On This Day in Trinity House History – 31 May


Trinity Monday; the Younger Brethren are given ‘dinner money’

Trinity House Court Minute:

“After the court rose and having heard a sermon at ye parish Church of Deptford they returned to London and dined together at the rummer in Queen Street, the Younger Brothers having had 2s. 6d. apiece given them to dine where they please.”


The Trinity House poor box helps a victim of slavery

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Nothing of moment happened this day by reason of the Whitson Holy days (Deputy Master & two others present). Given out of the poors box 5 shillings to a poor woman whose husband is in slavery (North Africa).”



William Pitt the Younger is elected Master of Trinity House

On Trinity Monday, William Pitt the Younger is elected Master of Trinity House.

He sat as Master for the consecutive years until 1805.

Statue of William Pitt in Edinburgh

Statue of William Pitt in Edinburgh



Anvil Point Lighthouse is automated

Anvil Point Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the lighthouse keepers depart.

The lighthouse, which is built of local stone, was first lit in 1881. The light is positioned to give a waypoint for vessels on passage along the English Channel coast. To the west it gives a clear line from Portland Bill and to the east guides vessels away from the Christchurch Ledge and leads them into the Solent. The light was originally illuminated by a paraffin vapour burner (PVB). In 1960 the station was modernised and converted from oil to mains electricity. The old fog signal, a 5 minute cannon, was replaced in 1981 by new automatic equipment. The fog signal has now been discontinued.

Anvil Point Lighthouse by Andrew Johnson

Anvil Point Lighthouse by Andrew Johnson

On This Day in Trinity House History – 30 May


Warm words from a retiring Master

On Trinity Monday, the day of the annual election of the Master and Deputy Master, outgoing Master George Berkeley, 1st Earl of Berkeley addresses the Court:

“I returne you my hearty Thanks for your extraordinary kindness to me in choosing me your Master for the year past. I now recommend to you my worthy Deputy Captain Nicholls to succeed me. I have served you with all faithfulness, and if my knowledge in your Affairs had been as great as my affection for you, I might justly have said, without bragging, That no Master has served you better, because I am very glad it was my happiness to attend you in the late Address made to his Gracious Majestie, which being Soe well accepted I hope you will receive the fruits and benefits of such an Addresse. I have had the Title of your Master for a year, but I shall continue an Elder Brother and your true friend and servant all my Life. I pray God to Blesse and Prosper you all.”


On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 May


London District pilots to wear a uniform

A regulation prescribing a standard uniform for Pilots In the London District came into force.

Trinity House Pilot c1900

Trinity House Pilot c1900


The Falls Lightvessel Incident

The following description of a lightvessel crew offering a helping hand to passing leisure craft users in distress appeared in a 1977 edition of Flash magazine:

“What shouId have been a quiet Sunday evening for the crew of the Falls Light Vessel turned into a scene from a disaster film on the 29th May. At about 1800 hours a small armada of rubber dinghies were spotted approaching the Light Vessel and they appeared to be making heavy going in rapidly deteriorating conditions. Permission was requested by the leader of the party of 60 Belgian men, women and children, to board the Light Vessel and Mr. W. Semple, the Master of the Falls had no hesitation in allowing the rubber dinghies to tie up astern. The cold, wet and seasick shoppers were taken on board the Light Vessel and assistance was requested from the Ramsgate Lifeboat. The Life-boat arrived at 2100 hours and took nearly 20 people off but the majority wanted to remain aboard for the night mostly because their dinghies were still tied up astern. In the morning only four dinghies were still serviceable and with the arrival of the Ready the remainder of the party was embarked for the passage to Dover. Much of the credit for the smooth running of this rescue is due to Mr. Semple and his crew and especially in view of the language problem. Well done all concerned.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 28 May


The Navy asks Trinity House to provide fire ships

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Navy Office ask Trinity House to provide two (2) Fire Ships.”

This instruction was possibly in anticipation of the First Anglo-Dutch War (see 22 January post).

From Wikipedia:

“A fire ship, used in the days of wooden rowed or sailing ships, was a ship filled with combustibles, deliberately set on fire and steered (or, where possible, allowed to drift) into an enemy fleet, in order to destroy ships, or to create panic and make the enemy break formation. Ships used as fire ships were usually old and worn out or purpose-built inexpensive vessels. An explosion ship or hellburner was a variation on the fire ship, intended to cause damage by blowing up in proximity to enemy ships. Fireships were famously used to great effect by the English against the Spanish Armada during the Battle of Gravelines.”

Fire ships at Battle of Solebay

Fire ships at Battle of Solebay

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 May


The Admiralty Court rules on behalf of Trinity House and compulsory pilotage on the Thames

Trinity House Court Minute:

“None take on himself to be Master or Pilot of any ship or vessel to go forth or return to the Thames without certificate by the Trinity House. From my Chamber in the Doctors Commons– Sir Henry Marten to the Master, etc.”

Sir Henry Marten was a judge of the Admiralty Court and a member of the Court of High Commission.

Greenwich Hospital from the north bank of the Thames, Canaletto, 1750-52; National Maritime Museum, London

Greenwich Hospital from the north bank of the Thames, Canaletto, 1750-52; National Maritime Museum, London



Samuel Pepys records the election of the new Master

Samuel Pepys’ diary:

“To the Trinity House; where the Brethren have been at Deptford choosing a new Master; which is Sir J Minnes*; notwithstanding Sir W Batten did contend highly for it; at which I am not a little pleased, because of his proud lady.”

*Admiral Sir John Mennes Kt was elected Master; I hope Pepys was not too dismayed that a year later Admiral Sir William Batten Kt was elected Master!

On This Day in Trinity House History – 24 May


The Elder Brethren decide on a better class of tipple 

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The Court finding that sometimes the Claret provided for the meeting did not prove so good as was expected, the Wardens were desired to provide a tierce or two of such Claret as might be approved of.”

It is worth noting that on no account is red wine allowed in the Court Room today, for fear of soling the second largest single-loom rug in the nation! (The largest being in Windsor Castle)

On This Day in Trinity House History – 23 May


The first Court is held at the new Trinity House at Tower Hill

The first Court of the Elder Brethren is held at the newly-built corporate headquarters at Tower Hill.

By 1793 the house in Water Lane was in need of extensive repair. The Corporation sold the property to the Commissioners of Customs, and took over a vacant site on Tower Hill. Master carpenter-turned architect and engineer Samuel Wyatt, appointed Surveyor to Trinity House in 1792, drew up plans for a new house, which he can be seen presenting to the Elder Brethren in Gainsborough Dupont’s immense group portrait of 1794. William Pitt, Prime Minister, laid the foundation stone on 12 September 1793.

Trinity House 1795

Trinity House 1795


HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn is elected Master of Trinity House

Trinity Monday: HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn KG KT KP GMB GCSI GCMG GCIE GCVO GBE VD TD is elected Master of Trinity House.

HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1 May 1850 – 16 January 1942) was the seventh child and third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the British Army, where he served for some 40 years, seeing service in various parts of the British Empire. During this time he was also created as a royal duke, becoming the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, as well as the Earl of Sussex. Though he retired from public life in 1928, he continued to make his presence known in the army well into the Second World War, just before his death in 1942; at the time of his death, he was Queen Victoria’s last surviving son. He sat as Master for the consecutive years until 1942.