On This Day in Trinity House History – 1 October


Trinity House becomes responsible for the Cinque Ports Pilots

The Cinque Ports pilots were transferred from the jurisdiction of the Lord Warden to that of Trinity House; the recently-deceased Duke of Wellington had been the last incumbent of that post.

The number of pilots transferred was one hundred and twenty-six; the pilot boats (four) and the invested pilots funds, amounting to £15,958, were also turned over to Trinity House, together with the liability for pensioners.



A Family Tradition

Principal Keeper Daniel Percival Ford Norton retires from the lighthouse service, an otherwise unremarkable occasion made all the more interesting when we read his letter to the Editor of Trinity House’s Flash magazine in the winter of 1973:

“My great grandfather George Norton was Master of a Light Vessel. My grandfather retired as Master of the Seven Stones Light Vessel and my grandmother was one of the last widows to receive a pension from Trinity House. She died in 1910 and I can remember her telling me at that time the Masters received an allowance for victualling the crew.

My father, George Norton, experienced the longest over due relief at The Wolf Rock Lighthouse in January 1915 (45 days).*

An uncle, Harry Norton, retired as Master of the Breaksea Light Vessel and another uncle, Alfred Norton, retired as Principal Keeper from St. Anthony Lighthouse in 1923.

I had two brothers, Harry and John, who were also Lighthouse Keepers.

I myself retired in 1959 after 39 years service. I joined the Service in 1920 after strict medical examinations (one a local and another in London). I served in the 1914-1918 war and eventually after a long wait I finally started training at Trinity House in 1920. The Experimental Room was known as the Black Hole of Calcutta, Mr. Lee was the Instructor and Mr. Hood was the Engineer-in-Chief. I then went to the Blackwall Workshops for a further period of training and was finally appointed as a Supernumerary Keeper for a period of 6 years. When we were not required for duty we returned to Blackwall where we acted as messengers carrying mail to Trinity House. Friday was Board day and one of my duties was to carry the Superintendent’s coat and cap who at that time was Captain Hattersley. One day I tried the coat and cap on, but was caught in the progress by the Captain who informed me that it took more than a coat and cap to make a Superintendent!

I think it can be fairly said that the Norton family have a record of approximately 300 years service with Trinity House.”

It is no mean feat to have had such a long-standing family tradition of service to Trinity House.

* A letter sent to Flash in response to Mr. Norton’s letter pointed out that, as a matter of fact, Mr. Ted Day must have experienced the longest spell on any Rock Lighthouse. In 1919 Ted Day was landed on the Wolf Rock for a month’s relief duty, but as a result of bad weather and the lack of relief personnel, it was 140 days on the Wolf Rock Lighthouse before Mr. Day could be relieved.


Alderney Lighthouse is automated

Alderney Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the lighthouse keepers depart.

The lighthouse was built in 1912 in order to act as a guide to passing shipping and to warn vessels of the treacherous waters around the Isle. It is sited on Quénard Point, to the north-east of the Island. Alderney lighthouse tower rises 32 metres and is painted white with a central black band to make it more visible to shipping during the hours of daylight.

More information at the Trinity House website

Alderney Lighthouse

Alderney Lighthouse

On This Day in Trinity House History – 30 July


HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh visits two Trinity House lighthouses

His Royal Highness Prince Philip in his capacity as Master of the Corporation of Trinity House visited Beachy Head and Royal Sovereign Lighthouses.

The following brief account appeared in Flash magazine:

“Prince Philip flew and landed a Wessex Helicopter from the Queens Flight onto the Royal Sovereign platform, and was subsequently heard to remark that the landing strip colour should be changed to make it stand out more.

He spent an hour aboard the Sovereign, and not only inspected the lighthouse in great detail but was obviously very interested and impressed by all he saw aboard the ‘lighthouse of the seventies’.

After the inspection of the Royal Sovereign, Prince Philip flew into Eastbourne by helicopter and transferred to T.H.V. PATRICIA which took him out to Beachy Head Lighthouse where he carried out a similar inspection.”

HRH Duke of Edinburgh on Royal Sovereign Lighthouse

HRH Duke of Edinburgh on Royal Sovereign Lighthouse



Trinity House Hands Helgoland Lighthouse to German Authorities

St. Catherine’s Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart. A lighthouse had been first lit in March 1840.

St Catherine’s Lighthouse is situated at Niton Undercliffe, 5 miles from Ventnor on the Isle of Wight and comprises a white octagonal tower with 94 steps up to the lantern. The light is a guide to shipping in the Channel as well as vessels approaching the Solent.

There is a fixed red subsidiary light displayed from a window 7 metres below the main light and shown westward over the Atherfield Ledge. It is visible for 17 miles in clear weather, and was first exhibited in 1904. Both lights are electric, and standby battery lights are provided in case of a power failure.

A small light was first set up at St. Catherine’s in about 1323 by Walter de Godyton. He erected a chapel and added an endowment for a priest to say Masses for his family and to exhibit lights at night to warn ships from approaching too near this dangerous coast, both purposes being fulfilled until about 1530 when the Reformation swept away the endowment. Neither the present lighthouse tower lighted in March 1840, nor the chapel of which the ruins remain, held these ancient lights.

The present tower was constructed in 1838 following the loss of the sailing ship Clarendon on rocks near the site of the present lighthouse.

The lighthouse itself is now monitored and controlled from the Trinity House Planning Centre at Harwich in Essex.

St Catherines Lighthouse by Neil Thomas

St Catherines Lighthouse © Neil Thomas