Wolf Rock, Cornwall

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Coordinates: 49°56′44″N 5°48′23″W / 49.94542°N 5.80634°W / 49.94542; -5.80634 Wolf Rock (Cornish: An Welv, meaning The Lip) is a single rock located 18 nautical miles (33 km; 21 mi) east of St Mary's, Isles of Scilly and 8 nautical miles (15 km; 9.2 mi) southwest of Land's End, in Cornwall, United Kingdom.[1] The fissures in the rock produce a howling sound in gales, hence the name.[2] The rock is a navigational hazard to shipping entering the English Channel and the Wolf Rock Lighthouse was built by James Walker from 1861 to 1869 and entered service in January 1870. The rock is an unparished area of Cornwall (assigned to the district of Penwith prior to the district's abolition).[3]


Situated between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the Wolf Rock is a small plug of phonolitic lava formed during the early part of the Cretaceous period and is unlike any rock exposed on the Cornish mainland.[4]


Wolf Rock Beacon

In 1791 Lt Henry Smith obtained permission from Trinity House to build a navigational mark on the rock. He built a 6.1 m (20 ft) high wrought iron daymark, 10 cm (4 in) in diameter and supported by six stays. A metal effigy of a wolf was placed on top. By 1795 it was washed away and in the late 1830s John Thurburn built a beacon, which was completed by 1840, and by November of that year was also washed away. Trinity House builder James Walker constructed a 4.3 m (14 ft) high cone-shaped beacon, which took five years to build. Made of iron plates and filled with concrete rubble, it can still be seen next to the lighthouse. In July 1861, engineer James Douglass surveyed the rock and Walker began building a lighthouse the following March, based on Smeaton's third Eddystone Lighthouse. Completed on 19 July 1869, the light was first shone in January 1870. In 1972 it became the first lighthouse in the world to be fitted with a helipad and the lighthouse became automated in July 1988.[2]


  1. ^ Admiralty Chart 1148: Isles of Scilly to Lands End.
  2. ^ a b Jones, Robin (2011). Lighthouses of the South West. Wellington, Somerset: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 107 4. 
  3. ^ Map showing Wolf Rock assigned to Penwith.
  4. ^ Hall, Anthony (1994). J T Greensmith, ed. West Cornwall. Geologists' Association Guide No. 19 (Second ed.). The Geologists' Association. ISBN 0 900717 57 2.