Smalls Lighthouse

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The Smalls Lighthouse from several miles away

Smalls Lighthouse stands on the largest of a group of wave-washed basalt and dolerite rocks[1][2] known as The Smalls approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of Marloes Peninsula in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and 8 miles (13 km) west of Grassholm. It was erected in 1861 by engineer James Douglass to replace a previous lighthouse which had been erected in 1776[3] on the same rock. It is the most remote lighthouse operated by Trinity House.[4]

Previous lighthouse[edit]

A model of the original lighthouse, on view at the Science Museum in London

The original Smalls Lighthouse was erected over 1775 and 1776, on the plans of Liverpool musical instrument maker Henry Whiteside.[3] It stood on nine oak pillars, allowing the sea to pass through beneath. Although it suffered from some rocking, it stood for 80 years. During its life a significant number of extra struts were added beyond the original nine.[5] The pillar-based design has since been used successfully in many sea structures.

The old lighthouse was the home of an unusual level of intrigue. The first[clarification needed] message in a bottle was successfully sent from the small island, reaching its addressee over the miles of sea, and allowing a rescue of stranded repair workers, including Whiteside himself.[citation needed]

More disturbingly, the old lighthouse brought about a change in lighthouse policy in 1801 after a gruesome episode. The two man team, Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffith, were known to quarrel, and so when Griffith died in a freak accident, Howell feared that he might be suspected of murder if he discarded the body into the sea.[6] As the body began to decompose, Howell built a makeshift coffin for the corpse and lashed it to an outside shelf. Stiff winds blew the box apart, though, and the body's arm fell within view of the hut's window and caused the wind to catch it in such a way that it seemed as though it was beckoning.[6] Working alone and with the decaying corpse of his former colleague outside Howell managed to keep the lamp lit.[6] When Howell was finally relieved from the lighthouse the effect the situation had had on him was said to be so extreme that some of his friends did not recognise him.[6] Until the automation of British lighthouses in the 1980s lighthouse teams were changed to rosters of three men. In 2011 (repeated 3 April 2014), the affair was the subject of a BBC radio play called "The Lighthouse" written by Alan Harris.[7]

Current lighthouse[edit]

In 1859 Trinity House, having bought out the previous leaseholders in 1836, began the construction of a new tower.[8] The tower was completed in 1861.[9]

In 1978 a helideck was erected above the lantern and in 1987 the lighthouse was automated. This is the first wind- and solar-powered lighthouse in the UK. Although it has only a 35 watt bulb, with the aid of lenses, this can be seen up to 21 miles (34 km) away. It was the first lighthouse in the country to have an installed flushing toilet.

The lighthouse's story was presented in the BBC Television program Coast Series 1 episode "Bristol to Fishguard".

References[edit]

  1. ^ British Geological Survey 1978 1:50,000 scale geological map sheet (England & Wales)226/227 Milford, (Keyworth, Notts)
  2. ^ Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale Explorer map sheet OL36 South Pembrokeshire
  3. ^ a b Lighthouse management : the report of the Royal Commissioners on Lights, Buoys, and Beacons, 1861, examined and refuted Vol. 2. p. 101. 
  4. ^ Nicholson, Christopher (1995). Rock lighthouses of Britain The end of an era?. Whittles Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 1-870325-41-9. 
  5. ^ Nicholson, Christopher (1995). Rock lighthouses of Britain The end of an era?. Whittles Publishing. p. 60. ISBN 1-870325-41-9. 
  6. ^ a b c d Nicholson, Christopher (1995). Rock lighthouses of Britain The end of an era?. Whittles Publishing. pp. 58–59. ISBN 1-870325-41-9. 
  7. ^ Retrieved 13 Sept 2011 "The Lighthouse" at bbc.co.uk
  8. ^ Nicholson, Christopher (1995). Rock lighthouses of Britain The end of an era?. Whittles Publishing. p. 61. ISBN 1-870325-41-9. 
  9. ^ Nicholson, Christopher (1995). Rock lighthouses of Britain The end of an era?. Whittles Publishing. p. 62. ISBN 1-870325-41-9. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°43′16″N 5°40′11″W / 51.72125°N 5.66981°W / 51.72125; -5.66981