On This Day in Trinity House History – 8 September

1541

Sir Thomas Spert, first Master of Trinity House and Comptroller of the Navy, dies

As Sailing Master of first the Mary Rose and then the Henri Grace a Dieu, Thomas Spert was well-placed to accept the Royal Charter on behalf of the Corporation of Trinity House on 20 May 1514. Spert later became Clerk Controller of the King’s Ships circa 1524, a time when Henry VIII was becoming increasingly involved in shipbuilding in London, and was knighted for his work in 1529. Upon his death, he was buried in St. Dunstan’s Church, Stepney.

The inscription upon this monument runs as follows:-

“Here under was laid up ye bodie of Sir Thomas Spert, Knight, sometyme Comptroller of the Navy to K. Henry VIII. and both the first Founder and Master of the Worthie Society or Corporation called the Trinity House. He lived enobled by his own Worth, and dyed ye 8th of Septemb, in ye year 1541. To whose pious memory ye said Corporation hath gratefully erected this memoriall.

‘Not that he needed monuments of stone,
For his well-gotten Fame to rest upon,
But this was reard to testifie that he
Lives in their Loves, that yet surviving be.
For unto Virtue which first raised his name
He left the Preservation of the same,
And to Posterity remain it shall
When Brass and Marble Monuments do fall.
Learn for to die while thou hast breath.
So shalt thou live after thy death.’

An. 1622. By the Company of the Trinity Howse This Monument was erected 81 yrs after ye decease of theyr Founder.”

 

 


1958

A Letter to the Editor of Flash Magazine

Amble, Northumberland
8 September 1958

“To The Secretary,
Trinity House.

Dear Sir,

It was a very great pleasure to receive on Saturday 6th instant a magnificent granite model of a lighthouse. As one of the older generation of PKs [Principal Keepers], I remember those early days when, as an SAK [Supernumerary Assistant Keeper] in 1911, I was rowed out to the Bishop in a 6-oared gig by six powerful St. Agnes fishermen, men with muscle and brawn; we had harness casks to stow our food in on reliefs. When I come to look back, and compare the great amenities and other benefits the present-day keeper receives, with big wage packets, TV and R/T in the Lighthouses, I am beginning to think I was born 50 years too soon.

Yours faithfully,

S D Knox”

[Note appending letter from Editor: Mr. Knox, now retired, served as Principal Keeper at Bishop Rock from 1939-40]


1959

THV Mermaid enters service

THV Mermaid enters service, built by J Samuel White of Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Mermaid was the first of three ‘Mermaid-class’ vessels, followed by THVs Siren and Stella. She was the third Trinity House Vessel to bear the name Mermaid, and was sold out of service in 1986 before the fourth THV Mermaid entered service.

THV Mermaid (3)

THV Mermaid (3)

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)