On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 December

1940

Trinity House on Tower Hill is Destroyed

Trinity House falls victim to the most severe of the air attacks on London.

When incendiary bombs landed on the wooden beams of the house, fire fighters were able put out the first fire caused by the bombs, but the shortage of water prevented their efforts to extinguish subsequent fires. On the morning of 31 December 1940 the staff found the whole of the Wyatt building and the offices at the back with their walls more or less intact, but the interiors completely gutted; apart from the separate East Wing, the only surviving portion of the building was the basement wine cellar. Many archives, rarities, fine models, hangings and paintings were destroyed, save for the paintings that had been at Bayham Abbey, and some archives and books that had gone to the countryside.

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On This Day in Trinity House History – 21 October

1953

 The Rebuilt Trinity House is Reopened After the Second World War by HM The Queen

Having being destroyed during the Blitz, the rebuilt and improved Trinity House is opened by HM The Queen on Trafalgar day.

Architect Professor (later Sir) Albert Richardson initially submitted plans for building a new house, but the Brethren were determined to not only reinstate Wyatt’s building as it had been, but also to demolish the old Pilotage Service office building and build in its place a new library, grand enough to host functions and banquets, laid with carpet of the same pattern used in cabins of ships of the line at the end of the 18th century, as well as offices and sleeping quarters elsewhere in the building. In addition, an entirely new seven-storey office block was built at the rear, with laboratories, a research department and recreation rooms.

HM Queen Elizabeth II reopens Trinity House London 21 Oct 1953

HM Queen Elizabeth II reopens Trinity House London 21 Oct 1953


1998

End of an Era: North Foreland Lighthouse is Converted to Automatic Operation (But Not Formally!)

North Foreland Lighthouse is converted to automatic, unmanned operation, the last Trinity House lighthouse. The formal closing ceremony would come on 26 November 1998.

North Foreland Lighthouse copyright Trinity House

North Foreland Lighthouse copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 12 September

1793

William Pitt Lays The Foundation Stone of Trinity House on Tower Hill

The foundation stone of the current Trinity House was laid by William Pitt, the Master, in the south-west corner of the building.

By 1793 the Trinity 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, and the first Court inside the acclaimed new headquarters was held on 23 May 1796.

Trinity House, built 1796, rebuilt 1953. Copyright Trinity House

Trinity House, built 1796, rebuilt 1953. Copyright Trinity House

 


1962

Ex-Trinity House Vessel Discovery II is Paid Off

Discovery II is paid-off from the Service of the National Oceanographic Council, after an active life of almost 33 years.

She did invaluable work for Trinity House during the Second World War; one Trinity House clerk from the time remembered that “Discovery II did very good service in the War, and always appeared to be in the War Zone, having “fun and games” as her Captain used to call it.”

Her sea-going life was written up in a 1963 edition of Trinity House’s Flash magazine:

“Originally built for the Discovery Committee, Colonial Office, by Ferguson Brothers, of Port Glasgow, as a research ship, and with Class I strengthening for navigation in ice, she was laid down early in 1929, was completed late in November the same year and within a few weeks (14th December) sailed on her first commission to Antarctic waters, where she was to examine the habitat of the whale.

This was to be the first of six such 2-year commissions, five of which were completed before the Second World War and, with the completion of the sixth in 1951, a major biological and physical survey of the Southern Ocean had been made. Outstanding problems still remain, of course, but these do not materially affect the overall picture now available in respect of the distribution of whale food, the configuration of the sea bed and the general circulation of the ocean. On all the cruises, the DISCOVERY II was a Selected Ship for weather observations, in voluntary co-operation with the Marine Division of the Meteorological Office. Twice was the Antarctic continent circumnavigated in winter — in 1932 and 1951 — and further winter observations on or near the ice-edge were obtained south of Cape Town during a series of repeated cruises in the winter months of 1938. It is probable that the meteorological logs kept during these periods form the greater part of the meteorological information even now available from such high southern latitudes in winter — in oceanic areas.
A further voyage close around Antarctica was made in the summer of 1938-39 and the meteorological observations then obtained must be of considerable value. The meteorological data from the logbooks has been punched on to Hollerith cards and is used as and when necessary for climatological purposes. Moreover, whenever the ship was within the zone appropriate to sending weather reports to Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, coded messages were sent. Since DISCOVERY II was normally approaching from a westerly or south-westerly direction, and, from areas from which incoming weather reports were virtually nil, the information was much appreciated by the meteorological offices concerned.

In 1938-39 meteorologists from the countries mentioned above accompanied the ship on the appropriate sectors of her summer circumpolar cruise and, in 1950-51 several research officers from New Zealand made a series of experimental observations between Dunedin and Macquarie Island.

During the six voyages made to the Southern Ocean in all seasons, and often in unpleasant weather, much data was collected on the subject of pack-ice, more especially with regard to its distribution, and the relation of meteorological conditions — particularly in winter.

During the war DISCOVERY II was requisitioned for service as an armed boarding vessel and was stationed to intercept ships on the northern route, via the Denmark Strait — a very suitable area for a ship built for the Antarctic — but life on board for a crew nearly four times the normal complement must have been a little trying. It must also have been difficult, in such a lively ship, to lower a boat and get a boarding party away. Released from this service in 1942, she was re-fitted for service with Trinity House, and, during this period, she was for a time stationed in Iceland, laying buoys at a convoy anchorage. She also suffered damage from a ‘near-miss’ by a mine off the east coast of England. Later, she was transferred to the Irish Light Commissioners’ service and, after returning to Trinity House, was eventually released for re-conversion to a research ship in 1948. To rebuild the DISCOVERY II took nearly fifteen months; the accommodation being modernised and mechanical ventilation introduced, as far as space would permit. Unfortunately, it was not possible to increase the space occupied by laboratories and for the next 12 years, it has been increasingly difficult to fit in all the scientific instruments now essential for the work.

As already mentioned the last of DISCOVERY II Antarctic cruises took place in 1950-51, and a circumnavigation of the continent in winter was successfully completed in generally unpleasant weather, Only the Master, the Senior Scientist and the Bo’sun had had previous experience of working under Antarctic conditions, which rather slowed down the work in the earlier stages of the cruise.

While the Institute of Oceanography was getting into its stride, the DISCOVERY II was laid up for a year (1953-54), and on commissioning again, was employed continuously in home and North Atlantic waters until paid-off finally in September of this year [1963]. She remained a voluntary observing ship, during this period and in February-March 1955 she was chartered by the Meteorological Office and did a successful tour of duty as an emergency weather ship as Station ‘K’.

In this more recent period of DISCOVERY II‘s career she was more often used for testing prototype instruments and equipment than for taking routine oceanographical observations. Among other new instruments tried out was the shipborne wave recorder, now an established instrument on a world basis, a precision deep echosounder, a new method of measuring deep ocean currents using a neutrally-buoyant float, a plastic reversing deep sea water-bottle (now in production), and a depth of net indicator. Experiments have also been made in the location of fish shoals, and the same transducer — which is stabilised against rolling — has also been used successfully to scan the bottom on the continental shelf.

It has been difficult shortly to encompass all that the DISCOVERY II, and those who have manned her — both ship’s company and scientists — have achieved in the thirty-three years of her life. Much of the work has been carried out under arduous conditions, both for ship and men, and it is a tribute to her designers, and to her builders, that she has served science for so long and so well. Many, especially those who served in her on the long prewar cruises, will regret her passing. She was not, perhaps, the most comfortable of vehicles in which to travel or work; her design, while producing a ‘safe’ ship for ice navigation or work in stormy seas, did not, perhaps, lend itself to the provision of as stable a working platform as modern oceanographical research demands. She was, however, able to keep the seas, and work efficiently, in weather which would have daunted most other research ships.”


1984

South Stack Lighthouse is automated

South Stack Lighthouse is converted to automatic operation and the keepers depart.

The lighthouse was first lit in 1871. South Stack Lighthouse was first lit on 9 February 1809. The lighthouse, erected at a cost of £12,000, was designed by Daniel Alexander and originally fitted with Argand oil lamps and reflectors.

In the mid 1870s the lantern and lighting apparatus was replaced by a new lantern. No records are available of the light source at this time but it was probably a pressurised multiwick oil lamp. In 1909 an early form of incandescent light was installed and in 1927 this was replaced by a more modern form of incandescent mantle burner. The station was electrified in 1938.

The light and fog signal are now remotely controlled and monitored from the Trinity House Planning Centre in Harwich, Essex.

South Stack Lighthouse

South Stack Lighthouse

New Photography Book To Celebrate Trinity House’s 500th Anniversary

Light Through A Lens: An Illustrated Celebration of 500 Years of Trinity House

By Neil Jones & Paul Ridgway

Foreword by HRH The Princess Royal, Master of Trinity House

Published by Adlard Coles Nautical on 11 September 2014

Light Through A Lens spine and coverTo celebrate the 500th anniversary of Trinity House’s incorporation by Royal Charter, the Corporation has teamed up with celebrated nautical publisher Adlard Coles Nautical to create a handsome photographic book featuring 160 pages of the best photography from the Corporation’s own archive.

The fascinating images—many of which have never been seen by the public before—seek to show some of the unusual diversity of the ancient, complex and somewhat misunderstood institution, with accompanying passages to describe what happened during five eventful centuries at sea and around the coastline of England, Wales and the Channel Islands.

This photographic account of these remarkable structures dotted around the most vulnerable stretches of coastline is to be treasured by anyone who finds the haunting beam of a lighthouse at sea an immensely comforting sight, as well as walkers and families for whom a lighthouse on the landscape is a completely irresistible draw.

The book is now available from the Bloomsbury website or from various book retailers!

Light Through A Lens front cover

Light Through A Lens front cover

Light Through A Lens internal pages

Light Through A Lens internal pages

Light Through A Lens internal pages

Light Through A Lens internal pages

On This Day in Trinity House History – 10 August

1737

Storm Damage to Lighthouses

Trinity House Board Minutes:

“Agent at Yarmouth reporting that great damage has been done to our lighthouses at Castor [Caister or Caistor] by the late storm, and that he had done what was immediately necessary for keeping in the lights, and asked for further directions. Ordered, to repair the lighthouses forthwith in such a manner as he shall judge necessary, with due regard to good husbandry and to the safety of navigation.

Letter from a master of a vessel forced into Fowey by bad weather, that he found great difficulty in entering the harbour for want of the mark of St. Saviour’s church lately blown down, and recommending the repair of it, to this Corporation. It was not thought incumbent upon this Corporation to repair the same, and as we receive no Duties on that account we cannot layout the Poors money thereon.”


 

1822

Preceding the Monarch

The Trinity Yacht departs Greenwich for the Nore to join the Royal Squadron bound for Scotland, awaiting the arrival of the Royal George from Greenwich where King George IV had embarked. So began the privilege of Royal escort that became the tradition, whenever the monarch went afloat in English or Welsh waters, of the Elder Brethren preceding the Royal Yacht in pilotage waters.

The twentieth century kept the Trinity House flagships very busy: in 1969, the Corporation was paraded in full public view, as THV Patricia (1938-82) would attend HM The Queen on no less than three high profile occasions: the review of the NATO Naval Force’s 20th Anniversary, the review of the Western Fleet and the departure from the Humber of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh for the royal visit to Norway.

The Corporation and its flagship would discharge this same duty again in 1977, leading as Royal Escort for the Jubilee Fleet Review. Later occasions would include the Queen Victoria’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Reviews, the Sea Service’s Thames Water Pageant in 1919, marking the end of the First World War, and the Royal Navy review in the Coronation Year.

HRH Princess Royal took pride of place when Trinity House Motor Boat No.1 led the vanguard of the Diamond Jubilee procession upon the Thames, as the Corporation continued its long-standing engagement with the nation’s most famous waterway; the Corporation would shortly after escort the royal barge Gloriana as she carried the Olympic Torch downriver from Hampton Court to Tower Bridge.

Jubilee Procession 2012 - Copyright Ambrose Greenway

Jubilee Procession 2012 – Copyright Ambrose Greenway


1854

Trinity House is Officially Constituted as a General Lighthouse Authority

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 constituted Trinity House the General Lighthouse Authority for England and Wales and the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, and the adjacent Seas and Islands, and in Heligoland and Gibraltar.

Although the act of 1836 arguably sowed the early seeds of the modern lighthouse service, it was the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1854 that officially constituted Trinity House as the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the adjacent seas and islands, and Heligoland and Gibraltar. The act opened an account with the Paymaster General to establish the new Mercantile Marine Fund as the repository for Light Dues, although this early pool was simply a catch-all fund for all manner of maritime activities: Local Marine Boards, Shipping Offices, Surveyors, Receivers of Wreck, and so on.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1898 replaced the indiscriminate Mercantile Marine Fund with the General Lighthouse Fund, an account for Light Dues overseen by Government for the dedicated purpose of ensuring the provision of an aids to navigation service.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 4 August

1919

THV Ariel precedes the Royal barge at the Thames Water Pageant

In order to celebrate the peace after the First World War, a Pageant of All the Sea Services was organised, in which a procession of boats, carrying representatives of all ‘those who go down to the sea in ships’, proceeded from Tower Bridge to Chelsea.

His Majesty King George V led the procession in the Royal barge, manned by Watermen, holders of Doggett’s Coat and Badge. THV Ariel was brought from Yarmouth and fitted with a lowering mast to enable her to clear the bridges. The Royal barge was preceded by the Ariel, flying the flag of the Duke of Connaught (Master), who was on board, attended by Sir Acton Blake (Deputy Master), Rear-Admiral Mansell and Captain Golding.

Royal procession at Tower Bridge

Royal procession at Tower Bridge

Trinity House Quincenterary celebrations

Illustrator Peter Kent’s fantastic musings on the quincentennial celebrations of Trinity House.

RiverWatch returns

Crossing the river by train, the once familiar city skyline is rapidly changing.  Alighting at Cannon Street, one follows the hidden course of the river Walbrook, which is changing yet again.  The once dominating cluster of office buildings formerly known as Bucklersbury has disappeared into a cloud of dust, with lofty concrete lift cores rising to the skies denoting the height of the building to be.

th  and RM002

The Wren church of St. Stephen Walbrook’s flank wall has been exposed for all to see (for the first time?); always crowded with neighbours which include the stately Mansion House, the present residence of the Lord Mayor.  Memories of great civic occasions come flooding back, some humorous as travelling by train has some limitations for those who have to wear ceremonial gear.  I well remember meeting the Lady Mayoress to be, clutching her designer hat in a rather large brown paper bag.  Today I…

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