On This Day in Trinity House History – 15 December

1683

The Elder Brethren consider a beacon for Woodbridge, Suffolk

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The Deputy Master and two others to Sir John Barker, saying that they are going to erect a beacon at Woodbridge, where he is the sole proprietor of the lands, and asking his favour.”

One of the earliest records of the placing of a seamark by the Corporation.


1998

A service of thanksgiving for the lighthouse keepers

A service of thanksgiving for lighthouse keepers and their ladies is held at St. Olave’s Church in the City of London, followed by a dinner.

HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh attended and gave a toast of appreciation, and Dermot Cronin, the lighthouse service’s senior Principal Keeper, responded. A commemmorative medallion was presented to all.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 November

1998

North Foreland Lighthouse is automated and the last lighthouse keepers leave

The completion of the ambitious lighthouse automation programme came with the North Foreland Lighthouse. Ending four centuries of service, the last six keepers in the Trinity House Lighthouse Service were given a warm farewell by the Master HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, and the profession passed into folklore and history.

A light was first exhibited at North Foreland in 1499, but the first real lighthouse was built by Sir John Meldrum in 1636. The lighthouse consisted of a two storey octagonal tower made of timber, lath and plaster with an iron coal burning grate on top. This tower was destroyed by fire in 1683.

A temporary measure of a single candle in a lantern hoisted on a pole proved, not surprisingly, ineffective and the present structure was built in 1691; originally the tower was 12 metres tall constructed of brick, stone and flint. In 1698 the lighthouse is recorded as using 100 tons of coal a year.

North Foreland Lighthouse came into the hands of the Trustees of Greenwich Hospital in 1719, they used the surplus from the light dues for the upkeep of the hospital for the benefit of seamen. They enclosed the fire in a glazed lantern in 1719 but this was removed in 1730 after complaints from shipping. In 1793 a further two storeys were added to the tower and the coal fire was replaced by 18 oil lamps.

Trinity House purchased the lighthouse in 1832. In 1890 a separate room known as the lantern house, was built on to the top of the tower to accommodate the light. An improved light source was installed in 1894, a pair of eight wick Trinity House-pattern burners for heavy mineral oil, replaced in 1904 by a triple mantle burner, and again replaced in 1923 with a ‘Hood’ 100mm petroleum vapour burner.

North Foreland was the last Trinity Lighthouse to be automated when it was converted to automatic operation at a ceremony attended by his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh in 1998.

North Foreland Lighthouse Automation [Flash 1998] copyright Trinity House

North Foreland Lighthouse Automation [Flash 1998] copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 21 October

1953

 The Rebuilt Trinity House is Reopened After the Second World War by HM The Queen

Having being destroyed during the Blitz, the rebuilt and improved Trinity House is opened by HM The Queen on Trafalgar day.

Architect Professor (later Sir) Albert Richardson initially submitted plans for building a new house, but the Brethren were determined to not only reinstate Wyatt’s building as it had been, but also to demolish the old Pilotage Service office building and build in its place a new library, grand enough to host functions and banquets, laid with carpet of the same pattern used in cabins of ships of the line at the end of the 18th century, as well as offices and sleeping quarters elsewhere in the building. In addition, an entirely new seven-storey office block was built at the rear, with laboratories, a research department and recreation rooms.

HM Queen Elizabeth II reopens Trinity House London 21 Oct 1953

HM Queen Elizabeth II reopens Trinity House London 21 Oct 1953


1998

End of an Era: North Foreland Lighthouse is Converted to Automatic Operation (But Not Formally!)

North Foreland Lighthouse is converted to automatic, unmanned operation, the last Trinity House lighthouse. The formal closing ceremony would come on 26 November 1998.

North Foreland Lighthouse copyright Trinity House

North Foreland Lighthouse copyright Trinity House