On This Day in Trinity House History – 1 June


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.”



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.


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.”



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 – 5 February


The Destruction of the First Bishop Rock Lighthouse

Owing to the large number of wrecks repeatedly occurring on the rocks around the Scilly Isles, probably the worst of which was the loss of Sir Clodesley Shovel’s squadron of the British Fleet in 1703 with the loss of about 2,000 men the Elder Brethren of Trinity House decided that the lighting of the Scilly Isles, which at that time consisted of only the old lighthouse at St. Agnes, was inadequate, and it was resolved to build a lighthouse on the most westerly danger, the Bishop Rock.

It was first thought that an iron pile lighthouse would be the most suitable for this exposed position and one was designed. by Mr. James Walker FRS and work was commenced on building this in 1847, the Engineer in charge being Mr. Nicholas Douglas. There is only a small piece of the actual rock exposed at high water and even at low water the rock which is exposed is only 153 feet in length and 52 feet broad. Iron piles were erected on this with small living quarters and a lantern at the top end. The structure was practically completed by the early part of 1850, and just waiting the fitting of the illumination gear. During a bad storm on the night of 5 February 1850 however, the entire structure was swept away, leaving only a few stumps protruding from the rock.

The whole scheme was therefore re-considered and it was decided to attempt a granite tower. This was again designed by Mr. James Walker and work was commenced on this erection in 1851.


Uniform Change for the Elder Brethren

“Her Majesty Queen Victoria has been pleased to command that, after the present date, the uniform of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House, London, shall be of the Royal Navy pattern for the time being, save as respects the colour of the collar and cuffs of the full dress coat, and the description of lace, buttons, badges, and other distinguishing marks specified in the Order dated 22 March, 1866, which shall remain as at present.”


THV Patricia (2) is Commissioned

THV Patricia is commissioned, built by Smiths Dock, Middlesborough, as the Harwich district tender. She was the second Trinity House Vessel of that name; the first was at this time renamed Vestal and sent to the East Cowes district.

Keel laid: 12 February 1937
Built: 1938 by Smiths Dock Company Limited, South Bank, Middlesbrough
Length: 231′ 10″
Beam: 35′ 6″
Gross tonnage: 1073.22

THV Patricia’s highlights in her years of service until 1982 include the opening of the Naval Base at Iceland in 1940; Dunkirk, (shortly after which she was bombed and damaged before serving in Western Approaches 1941-44), the Invasion of Europe, opening channels on the German coast, opening freed ports on the Channel seaboard, and re-establishment of the Channel Islands’ lights after the German evacuation.

She stood in for the Royal Yacht on the Royal Visit by HRH Prince Philip to Norway, Sweden and the Olympic Games Helsinki in 1952. She was in attendance at the Royal Fleet Review at Spithead, the Coronation Pageant on the River Thames in 1953, the 20th anniversary review of the NATO Fleets at Spithead in 1969, and the Jubilee Review of the Fleet at Spithead in 1977.

In addition she on numerous occasions acted as Royal escort, following the longstanding tradition by which Patricia precedes the Royal Yacht Britannia on ceremonial duties in home waters.

THV Patricia (2) c1950

THV Patricia (2) c1950