On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 November


THV Alert is launched

Originally intended as a wartime cable-laying ship, Alert was taken over by Trinity House during the building stage for work as a lighthouse tender.

Although she required a considerable amount of time to get up to steam using her water tube boilers, she performed faithful service for 24 years and was decommissioned in 1970.



The current Dungeness Lighthouse was first lit

The current Dungeness Lighthouse was first lit after being officially opened by HRH The Duke of Gloucester, the Master of Trinity House.

A lighthouse at Dungeness was first lit around 1615.

Dungeness Lighthouse (1975)

Dungeness Lighthouse (1975)

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 – 2 August


The Elder Brethren are empowered to search for gunpowder aboard ships

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Instruments under the Seal of the Corporation issued to the following: Captain John Werry; Captain William Harrison; Captain Charles Hardy; Captain Thomas Rogers; Captain John Robinson; Jun. Captain John Denn, Captain Thomas Wilkins, Captain David Greenhill; and Captain William Lorance, empowering them to (respectively) go on board ships to search for gunpowder, pursuant to the late Act of Parliament.”



Trinity House Pilot Vessels rescue hapless sailors

Notice in Flash Magazine:


The rescue season is now in full swing, and the Pilot Vessel Service has contributed in its usual manner. The best day’s bag was that of Mr. J S Brown, acting as Mate of Kihna who on the 2nd August set out in one of Kihna‘s boats to rescue the crew of a capsized sailing dinghy in Dover Harbour. A second dinghy capsized after Kihna‘s boat was got away, and both crews were duly rescued.

In July the Pilot Vessel Pelorus on station at Dungeness took alongside the yacht Salome which was leaking. The sole crew of this boat was an 80 year old Doctor, who refused to come on board. After Salome had been alongside for an hour and a half she was taken in tow by the Dungeness lifeboat.

On the 25th July the Vigia, which was in charge of her 2nd Mate Mr. L. Ablett, took in tow near Platters buoy the yacht Wayward Wind. The yacht was disabled with a broken rudder and choked pumps. The Wayward Wind with her crew of three was taken safely into Harwich.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 June


The new Dungeness Lighthouse is opened

Dungeness Lighthouse (Artists Impression)

Dungeness Lighthouse (Artists Impression)

The opening ceremony of the new Dungeness Lighthouse building is performed by the Master HRH The Duke of Gloucester, when a plaque commemorating the occasion and one taken from the old lighthouse were unveiled.

On the previous day, HRH The Master had inspected Harwich Depot and Service personnel before sailing in THV Patricia to Dover.



Sir Richard Branson’s powerboat Virgin Atlantic Challenger II passes Bishop Rock to win world record

From Trinity House’s Flash magazine:

“Sir Richard Branson’s VIRGIN ATLANTIC CHALLENGER II passes the finishing line at Bishop Rock Lighthouse 3 days, 8 hours and 31 minutes after leaving the Ambrose Light Tower in New York Bay, beating the eastbound transatlantic record set in 1952.

Principal Keeper E J Dobbin with Assistant Keepers D Price and T Elvers had been avidly watching the television news and weather forecasts for news of the speedboat’s arrival, and eventually they heard the following over the marine radio: “Bishop Rock Lighthouse this is V.A.C.II we’ll be with you in about half an hour.” V.A.C.ll passed Bishop at 1934 BST with a time of 3 days, 8 hours, 31 minutes. The crew on Bishop Rock responded to this success with three blasts from its Supertyfon Fog Signal giving the “little boat people” a bit of a fright! BBC TV news was informed and a caption was superimposed over the World Cup Final. Sir Richard and his crew were presented with a handsome model of Bishop Rock Lighthouse mounted inside a 1500 watt lamp on behalf of the people of the Isles of Scilly.

V.A.C.II‘s navigator was Dag Pike, a former Chief Officer in the Trinity House Support Vessel Service.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 24 June


PVB light source used for the first time

The Paraffin Vapour Burner (PVB) light source widely adopted in Trinity House lighthouses is first exhibited, at Dungeness Lighthouse, Kent.

These burners came to replace in many lighthouse the multi-wick oil burners and incandescent oil burners used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The burners came in four sizes, viz.: with autoform mantles 35 m/m, 50 m/m, 75 m/m and 100 m/m diameter.

Paraffin Petroleum Vapour Burner diagram

Paraffin Petroleum Vapour Burner diagram

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 4 of 4

The following account of one woman’s life as both a daughter and a wife of men serving in the Trinity House lighthouse service was published in the April and July editions of Flash magazine in 1961.

This fascinating recollection was written by Aurelie Trezise, wife of Cyril Trezise BEM. Cyril (b.1900, d. 1970) joined Trinity House as a Supernumerary Assistant Keeper in 1919 and retired in March 1962.

Part 1 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 2 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 3 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 4 of 4: 1929 – 1961

“After spending three years on the Island the Flatholm Lighthouse was made into a Rock Station [i.e. the station and its dwellings would be occupied solely by the lighthouse keepers, and their families would be shore based], this was in the year 1929, so once again we packed our own furniture and were naturally quite excited at the thought of living on the mainland again. The families and furniture were taken ashore in THV Vestal to Swansea in which town I was to reside for the next 4 ½ years. I had a very pleasant time in Swansea enjoying the facilities of town life and made many friends. This was only the second time in my life that I had lived in a town. During this period I had a child of my own so I had plenty to occupy my time whilst my husband was away doing duty at Flatholm Lighthouse and Lundy North Lighthouse.

I was very pleased when in 1933 we were transferred to Trevose Lighthouse. During the five years at Trevose I spent some of the happiest times of my life. All the station personnel were like one big happy family, a most enjoyable time indeed for me. During the summer months my neighbours and I spent many enjoyable hours on the lovely sandy beaches nearby taking the children with us, all as happy as skylarks, bathing, sunbathing, picnicking and playing open air games in the sun.

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

We spent quite a happy and comfortable time there for 2 ½ years then world war two ended and on the liberation of the Channel Islands my husband had orders to take up his appointment as Principal keeper to the Les Hanois Lighthouse, Guernsey. Away my husband went to do duty there leaving my son and I behind, for at the time the housing situation and travelling to the Channel Islands were very unsettled. I was left to make all arrangements with the Superintendent, Isle of Wight depot to have my furniture stored in Southampton pending my obtaining accommodation in Guernsey. In the meantime my son and I went into lodgings near the Lighthouse at Souter Point, remaining in these lodgings for seven months during which time I made numerous enquiries in Guernsey. Eventually I was fortunate enough to get a house on rental and in due course my son and I arrived in Guernsey and my furniture shortly afterwards.

We spent five very happy years there. During the last two years my husband was stationed at Sark Lighthouse. To me Guernsey was an ideal place to live, such lovely scenery, cliff walks, sandy bays and most of all the people were very sociable and entertaining – I made numerous friends and when the time came to leave the Island I was really sorry to go.

Sark Lighthouse

Sark Lighthouse

In 1951 we were transferred to Dungeness Lighthouse, so once again I was back to my old home as a child. I pictured Dungeness as I had left it, but of course over the years there was quite a big change in its appearance, especially in the increased growth of vegetation amongst the shingle and there were buildings on the headland. Of the local people living on the headland were quite a few I knew as a child at school which made me feel at home in a very short space of time and life went on very peacefully and happily for a year or so.

Then orders came for my husband to be transferred to St. Catherine’s Lighthouse, Isle of Wight. I was really disappointed with this news as I should have liked to have remained at Dungeness a little longer; like most of us one always feels a little heartache at leaving so many friends and a place one likes, but, this was not to be , so off we went to the Isle of Wight. We were at St. Catherine’s just under three years, quite a happy time spent there, liking it very much. But owing to family reasons my husband in 1955 applied for the post of Principal Keeper at Withernsea Lighthouse which of course is a man and wife station, the wife acting as a “female assistant keeper”. Arriving in that year at our present home at Withernsea, which is quite a pleasant place to live. I have had quite a happy time although kept very busy in one way or another. We have no fog signal and that’s one thing I do miss when it’s foggy weather. It takes such a great deal of getting used to that it makes one feel so conscious of something missing – as I had always been used to fog signals at all the stations I had previously resided at.

Withernsea Lighthouse

Withernsea Lighthouse

With all my life in the service as a light keeper’s daughter and keeper’s wife it has brought to my mind that I have lived and made my home at eighteen various places around England, including living on five different Islands, so have not done so badly travelling around at the expense of the Service and seeing quite a lot of England’s coastline.

It has been my life throughout having known no other. I have always felt life is what one makes it and I can sincerely say with such a varied and interesting life I have been quite content and happy in the Service which up to the time of writing is 57 years. Quite often I have turned to my husband with a smile and said that when he retires I think I deserve to be superannuated from the Service like him, but I am afraid that is being very optimistic.”

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 1 of 4

The following account of one woman’s life as both a daughter and a wife of men serving in the Trinity House lighthouse service was published in the April and July editions of Flash magazine in 1961.

This fascinating recollection was written by Aurelie Trezise, wife of Cyril Trezise BEM. Cyril (b.1900, d. 1970) joined Trinity House as a Supernumerary Assistant Keeper in 1919 and retired in March 1962.

Part 1 of 4: 1903 – 1920

“At the time of my birth in November 1903 my parents were stationed at Bardsey Island Lighthouse off the coast of Wales, at that time a land light. My mother had made full arrangements to go ashore at Pwllheli, on the mainland but, owing to continuous gales it was impossible for the small sailing boat to cross over in time. Hurried arrangements therefore had to be made on the Island which at that time had a population of around 45 people, but no resident Doctor. One of the inhabitants, a lady of 70 years of age, said she would come and act as mid-wife to my mother.

Bardsey Lighthouse

Bardsey Lighthouse

The Island Veterinary Surgeon (who was really an amateur vet) said if things should go wrong he would come and do his best for her. As things turned out however, I was brought into the world safe and sound. I was told in later years that those happenings caused a great deal of worry and excitement on the Island.

When I was 13 months old my father was transferred to Dungeness Lighthouse. I now pass on until I was around 5 years old when I commenced school at Dungeness. On the station were five other children, all boys older than myself and being the only girl a “misfit” with the boys. I can well remember being taught to walk on “Back-Stays”. “Back-Stays” were oblong shaped slats of wood with leather straps attached for fitting to the feet. There being no roads in those days the “Back-Stays” were commonly used for making walking much easier and quicker upon the shingly headland. As the school was one mile from the Lighthouse one can imagine what it was like walking to and fro in all weathers in this manner, but one soon got used to it.

Another recollection I have of my early childhood at Dungeness is of a very severe winter with heavy snow storms and we children on the Station building a large snow man which stood up for over a month inside the station grounds and of which we all felt very proud. Then word went round that the Superintendent was making a visit to the Station so our poor snow man had to be knocked down as the then Principal Keeper would not allow it to be standing there when the Superintendent visited, much to our dismay and disappointment.

Dungeness Lighthouse (pre 1961 tower)

Dungeness Lighthouse (pre 1961 tower)

Some months later another Principal Keeper was appointed to the Station, whom the children thought was rather a “fusspot”. We were not allowed to play around the grounds inside the boundary wall of the Station, but had to be outside on the shingly headland and whenever the Elder Brethren or Superintendent paid a visit the Principal Keeper told all the parents that we were to be sent off the Station and to keep clear and not return until after the Ensign was lowered after the inspection. He would also not allow the Keepers wives to have any washing hanging on the clothes line after 1 p.m. at which time all had to be taken down including aIl clothes posts. I often smile to myself whenever these little incidents of years ago recur to mind.

When I was seven years old my parents were transferred to North Foreland (1910). We were only there 10 months. My brother and I had more or less a quiet time there. We had a walk of 2 ½ miles daily to school.

From there we were next moved to Sennen, Land’s End in 1911. I still think of what a dismal night it was when we arrived there around 8 p.m. We were all very tired after a long day’s travelling and my father at the time was none too well. We were given the keys of our house by the Principal Keeper ashore. There was such a gale and rain that we were more than pleased to get into our new home. What a disappointment it was to me in the morning to find that I was amongst boys again. So once more there was no girl playmate for me. Land’s End was rather bleak but on the whole I enjoyed myself there especially when we visited Sennen Cove. We used to delight in watching the Fishermen with their catches of fish, and playing on the nice sandy bench. Whilst there I well remember my father being sent off to Longships Lighthouse for a duty of six weeks, but owing to continuous stormy weather he was off on the Lighthouse for 19 weeks before being relieved.

Soon after this my father was transferred to St. Anthony’s Lighthouse in 1912. To my dismay we travelled there on Christmas Eve. I was now 10 years old. That Christmas I remember well as we had to make do with the personal things we brought with us in our luggage as our household furniture never arrived at the Station until well into the month of Janaury. In those days it was brought by the Trinity House tender from Penzance to the Lighthouse landing.

Once we settled down in our new home my brother and I really had a very happy time during our stay there. We attended St. Anthony school a distance of 2 ½ miles from the Lighthouse. We had to walk to school and of course we took our lunch with us.

Shortly afterwards my brother left school and started work. Now I was on my own being the only child on the station. Within six months unfortunately for me St. Anthony school closed down and I had to attend the school at a place called Gerrans five miles from the Lighthouse, which made quite a long walk on my own (10 miles) daily. My brother had a 10ft rowing dinghy and when he commenced work he gave the boat to me. At this period the 1914-18 war broke out and owing to war restrictions I had to register the boat in my name and give it a number (347). It was a proud day for me, being so young, to have a boat of my own and in which I spent many happy hours.

Near the Lighthouse there was a large Army Camp. I mention this as I had to pass through this camp every day to go to school. It was a headache to me especially in the winter time as I was always given a fresh counter sign daily so as to pass eight different sentries through the camp. Sometimes the counter sign would given was a little difficult to remember. I often laugh now as sometimes returning home from school I had forgotten the word and if new recruits were on sentry they would hold me up before I could convince them that I was from the Lighthouse; it generally ended up by having to call out the N.C.O. of the guard to verify who I was. The sentries who knew me used to write the counter-sign word on a piece of paper for me. I used to enjoy going to the Army Y.M.C.A. concerts accompanied by my mother and occasionally I played the piano for the C.E.M.S. [Church of England Men’s Society] Sunday services.

St Anthonys Lighthouse

St Anthonys Lighthouse

At St. Anthony we had to keep a good stock of food in, which was obtained at Falmouth. I often rowed my dinghy across the river to Falmouth about six miles distant to get odds and ends for those at the Lighthouse during the summer months. Normally the weekly groceries were brought from Falmouth to a small cove called Place House landing by ferry boat and my brother and I would walk 2 ½ miles to this cove to meet the ferry taking with us a small home-made hand cart. After we had collected the groceries we would return home pushing and pulling the hand cart. In the summer time we enjoyed doing this, but in the winter time we used to grumble between ourselves, especially in bad weather, but we still had to do it. Anyway, our parents always compensated us with a few coppers, which of course we expected and which satisfied us.

While at St. Anthony I remember quite well going to the Cinema for the very first time in Falmouth at the age of 13 years.

I now move on to our short stay at Lowestoft Lighthouse in September 1918. It was a big change for me to live in a town as up to now I had lived in isolated places. It was rather amusing the first night we were there, we were unpacking our luggage when a knock came on the door, it was the police warning us we were showing a light out of the window so we had to take more care after that.

We were only at this station for eight months so there is not much to relate concerning our stay there, excepting I went to the Theatre for the first time in my life and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked our short stay at Lowestoft but preferred the country to town life.

Our next transfer was to St. Bees in 1919. I was now 15 years old and had left school. I was at home assisting my mother who was not in good health. My schooldays had been very happy ones, the only drawback I found was that owing to frequent transfers I had to attend five different schools which was really a set back for me regarding education in comparison with facilities the young ones of today have.

My start at St. Bees was very nice as I was very fond of walking and roaming the beaches. Now came my first winter at St. Bees. The station was quite a distance from the village and town, and I was wondering how I should get on in my leisure hours of an evening outside of home entertainment, knitting, playing the piano, etc., as I was the only young girl in the neighbourhood. I was not of the nervous type so my parents allowed me to walk to Whitehaven about five miles away to do some shopping and go to the first house of the theatre which every week I looked forward to. Otherwise my life at St. Bees was the usual daily routine at home, as previously stated, my mother was in poor health.”

Mrs. Trezise’s story will continue in the very near future.