On This Day in Trinity House History – 7 December


New Pilot Station is officially opened on Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight

Ryde Pier Pilot Station: A new Pilot Station is officially opened on Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight.

The station comprised Operations Room, offices, mess room and cabins.

Two fast pilot launches operated from Ryde Pier during 1970 to ship and land pilots at the Nab Pilot Station and to ferry outward pilots to Gosport on the mainland to facilitate their return to Southampton. The shipping using the Nab Station required pilots for the ports of Southampton, Portsmouth and other ports in the Solent.

During the construction of the shore station, the former cruising cutter Bembridge was used for accommodation and communications and then sold out of service to the charity Dial House, to be used as a training ship for under-privileged youngsters in the care of local authorities.

The V.H.F. R/T communication system for the new Ryde Pier Pilot Station was new to the Trinity House Pilotage Service.
With the introduction of the new scheme, considerable savings in manhours were made. The pilot station and launch system was more economical than maintaining a cruising cutter at the Nab Station.

THPV Vagrant off Ryde Pier station

THPV Vagrant off Ryde Pier station

On This Day in Trinity House History – 01 May


First electric light installed at St. Catherine’s Lighthouse

Electric light was introduced into St. Catherine’s Lighthouse.

The first experimental trial of Professor Holmes’ magneto-electric machine was made at Blackwall in 1857, and an electric light then introduced on 8 December 1858 into South Foreland High Lighthouse.

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 was built of ashlar stone with dressed quoins and was carried up from a base plinth as a 3 tier octagon, diminishing by stages. The elevation of the light proved to be too high, as the lantern frequently became mist capped and in 1875 it was decided to lower the light 13 metres by taking about 6 metres out of the uppermost section of the tower and about 7 metres out of the middle tier, which destroyed its beauty and made it appear dwarfed.

St Catherine’s Lighthouse was automated in 1997 with the keepers leaving the lighthouse on 30 July.

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 Catherine’s Lighthouse by Neil Thomas



Trinity House Vessel Stella is launched

THV Stella, the third of three ‘Mermaid’-class lighthouse tenders built by Messrs. J S White at Cowes, was launched by Mrs. Drake, the wife of Elder Brother Captain Kenneth McMillan Drake. Stella then proceeded to the Penzance District, replacing Satellite which had been in service since 1924. Stella remained in service until 1989.

THV Stella (built 1961)

THV Stella (built 1961)