On This Day in Trinity House History – 28 May


The Navy asks Trinity House to provide fire ships

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Navy Office ask Trinity House to provide two (2) Fire Ships.”

This instruction was possibly in anticipation of the First Anglo-Dutch War (see 22 January post).

From Wikipedia:

“A fire ship, used in the days of wooden rowed or sailing ships, was a ship filled with combustibles, deliberately set on fire and steered (or, where possible, allowed to drift) into an enemy fleet, in order to destroy ships, or to create panic and make the enemy break formation. Ships used as fire ships were usually old and worn out or purpose-built inexpensive vessels. An explosion ship or hellburner was a variation on the fire ship, intended to cause damage by blowing up in proximity to enemy ships. Fireships were famously used to great effect by the English against the Spanish Armada during the Battle of Gravelines.”

Fire ships at Battle of Solebay

Fire ships at Battle of Solebay

On This Day in Trinity House History – 03 May


Oliver Cromwell requests the assistance of Trinity House

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Oliver Cromwell and Dennis Bond to Trinity House. The State’s ship Resolution, being fitted for the sea, and ready to fall down the river, they desire the Trinity House to recommend to the Commissioners of the Navy an able, godly, and well affected mariner to take charge of her as Master.”

The above Court minute came as a result of the upheaval caused by the English Civil War and Cromwell’s Commonwealth, when the Corporation was caught up in the various political machinations and eventually accused of royalist sympathies and dissolved by Parliament. [See also On This Day in Trinity House History – 4 February]

An Ordinance to regulate the Navy, the Customs, and Trinity House dated 16 January 1648 declared anyone of royalist sympathy since 1641 incapable of holding office under pain of crippling penalties. As a result, most of the Elder Brethren were either removed or had to resign, and a Parliamentary committee was appointed to sit in their place. In 1660 King Charles II restored the Corporation’s Court and powers with a charter of confirmation; former Brethren returned and others were appointed following the Restoration [the collapse of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate] in May 1660. The traditional annual election of the Master and Wardens was revived on Trinity Monday in June, with George Monck, first Duke of Albemarle appointed the new Master. Admirals Sir William Batten and Sir William Penn and Edward, first Earl of Sandwich are some of the more recognisable names on a list of eminent Lords, Admirals and Knights, alongside the requisite number of merchant captains.

HMS Resolution was actually known for most of her life as the Prince Royal:

Prince Royal was a 55-gun royal ship of the English Royal Navy, built by Phineas Pett at Woolwich and launched in 1610. From 1639 to 1641 she was rebuilt by Peter Pett at Woolwich as a 70-gun first-rate ship. During the time of the Commonwealth of England, she was named Resolution and fought in most battles of the First Anglo-Dutch War. By 1660 she was carrying 80 guns, and with the English Restoration of King Charles II she resumed the name Royal Prince. In 1663 she was rebuilt again at Woolwich Dockyard by Sir Phineas Pett II as a 92-gun first-rate ship of the line.

Today a fine model of the Prince Royal, made by Robert Spence in 1952, is perhaps the most notable display piece in the entrance hall of the Trinity House headquarters on Tower Hill.

HMS Prince Royal (also HMS Resolution)

HMS Prince Royal (also HMS Resolution)



Pendeen Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart

Until 1891 maritime safety off Pendeen depended more on activity after a wreck rather than effective prevention, the “Admiralty Sailing Directions” for that year being only able to report a “Coastguard Station where a rocket apparatus is kept”. The high cliffs along this sector of coastline prevented passing vessels from catching sight of either Trevose Head to the East or the Longships to the West; and so numbers of them, unable to ascertain their position, were lost, particularly on the groups of sunken and exposed rocks near Pendeen Watch. Trinity House became increasingly concerned about this state of affairs as the nineteenth century drew to its close, and decided to erect a lighthouse and fog signal at Pendeen. Designs for the building were prepared by Sir Thomas Matthews, the Trinity House Engineer, their construction being undertaken by Arthur Carkeek, of Redruth, with Messrs. Chance, of Birmingham supplying the lantern.

Within the tower itself are two rooms, one over the other, and above them the lantern which originally contained a five-wick Argand lamp, to which oil was pumped from the room below. This lamp was replaced by an electric one in 1926. Around the lamp revolves an apparatus containing the lenses. This optic is very heavy, weighing 2½ tons, but as it floats in a trough containing ¾ of a ton of mercury it can be set in motion by the merest touch.

Pendeen Lighthouse was automated in 1995 with the keepers leaving the station on 3 May. The original optic has been retained but a new lamp plinth with two position lamp changer has been installed along with an emergency light and a new fog signal with fog detector. The lighthouse is now monitored and controlled from the Trinity House Planning Centre at Harwich.

More at http://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/lighthouses/lighthouse_list/pendeen.html

Pendeen Lighthouse by Ian Cowe

Pendeen Lighthouse by Ian Cowe

On This Day in Trinity House History – 22 January


Trinity House assist in fleet preparations

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Council of State make proclamation, ordered all seamen to join the fleet and that they should repair to Trinity House.”

This instruction was possibly in anticipation of the First Anglo-Dutch War, or a result of the activity caused by the Navigation Acts of October 1651, which ordered that only English ships and ships from the originating country could import goods to England. This measure was particularly aimed at hampering the shipping of the highly trade-dependent Dutch. Over a hundred Dutch ships were captured by English privateers between October 1651 and July 1652; as General Monck put it: “The Dutch have too much trade, and the English are resolved to take it from them.”


New fog signal at Lizard Lighthouse

Description of the new fog signal at the Lizard Lighthouse in the Cornish Telegraph:

“Although not so loud and disturbing as was anticipated, the sound is very weird and melancholy… there it rolls, with prolonged reverberating echoes through the surrounding precipices and caves.”

Lizard Lighthouse fog signal trumpets

Lizard Lighthouse fog signal trumpets


Trinity House escorts the late Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria dies at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. A few days later her body was carried to the Trinity House depot at East Cowes. With Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and Prince Arthur the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (later the Master of Trinity House), the body was embarked on the Victoria and Albert, and the royal yacht procession was led by eight Destroyers and tailed by the Trinity House flagship THV Irene.


Death of Sir Winston Churchill, Elder Brother of Trinity House

The Elder Brethren mourned the loss of Sir Winston Churchill, an Elder Brother since 1913. Churchill wore his uniform to many of his most important diplomatic occasions, bringing great repute upon the Corporation in international circles.