On This Day in Trinity House History – 10 August


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.”



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


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 – 4 August


THV Ariel precedes the Royal barge at the Thames Water Pageant

In order to celebrate the peace after the First World War, a Pageant of All the Sea Services was organised, in which a procession of boats, carrying representatives of all ‘those who go down to the sea in ships’, proceeded from Tower Bridge to Chelsea.

His Majesty King George V led the procession in the Royal barge, manned by Watermen, holders of Doggett’s Coat and Badge. THV Ariel was brought from Yarmouth and fitted with a lowering mast to enable her to clear the bridges. The Royal barge was preceded by the Ariel, flying the flag of the Duke of Connaught (Master), who was on board, attended by Sir Acton Blake (Deputy Master), Rear-Admiral Mansell and Captain Golding.

Royal procession at Tower Bridge

Royal procession at Tower Bridge

Trinity House Quincenterary celebrations

Illustrator Peter Kent’s fantastic musings on the quincentennial celebrations of Trinity House.

RiverWatch returns

Crossing the river by train, the once familiar city skyline is rapidly changing.  Alighting at Cannon Street, one follows the hidden course of the river Walbrook, which is changing yet again.  The once dominating cluster of office buildings formerly known as Bucklersbury has disappeared into a cloud of dust, with lofty concrete lift cores rising to the skies denoting the height of the building to be.

th  and RM002

The Wren church of St. Stephen Walbrook’s flank wall has been exposed for all to see (for the first time?); always crowded with neighbours which include the stately Mansion House, the present residence of the Lord Mayor.  Memories of great civic occasions come flooding back, some humorous as travelling by train has some limitations for those who have to wear ceremonial gear.  I well remember meeting the Lady Mayoress to be, clutching her designer hat in a rather large brown paper bag.  Today I…

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On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 July


John Evelyn records his time at Trinity Monday

John Evelyn’s diary entry reads:

“The Trinity-Company met this day, which should have been on the Monday after Trinity, but was put off by reason of the Royal Charter being so large, that it could not be ready before. Some immunities were superadded. Mr. Pepys, Secretary to the Admiralty, was a second time chosen Master. We went to church, according to custom, and then took barge to the Trinity-House, in London, where we had a great dinner, above eighty at one table.”



Early problems with the Nore Lightvessel

Trinity House Board Minute:

Nore Lightvessel model

Nore Lightvessel model

“Mr. Cam, one of the lessees of the light at the Nore attended to answer Captain Hallum’s complaint against the light and admitted that there happened an accidental obstruction in one of the funnels just at the time complained of, but said that it was removed in about half an hour, after which there was a good light, as there hath been all along, without any former complaint of this nature and he promised that all possible care should be taken to keep a good light for the future, offering to remove the present lightkeeper and put in anyone whom the Corporation should name,

Which being considered and that Captain Hallum admits in his complaint that one of the lamps was kindled as he came by, Mr. Cam was charged to take especial care that a good light be constantly maintained hereafter, to be kindled every evening immediately after sunset and to be kept burning till it be broad Day Light next morning, and that they give instructions accordingly to such lightkeepers as the lessees shall appoint at their own Risque and for whom they are answerable.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 9 July


“To The Honorable Comishiners” – Ship’s Master in distress

The following letter was received by the Corporation from the Master of the schooner Farmer, who complains about having been put in Beaumaris Gaol (a now-disused jail located in Anglesey, Wales) for not taking a pilot:

“Beumoras Prison
July the 9th 1821

To the honorable Comishiners of the Trinety House Bord Capt. Teer now Lying in the body of the gaiol of Beumoras takes this opertunity by leting your Honorable Comishiners know that i am confined for the cause of not taking a pilot when in safty inside of the Bare in safty the water man Received the ancrage Mony £0. 3s. tooke my Name then Come Back and Served awarant on Mee and Draged me to the Magstrate and he Comited me to the gaiol for the fine £50 pounds that is my fine or three Months Impresernt the vesel is heire for the want of a captan and the said that there was Several vesels had went away and not paid them and the would make a patman of me for all the rest

Humbel Servent
Danel Teer

Buemores Goail, Wails. For Danel Teer Captain of the Farmer Schooner”



Trinity House Vessel Irene leads George V’s Coronation Review

The Coronation review of George V at Spithead. Trinity House flagship THV Irene leads the reviewing squadron; it would be her last major public event.

THV Irene

THV Irene

On This Day in Trinity House History – 30 June


THV Irene leads the Royal Squadron through the newly-built Tower Bridge

The Trinity House flagship THV Irene leads the Royal Squadron through Tower Bridge, known at the time as London Watergate, in celebration of its opening by HRH The Prince of Wales.

THV Irene

THV Irene


Trinity House remembers one of it’s more remarkable characters

From Trinity House’s Flash magazine:

“A Lifetime of Service:

The following notice was posted in Flash to mark the close of the remarkable career of Commander C E K Kendall-Carpenter, who finally retired from the service after 56 years on 30 June 1962:

“When one’s day of retirement finally arrives, it is not unnatural to look back with pride over some 40 to 45 years of service, but, when on retirement one can lay claim to 56 years of service, it must certainly be a unique occasion. Such is the proud record of Commander C. E. K. Kendall-Carpenter T.H.S. (Ret’d) who finally retired from the Service on 30th June 1962.

Kendall-Carpenter’s service life spanned the years between 1906 and 1962, and a more chequered career one cannot imagine. ‘Tim’, as he is known to his many friends, was always a big man in every sense of the word, and during his career took more than his fair share of knocks. In fact the story of his service life reads almost like a chapter of accidents.

On 17th May, 1906, Kendall-Carpenter, then 15½ years old, joined the Steam Vessel Service as an apprentice, and his service life very nearly ended in tragedy during the following winter. He was at that time serving aboard the old Satellite at Harwich, and, on a particularly cold night, his fellow apprentice stoked up the stove in their quarters and shut off all the ventilation. Both were very nearly asphyxiated, but were luckily rescued and revived by the watch on deck.

Between then and the outbreak of the First World War he attended several Royal Fleet Reviews, and succeeded in collecting two injuries; the first two of many. One being a particularly nasty crack on the head from the jib of the crane at Blackwall. Early in 1914, Kendall-Carpenter volunteered for service in the Imperial Lighthouse Service of Ceylon and shortly after the outbreak of war sailed for Ceylon in their ship Beacon. On the voyage the Beacon was twice intercepted by the German cruiser Emden, but managed to take evasive action on both occasions. Kendall-Carpenter, however, received an injury to his right leg, and on arrival in Colombo, had to proceed to hospital for two operations. After a few months of treatment he was able to take up his appointment in Beacon.

During his service in Ceylon, he managed to get himself involved in the native riots which were flaring up at that time, serving as a captain in the native auxiliary military forces. Needless to say he was soon in the thick of it, and once again suffered several hard knocks, this time at the hands of the rioting mobs.

His service in Ceylon was cut short in 1916 by malaria and an attack of tropical neurasthenia, and as a result he returned to England. After a period of recuperation, he was back with his first love, the Trinity House Service. In typical style, he was soon volunteering again, this time for buoy laying duties off North Russian in liaison with the Royal Navy. He set off for Russia in H.M.T. Wirral but she was unfortunately torpedoed by an enemy submarine off Norway. Kendall-Carpenter was picked up and landed in the Shetlands. Undaunted, he again volunteered for the duties in the White Sea, and this time, although his ship was again attacked, he managed to get through.

The revolution in Russia was in full swing, and after a short and uncomfortable stay, all were ordered back to the United Kingdom. Eight ships, loaded with refugees, left in convoy, but only two got through. For once, Kendall-Carpenter was one of the lucky ones.

For the remainder of the war, he served in Trinity House Vessels in the Dover Patrol Area, seeing plenty of action, laying anti-submarine nets, decoy buoys etc., and he was aboard Argus as acting 1st Officer at the Zeebrugge landings, laying buoys for the attacking forces. Once again, his reward for zealous service, was yet another injury, this time to his right arm, and indeed, he lost the use of the arm as a result of the injury.

He was in and out of hospital for several months but having been patched up, he again returned to serve in Trinity House Vessels. During the twenties he served in many vessels as 1st Officer. In 1930, in view of his distinguished War Service, he was chosen to represent the Trinity House Service at the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey.

Then came the Second World War and once again ill-luck struck a blow. This time he was injured aboard Satellite at Yarmouth whilst manning the ship’s guns during an air attack. This led to more operations, but yet again he came back. For the remainder of the war he managed to steer clear of physical injury, and continued to serve at sea until 1951 when the many injuries which he had sustained again began to take their toll and he was forced to retire from active sea service.

However, the prospect of an inactive retirement did not appeal to this forceful character and he then took on the job of telephone watchkeeper at Penzance Depot. During these latter years it must have been most gratifying for him to see his son making an illustrious name for himself academically and in the field of sport; captain of both the Oxford and England rugby teams over two years.

All things must come to an end, however, and the time has now arrived for ‘Tim’ to say goodbye to the Service. Most of his contemporaries in the Steam Vessel Service have long since gone their separate ways, but one thing is certain and that is that all his friends and acquaintances will want to join in wishing him and his wife many happy years of well deserved retirement.

For our part we are proud to be able to announce that in recognition of his long and loyal service, the Elder Brethren have granted him the rank of Commander T.H.S. (Retired) – truly a well deserved tribute to one who has served the Trinity House so faithfully and so well throughout almost the whole of his active life.”

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.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 June


Trinity High Water Mark is established along the Thames

Trinity High Water Mark: The datum which is referred to in connection with soundings in the River Thames originated in

“An Act for making Wet Docks, Basins, Cuts and Other Works, for the greater Accommodation and Security of Shipping, Commerce, and Revenue, within the Port of London”

Their depth was “to be within fifteen inches of Low Water Mark as settled by two Elder Brothers of the Trinity House.”

Sir James Douglass Engineer-in-Chief

Sir James Douglass Engineer-in-Chief

Exactly 65 years later, Sir James Douglass, Trinity House’s Engineer-in-Chief and famed lighthouse builder, reporting to the Board stated:

“I have had a careful examination made of the Wharfs along the North side of the River, between the Hermitage and Shadwell Entrances of the London Docks, but only one stone has been found. This stone is fixed in the face of the River Wall on the East side of the Hermitage Entrance of the London Docks, and has the following inscription, ‘Low Water Mark is Seventeen Feet 10 inches below the lower edge of this stone, settled by the Corporation of the Trinity House August 1800.’ Cast Iron Plates were found on the West side of the Wapping Entrance and the East side of the ShadweII Entrance of the London Docks… I find that these Plates were fixed, with 54 others, in the year 1853, by the Thames Navigation and Port of London Committee at various places along the banks of the River, commencing at Cadogan Pier, Chelsea and terminating at Woolwich Dockyard. The Trinity High Water Line on these Plates was carefully levelled from the lower edge of the old stone at the Hermitage Entrance of the London Docks, which is 12.50 feet above Ordnance Datum, or Mean Half-tide Level at Liverpool.”

The level of the now-defunct Trinity High Water or Trinity Standard was deemed to be 11.4 feet above the datum line called mean sea level at Newlyn in the County of Cornwall in the Second Geodetic Levelling of England and Wales published by order of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Cast iron plates were found on the West side of the Wapping Entrance and the East side of the Shadwell Entrance of the London Docks. 54 plates were fixed in the year 1853 by the Thames Navigation and Port of London Committee at various places along the banks of the River commencing at Cadogan Pier, Chelsea and terminating at Woolwich Dockyard. The Trinity High Water Line on these Plates was carefully levelled from the lower edge of the old stone at the Hermitage Entrance of the London Docks, which is 12.50 feet above Ordnance Datum, or Mean Half-tide Level at Liverpool.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 13 June


The Elder Brethren to help the Royal Navy fight on the Thames

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Letter from the King to Trinity House to consider plans for sinking ships in the Thames at Gallions and BlackwalI and to make batteries at Gravesend.”