On This Day in Trinity House History – 30 July

1974

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

 


1997

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 – 1 June

1725

An early buoy yard for Harwich

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Mr. Baker [the Buoy Keeper at Harwich] attended with his proposals and it was agreed that he be allowed seventy pound per annum for laying buoys in place of such which may from time to time break away. To clean, Pitch and paint and shift them every six months at his own charge. To pay the freight on the buoys stones and chains from London to harwich and in case any of the beacons do break way to place buoys in their room, as also all manner of contingencies except smiths and coopers work, which is said to be allowed him on producing sufficient vouchers for the same, all of which he agreed to perform under ye penalty of forfeiture of one years salary, to commence at midsummer.”

 


1943

A tragedy at St. Catherine’s Lighthouse

A bombing raid destroyed the engine house at St. Catherine’s Lighthouse, killing the three keepers on duty who had taken shelter in the building.

R T Grenfell, C Tomkins and W E Jones were buried in the local cemetery at Niton village and a plaque in remembrance of them is displayed on the ground floor of the main tower.


1988

HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh pay a royal visit to Trinity House staff at Gravesend and Harwich

The following is the official report of the visit by the then Master HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh to the Trinity House Gravesend Pilot Station and the Trinity House Harwich Depot by Captain David T Smith, Elder Brother, which appeared in Flash magazine:

“H.M. The Queen, accompanied by H.R.H. The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T., G.B.E., The Master of Trinity House, arrived at Tilbury during the early forenoon of 1st June, 1976, in the Royal Yacht Britannia following her state visit to Finland. Her Majesty had been escorted up River from the vicinity of the Sunk Light Vessel by the Elder Brethren embarked in Trinity House Vessel Patricia.

The Master disembarked from the Royal Yacht in Gravesend Reach at 6930; he was escorted to the Royal Terrace Pier by the Deputy Master, Captain M.B. Wingate, who had transferred from THV Patricia to the fast launch THPV St. Clement for the passage inshore.

After meeting civic dignitaries at the Pier, The Master proceeded to Alexandra House, the new combined Pilot Station and Tug Company Office building close to the root of the Royal Terrace Pier. A large number of Pilots and their families together with employees and their families from the Thames Navigation Service and the Alexandra Towing Company Ltd., were there to greet His Royal Highness.

The Master met senior officers of the Pilotage Service and a representative of the President GCBS outside the main entrance to the building before proceeding inside to the Main entrance of the Pilot Station, on the second floor, where he unveiled a plaque to signify the opening of the station; at this time the Master’s flag and Trinity House ensign were broken at the masthead and gaff respectively and the new Pilot Station was formally commissioned.

After a short tour to inspect the layout and facilities being provided for Pilots in the new building The Master joined a large representative body of Pilots drawn from the River Thames, Channel and Medway Districts in their lounge for informal discussions.

At 1030 The Master was received at the Tug Offices and later at the Thames Navigation Service following which he departed from the Royal Terrace Pier for Tilbury escorted by craft of the P.L.A., Kent and Essex Constabularies and the Trinity House.

After a tour of the Tilbury Container complex The Master entertained a representative party of guests to luncheon in the Royal Yacht.

After luncheon H.R.H. accompanied by the Deputy Master and other representatives departed in a helicopter of the Queen’s Flight for Harwich. The party landed at Harwich Green at 1440 his flag being broken at the Trinity House Depot. The Master was welcomed on the green by Civic dignitaries before leading his party on foot along the esplaoade to the Port Navigation Service Building, passing several hundred townsfolk, many of them children who had turned out to greet him on this enjoyable occasion.

He was received at the Port Navigation Service by the Vice Chairman of the Harwich Conservancy Board and, after meeting officers of the Board, he inspected the operations centre and was briefed on the arrangements exercised jointly by the Port Authority and Trinity House Pilotage Service for control of shipping using the port.

The Master and his party then proceeded by car to the newly completed Trinity House Pilot Station at Town Quay which had then been functioning for some 14 days. At 1523 he unveiled a commemorative plaque in the lobby and formally commissioned the Station. He then proceeded on a walk round inspection of the various facilities and to meet Pilotage Service Personnel in their duty locations. Following this he visited the Pilots’ lounge on the observation deck of the Station where a large body of Pilots representing the Inward (North Channel), Ipswich and Essex River Pilots were assembled to be presented to him. After a period of informal discussion The Master departed at 1635 and subsequently took off from Harwich Green, piloting the helicopter himself for the flight back to Buckingham Palace.

The 1st June 1976 was unique for the Pilotage Service since The Master had in the course of one day been able to observe the Pilot Cutter performing its role at the Sunk Station, the Trinity House Pilot in his operational environment on the bridge at sea, the new Gravesend Pilot Station nearing completion and the new Harwich Pilot Station recently operational. In addition he had the opportunity to meet and talk to about 70 personnel of the Trinity House Pilotage Service.”

.


1982

The current Patricia is named

In a ceremony attended by the Master HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh and Deputy Master Captain Sir Miles Wingate, The Countess Mountbatten of Burma named the new flagship THV Patricia.

THV Patricia at Skokholm Lighthouse 2012 copyright Trinity House

THV Patricia at Skokholm Lighthouse 2012 copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 01 May

1888

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

 


1961

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)

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 4 of 4

The following account of one woman’s life as both a daughter and a wife of men serving in the Trinity House lighthouse service was published in the April and July editions of Flash magazine in 1961.

This fascinating recollection was written by Aurelie Trezise, wife of Cyril Trezise BEM. Cyril (b.1900, d. 1970) joined Trinity House as a Supernumerary Assistant Keeper in 1919 and retired in March 1962.

Part 1 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 2 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 3 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 4 of 4: 1929 – 1961

“After spending three years on the Island the Flatholm Lighthouse was made into a Rock Station [i.e. the station and its dwellings would be occupied solely by the lighthouse keepers, and their families would be shore based], this was in the year 1929, so once again we packed our own furniture and were naturally quite excited at the thought of living on the mainland again. The families and furniture were taken ashore in THV Vestal to Swansea in which town I was to reside for the next 4 ½ years. I had a very pleasant time in Swansea enjoying the facilities of town life and made many friends. This was only the second time in my life that I had lived in a town. During this period I had a child of my own so I had plenty to occupy my time whilst my husband was away doing duty at Flatholm Lighthouse and Lundy North Lighthouse.

I was very pleased when in 1933 we were transferred to Trevose Lighthouse. During the five years at Trevose I spent some of the happiest times of my life. All the station personnel were like one big happy family, a most enjoyable time indeed for me. During the summer months my neighbours and I spent many enjoyable hours on the lovely sandy beaches nearby taking the children with us, all as happy as skylarks, bathing, sunbathing, picnicking and playing open air games in the sun.

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

We spent quite a happy and comfortable time there for 2 ½ years then world war two ended and on the liberation of the Channel Islands my husband had orders to take up his appointment as Principal keeper to the Les Hanois Lighthouse, Guernsey. Away my husband went to do duty there leaving my son and I behind, for at the time the housing situation and travelling to the Channel Islands were very unsettled. I was left to make all arrangements with the Superintendent, Isle of Wight depot to have my furniture stored in Southampton pending my obtaining accommodation in Guernsey. In the meantime my son and I went into lodgings near the Lighthouse at Souter Point, remaining in these lodgings for seven months during which time I made numerous enquiries in Guernsey. Eventually I was fortunate enough to get a house on rental and in due course my son and I arrived in Guernsey and my furniture shortly afterwards.

We spent five very happy years there. During the last two years my husband was stationed at Sark Lighthouse. To me Guernsey was an ideal place to live, such lovely scenery, cliff walks, sandy bays and most of all the people were very sociable and entertaining – I made numerous friends and when the time came to leave the Island I was really sorry to go.

Sark Lighthouse

Sark Lighthouse

In 1951 we were transferred to Dungeness Lighthouse, so once again I was back to my old home as a child. I pictured Dungeness as I had left it, but of course over the years there was quite a big change in its appearance, especially in the increased growth of vegetation amongst the shingle and there were buildings on the headland. Of the local people living on the headland were quite a few I knew as a child at school which made me feel at home in a very short space of time and life went on very peacefully and happily for a year or so.

Then orders came for my husband to be transferred to St. Catherine’s Lighthouse, Isle of Wight. I was really disappointed with this news as I should have liked to have remained at Dungeness a little longer; like most of us one always feels a little heartache at leaving so many friends and a place one likes, but, this was not to be , so off we went to the Isle of Wight. We were at St. Catherine’s just under three years, quite a happy time spent there, liking it very much. But owing to family reasons my husband in 1955 applied for the post of Principal Keeper at Withernsea Lighthouse which of course is a man and wife station, the wife acting as a “female assistant keeper”. Arriving in that year at our present home at Withernsea, which is quite a pleasant place to live. I have had quite a happy time although kept very busy in one way or another. We have no fog signal and that’s one thing I do miss when it’s foggy weather. It takes such a great deal of getting used to that it makes one feel so conscious of something missing – as I had always been used to fog signals at all the stations I had previously resided at.

Withernsea Lighthouse

Withernsea Lighthouse

With all my life in the service as a light keeper’s daughter and keeper’s wife it has brought to my mind that I have lived and made my home at eighteen various places around England, including living on five different Islands, so have not done so badly travelling around at the expense of the Service and seeing quite a lot of England’s coastline.

It has been my life throughout having known no other. I have always felt life is what one makes it and I can sincerely say with such a varied and interesting life I have been quite content and happy in the Service which up to the time of writing is 57 years. Quite often I have turned to my husband with a smile and said that when he retires I think I deserve to be superannuated from the Service like him, but I am afraid that is being very optimistic.”