On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 December


Trinity House and the Royal Navy

Two Trinity House Court Minutes:

“Commissioners of Navy consult Trinity House as to three (3) decked ships and as to the height of lower tier of guns above water.”

“A survey by Trinity House of all ships in Thames suitable for H.M. service.”


George V bestows an honour upon the Elder Brethren

George V issues a Warrant confirming the longstanding custom of the Elder Brethren using the style and title of “Captain” after Captains in the Navy:

“Now know ye that in the exercise of Our Royal Prerogative We do hereby declare Our Royal Will and Pleasure that in all times hereafter the Elder Brethren of the said Corporation of Trinity House shall be styled “Captain”, and shall on all social and ceremonial occasions have place and precedence next and immediately after the place and precedence which maybe accorded to Captains in Our Navy.”


Trevose Head Lighthouse is automated

Trevose Head Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart. The lighthouse was first lit 1 December 1847.

The existing optic was retained but the rotation speed was slowed to alter the character to one flash every 7.5 rather than every 5 seconds. The red screens were removed to give a white light. The lamp was changed to 35 watt metal halide in a two position lampchanger. A Tideland ML300 lantern mounted on the lantern gallery hand rail gives an emergency 10 sea mile light. The air fog signal was replaced by an electric omnidirectional signal controlled by a fog detector. The light is controlled by a photocell mounted on the lantern murette; telemetry equipment was also installed for remote monitoring and control from the Trinity House Planning Centre at Harwich in Essex.

A lighthouse was first proposed for this area of the North Cornish coast as early as 1809 there being no light at that time to guide ships trading in the Bristol Channel other than the Longships to the south and the old Lundy light to the north.

The position was further considered by Trinity House in 1813 and again in 1832, but it was not until 1 December 1847 that an oil light comprising wicks backed with reflectors, was first lit at Trevose Head.

The light is situated on the north west extremity of the head, with gigantic cliffs of grey granite rising sheer from the sea to a height of 150 feet or more. The area, like so much of the Devon and Cornish coastline is constantly threatened by sea mists that make even the most powerful lights seem like candles.

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

On This Day in Trinity House History – 10 December


Trinity House and the Royal Navy

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Trinity House submits a scheme for manning the Navy Royal.”

A description of the various duties of the Elder Brethren around this time can be found in Trinity House of Deptford Strond by C R B Barrett in 1893:

“What at this time were the duties of the Corporation? They had the charge and expense of laying buoys and erecting beacons, the responsibility for the naval stores at Deptford, and the care of the shipbuilding yard there. Ships for the Royal Navy, to be either built or purchased, were laid down on their designs, or were, in the second case, accepted or rejected on their certificate. Provisions, cordage, ordnance, and ammunition, both for royal and merchant vessels, all passed through the hands of the Trinity House. Pilots, as of old, received their certificates from the House at Deptford. Masters were recommended for the royal ships by them, and in times when enlistment was slow, to the Master, Wardens, and Assistants was, committed the unpleasant duty of pressing both masters and seamen for the King’s ships. The right to appoint certain foreign consuls lay with the Guild, the consuls at Leghorn and Genoa being instances in point. Acting as hydrographers to the navy, all questions regarding the limits and boundaries of seas and channels were referred to them. Causes in the Admiralty Court were partly adjudicated by the members, certain Elder Brethren acting (as they still act) as, assessors. Arbitrations on matters in dispute between owners, captains and seamen were of frequent occurrence; being cases specially referred to the professional skill of the Brethren. No fleet left our shores without its number, armament, and equipment being subject to a careful survey by and the opinion of the Brethren. To all of these multifarious duties we have to add the intricate questions involved in the suppression of piracy, the investigation of Iosses by sea, and the redemption of captives. Finally, the charitable work of the Corporation had to be considered; the Bedefolk, the outside pensioners, and the casual poor all needed attention. Who, then, were the men who performed these manifold duties?”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 3 December


The Elder Brethren to examine Masters of Royal Navy

A Court Minute establishes a Special Committee of four Elder Brethren to carry out examinations of Masters in His Majesty’s Navy.

A note on this important duty from Memoir on the Origin and Incorporation of the Trinity House of Deptford Strond by Captain Joseph Cotton, 1818:

“The Committee of Examiners… it consists of four Brethren, chosen annually, and constitutes not the least interesting or useful portion of the Corporation.

They never adjourn their sittings beyond an interval of one day, if there be any Master or Pilot to be examined. When the examination is one of national importance, such as that of a Master of a first or second rate man-of-war, upon whose ability and experience, as Master of the flag-ship, the safety of a fleet, and its service to the country may depend, the Deputy Master and the whole committee attend, and certify his ability for that charge; but Masters of ships under that class are examined and certified either by four or two of the Brethren, the committee dividing for dispatch, if necessary, into two sub-committees. This duty, of the examination of Masters in the Royal Navy, is a voluntary and gratuitous service to the public, not originating in the conditions or stipulations of any grant or charter…”


This duty ceased in 1874.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 16 November


The Elder Brethren advise the King’s Navy

Trinity House Court Minutes:

“Commissioners of Navy to Trinity House asking them to consider a plott for a baracado in the Medway.”

“Commissioners of Navy asking Trinity House to examine and report on ship MayfIower, offered for sale as a man-of-war to the King.”


On This Day in Trinity House History – 2 November


The Elder Brethren of Trinity House identify ships fit for His Majesty’s Navy

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Trinity House reports that there are fit to serve His Majesty, as men-of-war, capable of carrying thirty guns and upwards: forty-seven in Thames and seventy at sea.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 22 August


The Elder Brethren of Trinity House asked to inspect Navy ships at Chatham

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The principal Officers and Commanders of H.M. Navy to Trinity House, asking them to survey the moorings of H.M. ships in Chatham Harbour, and to report on cables.”

Engraving of

Engraving of “Chatham Dockyard from Fort Pitt” from Ireland’s History of Kent, Vol. 4, 1831.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 28 June 2014 – Centenary of First World War


The First World War begins

As nations around the world today (28 June 2014) mark the centenary of the First World War, Trinity House vessels Patricia, Galatea and Alert will be among those flying their flags and ensigns at half-mast at 1700 UTC.

The men and women of the Corporation of Trinity House all played their part in the effort, and many even gave their lives.

Although lighthouses and lightvessels at this time were ordered to maintain strict neutrality, the Trinity House Steam Vessel Service was thrust forward, busily buoying shipping lanes, Swept Channels and Naval operations, and moving and replacing lightvessels; over 200 additional lighted buoys and 361 additional unlighted buoys were deployed, and the Corporation covered points as far-flung as the White Sea and the Persian Gulf. Continue reading