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

On This Day in Trinity House History – 2 January

1566

Queen Elizabeth Grants Trinity House the Power to Erect Seamarks

An Act Eighth Of Elizabeth is passed “to enable the trinity-house to erect seamarks, and give licence to mariners to row in the river of Thames.”

In return for its steady hand in aiding the maturation and expansion of London’s shipping trade, the Corporation’s powers and influence were allowed to evolve and grow steadily over the years, and so it was that, in 1566, Queen Elizabeth I granted an Act of Parliament which would increase its powers considerably.

Elizabeth I at Trinity House

Elizabeth I at Trinity House

This Act 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.”

Beyond the power to erect lighthouses and day marks, Elizabeth’s favour would also confer upon the Corporation the power to license pilots, exclusive ballastage rights on the Thames and, in 1573, the grant of its coat of arms, bearing Sir Thomas Spert’s sailing ship emblem and the motto Trinitas In Unitate.