On This Day in Trinity House History – 8 December


Electric light introduced into South Foreland High Lighthouse

In 1858 South Foreland High Lighthouse became the first in the world to exhibit an electrically-powered light, made possible by Trinity House’s Scientific Advisor Professor Michael Faraday and his colleague Professor Holmes. They believed that electricity could effectively power a lighthouse light and so installed Holmes’ magneto-electric machine.

The experiments were a success technically, but electricity proved too costly as a power source, so Trinity House lighthouses continued to use mineral oils for some decades longer.

The front of South Foreland Lighthouse atop the White Cliffs of Dover near to Dover, Kent, in south-east England

The front of South Foreland Lighthouse atop the White Cliffs of Dover near to Dover, Kent, in south-east England

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.


On This Day in Trinity House History – 3 July


Light Dues are exempted for a good cause

Trinity House Board Minute:

“A letter from Mr. Brooks our Collector for the Isle of Wight was read setting forth that a Master of a ship of 80 tons belonging to Koningsbergh being lately at the Isle of Rhee, met with two English Men, who had been prisoners there and obtained their discharge, but had waited several week for a passage to England, without any opportunity or prospect thereof, whereupon the Master, who was bound home took compassion on their case & tho’ he had no Business in England, yet he was willing to set them ashore on the back of the Isle of Wight, but that he was afraid of being obliged to pay Light Money, Which the poor men (to gain their passage) promised to indemnify him from; That the master not being able to set them ashore on the back of the Isle of Wight, tho’ the wind was then favourable for his return home without touching in England, he came to Cowes on purpose to land them and then pursued his voyage

“That the poor men have borrowed money there to pay the Light Money, but pray it may not be insisted on. The whole of such case being considered and that the charge must fall wholly upon the poort men, The board were of opinion that it ought not to be insisted on.”