On This Day in Trinity House History – 16 October

1759

John Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse is lit for the first time

When John Rudyerd’s Eddystone Lighthouse burned down in 1755, mariners were anxious to have it replaced as soon as possible. Trinity House placed a light vessel to guard the position until a permanent light could be built. In 1756 a Yorkshireman, John Smeaton, who had been recommended by the Royal Society, travelled to Plymouth on an assignment which was to capture the imagination of the world. He had decided to construct a tower based on the shape of an English Oak tree for strength but made of stone rather than wood. For such a task he needed the toughest labourers, and many of the men employed had been Cornish Tin Miners. Press ganging had become a problem amongst the workforce, so to ensure that the men would be exempt from Naval Service, Trinity House arranged with the Admiralty at Plymouth to have a medal struck for each labourer to prove that they were working on the lighthouse.

Local granite was used for the foundations and facing, and Smeaton invented a quick drying cement, essential in the wet conditions on the rock, the formula for which is still used today. An ingenious method of securing each block of stone to its neighbour, using dovetail joints and marble dowels was employed, together with a device for lifting large blocks of stone from ships at sea to considerable heights which has never been improved upon. Using all these innovations, Smeaton’s tower was completed and lit by 24 candles on 16 October 1759.

Smeaton watched from Plymouth, and remarked that “it is very strong and bright to the naked eye, much like a star in the fourth magnitude.” The light source was was a candle-burning chandelier. The lighthouse was built by a private consortium under lease from Trinity House.

In the 1870’s cracks appeared in the rock upon which Smeaton’s lighthouse had stood for 120 years, so the top half of the tower was dismantled and re-erected on Plymouth Hoe as a monument to the builder. The remaining stump still stands on the Eddystone Rock.

Smeaton's Eddystone Lighthouse

Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse


1826

Birthday of Sir James Nicholas Douglass

Sir James Douglass Engineer-in-Chief

Sir James Douglass Engineer-in-Chief

 

James Nicholas Douglass was an English civil engineer, the first to hold the permanent Engineer-in-Chief role for Trinity House; he is perhaps most famous for the design and construction of the fourth Eddystone Lighthouse, for which he was knighted.

Died 19 June 1898.


1962

Trinity House Vessel Winston Churchill enters service

THV Winston Churchill is commissioned into service as the East Cowes District Tender, replacing THV Siren, which was transferred to Harwich district.

THV Winston Churchill 1979

THV Winston Churchill 1979

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

On This Day in Trinity House History – 30 June

1894

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


1962

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.”