the meteorological offices concerned.

In 1938-39 meteorologists from the countries mentioned above accompanied the ship on the appropriate sectors of her summer circumpolar cruise and, in 1950-51 several research officers from New Zealand made a series of experimental observations between Dunedin and Macquarie Island.

During the six voyages made to the Southern Ocean in all seasons, and often in unpleasant weather, much data was collected on the subject of pack-ice, more especially with regard to its distribution, and the relation of meteorological conditions — particularly in winter.

During the war DISCOVERY II was requisitioned for service as an armed boarding vessel and was stationed to intercept ships on the northern route, via the Denmark Strait — a very suitable area for a ship built for the Antarctic — but life on board for a crew nearly four times the normal complement must have been a little trying. It must also have been difficult, in such a lively ship, to lower a boat and get a boarding party away. Released from this service in 1942, she was re-fitted for service with Trinity House, and, during this period, she was for a time stationed in Iceland, laying buoys at a convoy anchorage. She also suffered damage from a ‘near-miss’ by a mine off the east coast of England. Later, she was transferred to the Irish Light Commissioners’ service and, after returning to Trinity House, was eventually released for re-conversion to a research ship in 1948. To rebuild the DISCOVERY II took nearly fifteen months; the accommodation being modernised and mechanical ventilation introduced, as far as space would permit. Unfortunately, it was not possible to increase the space occupied by laboratories and for the next 12 years, it has been increasingly difficult to fit in all the scientific instruments now essential for the work.

As already mentioned the last of DISCOVERY II Antarctic cruises took place in 1950-51, and a circumnavigation of the continent in winter was successfully completed in generally unpleasant weather, Only the Master, the Senior Scientist and the Bo’sun had had previous experience of working under Antarctic conditions, which rather slowed down the work in the earlier stages of the cruise.

While the Institute of Oceanography was getting into its stride, the DISCOVERY II was laid up for a year (1953-54), and on commissioning again, was employed continuously in home and North Atlantic waters until paid-off finally in September of this year [1963]. She remained a voluntary observing ship, during this period and in February-March 1955 she was chartered by the Meteorological Office and did a successful tour of duty as an emergency weather ship as Station ‘K’.

In this more recent period of DISCOVERY II‘s career she was more often used for testing prototype instruments and equipment than for taking routine oceanographical observations. Among other new instruments tried out was the shipborne wave recorder, now an established instrument on a world basis, a precision deep echosounder, a new method of measuring deep ocean currents using a neutrally-buoyant float, a plastic reversing deep sea water-bottle (now in production), and a depth of net indicator. Experiments have also been made in the location of fish shoals, and the same transducer — which is stabilised against rolling — has also been used successfully to scan the bottom on the continental shelf.

It has been difficult shortly to encompass all that the DISCOVERY II, and those who have manned her — both ship’s company and scientists — have achieved in the thirty-three years of her life. Much of the work has been carried out under arduous conditions, both for ship and men, and it is a tribute to her designers, and to her builders, that she has served science for so long and so well. Many, especially those who served in her on the long prewar cruises, will regret her passing. She was not, perhaps, the most comfortable of vehicles in which to travel or work; her design, while producing a ‘safe’ ship for ice navigation or work in stormy seas, did not, perhaps, lend itself to the provision of as stable a working platform as modern oceanographical research demands. She was, however, able to keep the seas, and work efficiently, in weather which would have daunted most other research ships.”


1984

South Stack Lighthouse is automated

South Stack Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart.

The lighthouse was first lit in 1871. South Stack Lighthouse was first lit on 9 February 1809. The lighthouse, erected at a cost of £12,000, was designed by Daniel Alexander and originally fitted with Argand oil lamps and reflectors.

In the mid 1870s the lantern and lighting apparatus was replaced by a new lantern. No records are available of the light source at this time but it was probably a pressurised multiwick oil lamp. In 1909 an early form of incandescent light was installed and in 1927 this was replaced by a more modern form of incandescent mantle burner. The station was electrified in 1938.

The light and fog signal are now remotely controlled and monitored from the Trinity House Planning Centre in Harwich, Essex.

South Stack Lighthouse

South Stack Lighthouse