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

On This Day in Trinity House History – 28 July


Beachy Head Lighthouse is automated and demanned

Beachy Head Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart. A lighthouse had been first lit in 1902.

It is said that as early as 1670 a light shone to guide passing vessels from the top of the cliffs at Beachy Head, the 90 metres high seaward termination of the Sussex Downs.

In 1828 James Walker erected Belle Toute Lighthouse, a 14 metre high circular tower, on the headland. This remained in operation till 1899 when it was abandoned due to being frequently shrouded in mist and threatened with collapse because of recurrent falls of chalk from the cliff.

In 1902 under the direction of Sir Thomas Matthews, the Trinity House Engineer-in-Chief, the present lighthouse was brought into service, sited about 165 metres seawards from the base of the cliffs. It took two years to complete and involved building a coffer-dam and a cableway from the top of the cliffs to carry materials down to the site. 3,660 tons of Cornish granite were used in the construction of the tower.

Beachy Head © Mirek Galagus

Beachy Head © Mirek Galagus

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 July


The Master of Trinity House assists the fight against the Spanish Armada

 The Spanish Armada and English ships in August 1588, by unknown painter (English School, 16th century)

The Spanish Armada and English ships in August 1588, by unknown painter (English School, 16th century)

Spanish Armada: On hearing of the approach of the Spanish Armada, Captain Robert Salmon, the Master, offered thirty sail of Merchant Ships to join the Lord Admiral in four days.

The flag taken from the Spaniards by Sir Francis Drake was thereafter on display at Trinity House, but was unfortunately lost in the fire of 1715 which claimed Trinity House in Water Lane.


On This Day in Trinity House History – 25 July


Bull Point Lighthouse is re-opened

The newly rebuilt lighthouse at Bull Point is re-opened by Deputy Master Captain (later Sir) David Tibbits, after major land subsidence caused the previous lighthouse to be unusable.

From the Trinity House Flash magazine at the time:

Flash magazine cover Autumn 1975 Lighthouse Keepers Mr Mrs Whiston at Bull Point

Flash magazine cover Autumn 1975 Lighthouse Keepers Mr Mrs Whiston at Bull Point

The rebuilt lighthouse at Bull Point was opened by the Deputy Master, Captain D.S. Tibbits, D.S.C., R.N., at 1200 on Friday, 25th July, 1975, in the presence of the Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of the County of Devon, Field Marshal Sir Richard Hull, G.C.B.,D.S.O., Captains D.A.G. Dickens, M.B, Wingate and T. Woodfield O.B.E., Board Members, members of the Trinity House staff and officials from the shipping community, local government and invited guests and Press.

Friday, July 25th, was a beautiful day, it was one of those clays when Devon was a good place to be in. The lighthouse was gleaming and everything had been prepared for the opening.

The guests began to arrive from 10.30 onwards, and the Trinity House film “To Serve the Mariner” was shown to a small but interested audience of Keepers, and guests, many of whom had been directly involved in the construction of the lighthouse as can be seen from the reproduced letter from T.R. Yeo and Sons Limited (the builders) to Captain D.S. Tibbits.

“I had hoped to have the opportunity on Friday last of formally expressing to you, and to the other members of the Board of Trinity I-louse, on behalf of the members and staff of my company, our thanks for the compliment paid to us by having the rebuilding of Bull Point Lighthouse entrusted to us. We were proud to be chosen as the local firm to carry out the work, and I speak for my company and all its employees involved in the building when I say that we dedicated ourselves to the task in conditions which were at times beyond description, even for this part of the coastline. For that reason, however, we took the greatest pleasure in your own expression of satisfaction with our work.

In saying that, I must express our grateful thanks to the staff of Trinity House generally, and to both Mr. J. Skipper and Mr. M.H. Crisp in particular. Without their kind help and unstinted advice, we should have found the job a much more difficult one. My son, Malcolm John Yeo, had most to do with the construction from our side, and he feels particularly indebted to Mr. Skipper for all the help and kindness shown.

As you so kindly made reference to my ancestors having a hand in the building of the original lighthouse, I should perhaps explain that they were the local artisans of their day. Their work lasted for close on a century, and would have lasted longer, no doubt, but for the ravages of time and tide which wait for no man. Our hope is that the new structure will long outlive the years its predecessor served so well and beamed its comforting light faithfully throughout those long years to many a hard pressed mariner.

Thank you again, Sir, for the help and advice we have received from Trinity House. We shall feel privileged to serve that most wonderful organisation in any future demands they may make upon us.

In conclusion may I, on behalf of my company and my own good men, wish Good Luck to all who will serve at Bull Point in the years ahead.”

At 11.35 the Trinity I-louse helicopter containing the Deputy Master and Mr. Otto Gredal, the Head of the Danish Lighthouse Service, circled the tower of the lighthouse and landed.

Captain Tibbits, accompanied by the Engineer-in-Chief Mr. l.C. Clingan, and the new Principal Keeper Mr. T. Whiston, carried out a brief inspection of the lighthouse.

There then followed a short Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication by the Reverend L.E.M. Claxton, and then Captain Tibbits mounted the podium and gave the speech officially declaring Bull Point operational.

The speech, which was direct and to the point, welcomed everybody to Bull Point, explained the necessities for building a new lighthouse and more remarkably how this was achieved by the scheduled date and within the original estimate of £71,000, which in these days was no mean achievement and due to the efforts of all the various contractors involved and included Trinity House personnel from Blackwall and ‘outstation’ duty. The speech was rounded off by the declaration that Bull Point Lighthouse was now “in commission and operational” and the Light and Fog Signal were brought into action.

After the opening ceremony, the lighthouse was opened to the guests and a very pleasant buffet lunch was served. Everybody left at about 1500, wishing Mr. and Mrs. T. Whiston a long and happy career at Bull Point.

Curiously enough, the first ship to pass Bull Point after it became officially operational was a vessel once commanded by Captain Dickens, an Elder Brother, the M.V. SUSSEX and the following signal was sent to her by him:-

To: Master, SUSSEX.
Bull Point new lighthouse commissioned at 1213 BST this day stop at this precise moment observed your vessel proceeding west some sixteen miles to north stop it is a small world as i commanded SUSSEX coastwise in same position sixth February nineteen sixty stop good luck sailing and may Taurus never lose his paradise for you or your ship.


On This Day in Trinity House History – 23 July


Trinity House Younger Brethren Face Difficulty After Reformation

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Captain James Salmon of Poplar, knowne to Sir Richard Haddock & Captain Mudd to be a frequenter of the Church upon his Request was admitted a Younger Brother & took the usual oath. John Coppin & John Keeble – made their Request to be admitted Brothers, and having being interrogated Whether they frequent the Church & have received the Sacrament according to the Church of England to which giving no positive reply they were deferred till they brought Certificates of Receiving the Sacramant & frequenting the Church.”



Trinity House Dismisses Temptation

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The Master (Lord Dartmouth) takes notice that Sir John Clayton had been with him and said that this Corporation’s business was to promote the interests of their poor & he would give £50 a year to their poor for approving his lights. It was answered that in the last Report in answer to Sir Edward Villiers case It is represented to this effect that it is not consisted with the interest of the poor, nor of Navigation to admit of such temptacons when this Board are not satisfied in the usefullness of those lights”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 22 July


Repairs at Caistor Lighthouse

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Mr. Boult the agent and buoy keeper at Yarmouth had been over to Caistor [Lighthouse] to inspect the repairs which Mr. Fish (the Lt. Keeper) had proposed “to have done in a very expensive manner” to the amount of £45, but he thought they might be effectively carried out for £20, which the Mason and Carpenter would undertake them at. Ordered, that he should agree with them at that amount.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 21 July


Trinity House asks Mr. Clutterbuck for a new burial cloth

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Order to Mr. Clutterbuck, on a voyage to Leghorn to buy velvet for a cloth to lay over the members when they go to burial, the former one being much decayed and worn.”

Leghorn was the traditional English name for Livorno, a port city on the Ligurian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, Italy.

Livorno map 17th Century

Livorno map 17th Century