On This Day in Trinity House History – 31 August


Notice of Centenary of Bishop Rock Lighthouse in Flash Magazine

A notice of the centenary of Bishop Rock Lighthouse is published in Trinity House’s Flash Magazine:

“To mark the occasion of the centenary of Bishop Rock lighthouse, special services were held at St. Mary’s Isle of Scilly this weekend.

On Sunday August the 31st special services were arranged at the Church at St. Mary’s by the Chaplain the Rev. J.Gillett. The Church was very full for both services, the preacher in the morning being the Assistant Bishop of Truro, Bishop Wellington. The lesson was read by Captain Sergeant, the Chairman of the Visiting Committee on THV Patricia. At the evening service the preacher was the Rev. J. Gillette and the lessons were read by the Deputy Master and by Captain Catesby, Master of Patricia. Collections were taken for the benefit of Lighthouses and the the Bishop Rock.

Patricia was laying out in the roads, whilst Satellite was along-side the pier at St. Mary’s on Sunday and open to the public during the afternoon.

Satellite anchored in the roads again on Monday and during the afternoon a special service was held on her foredeck, to commemorate the actual day of the centenary. A congregation of about 200 people was taken on board and addressed by Captain G.L. Parnell of the Missions to Seamen, and the prayers and blessings given by Bishop Wellington; the service was conducted by the Chaplain of St. Mary’s. The collection was taken towards providing television for the Wolf Rock Lighthouse, a set already having been provided for the Bishop Rock by the Scilly Islanders. Whilst the service was being held on Satellite, Patricia, with the Visiting Committee on board, visited the Bishop Rock Lighthouse; owing to weather conditions the Committee were unable to land. Parcels and mementos of the centenary were however delivered by rope to the Keepers on the Lighthouse. To mark the occasion all surviving Principal Keepers of the station have been presented with a granite paperweight in the form of a lighthouse by the Chaplain of St. Mary’s.”

During the centenary celebrations at Bishop Rock, the following messages were telegraphed over the air from lighthouse to lighthouse:

Round Island to Bishop Rock:

“As your nearest neighbouring Lighthouse, our best wishes on the centenary of Bishop Rock. We feel the Bishop will continue to remain steady, for the next hundred years. Best of luck for the future from us all.”

Wolf Rock to Bishop Rock:

“The Wolf Rock Keepers offer their heartiest congratulations to Bishop Rock on reaching its centenary, May that trusted light keep turning for many years to come. Very best of luck from all here.”

Bishop Rock Lighthouse internal plaque

Bishop Rock Lighthouse internal plaque

On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 August


THV Triton is commissioned

THV Triton is commissioned into service, built by Cochran’s of Selby. This vessel had a slightly altered design intended for lightvessel relief and towing rather than buoy-lifting.

THV Triton was initially designed as an Icelandic trawler, but her building was interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1939. As casualties to Trinity House’s fleet mounted, Trinity House took over Triton and converted her (while afloat) into a lightvessel relief tender. A later survey of the vessel stated that “the ship had unusually unkindly sea behaviour due to her conversion.”

Her length overall was 189′ 9″ and she sailed with a complement of 29. THV Triton was sold out of service 1963.

THV Triton (2)

THV Triton (2)

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 August


The Elder Brethren order a tidy up of English lighthouses and buoys

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Ordered, that a letter be written to our lightkeepers and buoy keepers to keep their lights carefully and buoys clean and in their proper places against his Majesty’s arrival from Holland.”

Anticipating George II‘s arrival back in English waters, the Elder Brethren issue a reminder to all lighthouse keepers and buoy attendants to keep everything in good order.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 22 August


The Elder Brethren of Trinity House asked to inspect Navy ships at Chatham

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The principal Officers and Commanders of H.M. Navy to Trinity House, asking them to survey the moorings of H.M. ships in Chatham Harbour, and to report on cables.”

Engraving of

Engraving of “Chatham Dockyard from Fort Pitt” from Ireland’s History of Kent, Vol. 4, 1831.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 19 August


London’s poor receive a gift from a ship’s ‘swear jar’

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Mr. Matthew Cooper, Master of the Scrope of Bristol, and a Younger Brother of this Corp: having sopped sixteen shillings from the wages of several of his seamen in his last voyage to and from Jamaica by way of penalty for Swearing and Drunkenness, pursuant to the By Laws of this Corp: he attended and paid the same into the poor’s box”



Zeppelin Over Souter Point Lighthouse

From the Shields Gazette:

“Graf Zeppelin, the giant German airship which is making a tour of the British Isles, travelled hundreds of miles during the night and is still in the air. The airship was clearly seen over several Tyneside towns, passing over South Shields at about eight o’clock. In response to the salute with the siren at Souter Lighthouse, the airship gracefully dipped in acknowledgement.”

Souter Point Lighthouse was built in 1871 by Trinity house to ward ships from the dangerous rocks at Whitburn Steel; the development of new technology like GPS and satellite navigation led to its decommission in 1988 after 117 years of service to shipping in the North East.

Souter Point Lighthouse, Marsden, Tyne and Wear

Souter Point Lighthouse, Marsden, Tyne and Wear

On This Day in Trinity House History – 17 August


The Origins of Portland Bill Lighthouse

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Mr. Borrett attended the Board with a petition and new subscriptions for a lighthouse at Portland, and was told it should be taken into consideration at the next Court which would be in about a month whereof timely notice should be given him.”

As early as 1669 Sir John Clayton was granted a patent to erect a lighthouse, but his scheme fell through and it was not until early in the eighteenth century that Captain William Holman, supported by the shipowners and Corporation of Weymouth, put a petition to Trinity House for the building of a lighthouse at Portland Bill. Trinity House opposed it suggesting that lights at this point were needless and shipowners could not bear the burden of their upkeep.

The people of Weymouth continued their petition and on 26 May, 1716 Trinity House obtained a patent from George I. They in turn issued a lease for 61 years to a private consortium who built two lighthouses with enclosed lanterns and coal fires. The lights were badly kept, sometimes not lit at all, and in 1752 an inspection was made by two members of the Board of Trinity House who approached by sea to find “it was nigh two hours after sunset before any light appeared in either of the lighthouses”.

With the termination of the lease the lights reverted to Trinity House. In 1789 William Johns, a builder of Weymouth under contract to Trinity House, took down one of the towers and erected a new one at a cost of £2,000. It was sited so that it served as a mark by day or night to direct ships moving up and down Channel or into Portland Roads clear of the Race and Shambles.

In August 1788 Argand lamps were installed, Portland being the first lighthouse in England to be fitted with them. In the upper or old house there were two rows, seven in each row, lighted with oil and furnished with highly-polished reflectors. Low light tests were made by Thomas Rogers with his new lens light, and six Argand lamps were installed, their lights increased by lenses.

The present tower was built in 1906. More information about Portland Bill Lighthouse can be found on the Trinity House website.

Portland Bill Lighthouse - copyright Stephen Banks

Portland Bill Lighthouse – copyright Stephen Banks

On This Day in Trinity House History – 15 August


Loss of No. 83 Lightvessel

The No. 83 Lightvessel was being towed to drydock when she was struck by a passing trawler. The incident was written up in an edition of Flash magazine:

“On the morning of the 15th August, No.83 NEWARP LIGHT VESSEL was in tow of the VESTAL bound for the Tyne for overhaul. At about 0930 the Light Vessel was struck on the starboard side by the Polish Trawler No. SWI176 SNIARDWY causing fairly extensive damage.

The crew of the Light Vessel were taken off but later the Chief Officer, Chief and Second Engineers of the VESTAL, together with Mr. H.R. Eames, Master of the Light Vessel, went back aboard although it was heeling over. In spite of their strenuous efforts and those of the tug IRISHMAN which arrived about 1030, the Light Vessel continued to list and at about 1100 the Light Vessel turned over on her starboard side. The men on board scrambled on to the side out of the water and were rescued by VESTAL’s motor boat about 3 minutes before she sank at 1107, the towing wire being slipped about 5 minutes after the Light Vessel went under.”


On This Day in Trinity House History – 14 August


Charles II takes exception to an Elder Brother

Charles II demands the expulsion of an Elder Brother, Lawrence Moyer:

Charles II portrait at Trinity House

Charles II portrait at Trinity House

“Trusty and Wellbeloved wee greete you well, being very well informed of the severall high missdemeanours and disloyall carriages of Lawrence Moyer of Low Leyton in our County of Essex a member and (as wee understand a present Warden of your Corporacon) of which wee hold him most unfitt to continue therein, or to enjoy any office or place of trust, Our will and pleasure therefore is that you immediately discharge the said Moyer, not only from his Wardenshippe but from being any longer a member of the Society and Corporacon of the Trinity House, to these our Comands wee shall expect your Conformity, and for soe doeing this shall be your Warrant, given at our Court at Whitehall the 14 day of August 1661.

By his Majesty’s Comand, Edwd. Nicholls”

Charles II, looking to ensure loyalty to the Crown after the upheaval that had removed his father’s head, had heard that Moyer (a Republican) had hesitated in swearing the oath of supremacy, a strict requirement post-Interregnum. Charles heard about Moyer’s hesitation and demanded his expulsion, which the Elder Brethren resisted for three years. The king got his way eventually, however, and Moyer was expelled on 22 July 1663.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 13 August


Trinity House Becomes Responsible for the Last of the Private Lighthouses in England and Wales

An Act of Parliament empowers the Corporation to buy out the last of the privately-operated lighthouses: Harwich High and Low, Dungeness, Winterton, Hunstanton, Orfordness High and Low, Smalls, Longships, Tynemouth, Spurn Point and Skerries.

Reinforced by the recommendations of a Royal Commission Report of 1834, and the desire of shipowners and government to bring the last private aids to navigation under the steady arm of Trinity House, an act was passed on 13 August 1836 empowering the Corporation to buy out all remaining private lighthouses, whether held by the Crown or by Perpetual Lease under Act of Parliament, being twelve in total. The buy-out money was raised—£1,182,546—against the funded properties of the Corporation and the Pilot Fund, with a loan of £150,000 from the Treasury and money raised upon the Corporation’s bonds. The Skerries Lighthouse leaseholders held out until 1841, reluctant to relinquish an average annual profit of £12,525.

Although the act of 1836 arguably sowed the early seeds of the modern lighthouse service, it was the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1854 that officially constituted Trinity House as the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the adjacent seas and islands, and Heligoland and Gibraltar.

As Trinity House became responsible for these remaining lighthouses, it undertook the upgrading of the various architectural and technological aspects of each lighthouse.

Skerries Lighthouse section copyright Trinity House

Skerries Lighthouse section copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 12 August


The General Lighthouse Fund is Established

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1898, abolished the Mercantile Marine Fund and established the General Lighthouse Fund.

The aids to navigation service provided by Trinity House is financed from ‘Light Dues’ levied on commercial vessels calling at ports in the British Isles, based on the net registered tonnage of the vessel. The rate is set by the Department of Transport, and annually reviewed. Light Dues are currently charged at 40 pence* per net registered ton, subject to a maximum charge of £16,000 per voyage. Vessels are charged for a maximum of nine voyages per annum. Tugs and fishing vessels are liable for annual payments based on the registered length of the vessel.

Light dues are paid in to the General Lighthouse Fund (GLF), which is under the stewardship of the Department for Transport. The fund is used to finance the lighthouse services provided by Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board (responsible for Scotland and the Isle of Man) and the Commissioners of Irish Lights (responsible for the waters around both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland). Major initiatives such as lighthouse and lightvessel automation and the solarisation of buoys and a growing number of lighthouses have made a significant contribution to the reduction of Light Dues.

Busy Shipping Lane (photo by C Bagguley)

Busy Shipping Lane (photo by C Bagguley)

* Correct at 12 August 2014.