Trinity House Obelisk

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Trinity House Obelisk

The Trinity House Obelisk (also known as Trinity House Landmark) is an obelisk located at Portland Bill, on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England. It has been a Grade II Listed Monument since September 1978.[1]


Trinity House Obelisk

The 7 metre tall white stone obelisk was built in 1844 to warn ships of the rocks off the coast of Portland Bill during the daytime. It stands at the very Southern tip of the Bill, and also acts as a warning of the low shelf of rock extending 30 metres South into the sea.[2] During 1877, two stone obelisks were constructed by convicts as navigation marks for Portland Harbour on a hillside overlooking Castletown. These were familiar landmarks until the 1960s, but were very similar to the Trinity House Obelisk at Portland Bill.[3]

The obelisk is made of high-quality Portland stone ashlar and is dated 1844 on its north face, with the panel inscribed "TH 1844". It is a three-sided tapering obelisk on high plinth and with pyramidal crown.[1] The obelisk sits close to the Portland Bill Lighthouse and remains a popular attraction, as well as being a common viewpoint area, with two coin-operated telescopes available to use on either side of the landmark.

English singer-songwriter Nik Kershaw's 1984 hit single "The Riddle" featured a photograph of the obelisk on the vinyl's back sleeve. This photograph showed Kershaw reading a map.[4] The album of the same name's artwork would feature Kershaw on Chesil Beach, and the photograph on the back sleeve of the album, shows Portland in the background.[5]

Threatened demolition[edit]

The monument was saved from threatened demolition in 2002, although a nearby viewing platform was demolished.[6] On 17 October 2002, local newspaper Dorset Echo had published an article under the title "Meeting to hear of plans for Bill obelisk", which was based on the demolition decision. A public meeting was called to discuss the future of the then 158-year-old obelisk, held at Portland Heights Hotel. Originally, Trinity House had announced plans to demolish it because the obelisk was becoming too expensive to maintain, and the authority announced that it was prepared to contribute £12,500 towards the former shipping mark's preservation if an appeal was launched. During 2002, campaigners won a battle to keep the monument standing, and despite this, the Dorset Echo article had stated that Trinity House had claimed that nobody had come forward with any financial assistance for the upkeep of the redundant landmark.

David Brewer, the Trinity House director of administration, was quoted in the article, stating "To date no proposals have been forthcoming so we have decided to hold a public meeting to discuss future options for the obelisk. Trinity House wish to work with the local community to secure the long-term future of the former seamark and could provide a financial contribution to support any fundraising activities to assist the transfer of responsibility for the obelisk to the local community."[7]


  1. ^ a b "The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". 1978-09-21. Retrieved 2013-01-21. 
  2. ^ "Portland Bill Lighthouse". 1996-03-18. Retrieved 2013-01-21. 
  3. ^ Morris, Stuart (1985). Portland: An Illustrated History. Dovecote Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0946159345. 
  4. ^ "Nik Kershaw - The Riddle / Progress - MCA - UK - NIK 6". 45cat. 2012-03-17. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  5. ^ "Images for Nik Kershaw - The Riddle". Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  6. ^ "Portland Bill, Portland, Dorset". Retrieved 2013-01-21. 
  7. ^ "Meeting to hear of plans for Bill obelisk (From Dorset Echo)". 2002-10-17. Retrieved 2013-01-21. 

Coordinates: 50°30′48″N 2°27′24″W / 50.5132°N 2.4567°W / 50.5132; -2.4567