Godrevy Lighthouse

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Godrevy Lighthouse
Godrevy Lighthouse is located in Cornwall
Godrevy Lighthouse
LocationNear Camborne
Coordinates50°14′33″N 5°24′1″W / 50.24250°N 5.40028°W / 50.24250; -5.40028Coordinates: 50°14′33″N 5°24′1″W / 50.24250°N 5.40028°W / 50.24250; -5.40028
Year first constructed1 March 1859 (first)
Year first lit2012 (current)
Automated9 August 1939
Deactivated2012 (first)
Constructionrubble, stone and mortar
Tower shapeoctagonal tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / patternwhite tower and lantern
Tower height26 m (85 ft) (first)
Focal height37 m (121 ft) (first)
28 metres (92 ft) (current)
Original lens2nd Order 700 MM Fixed Optic With Red Sector
Current lens2 x marine LED sector lights
Intensitywhite: 4,370 candela (first)
red: 817 candela (first)
495 candela (current)
Rangewhite 12 nmi (22 km) (first)
red 8 nmi (15 km) (first)
8 nmi (15 km) (current)
CharacteristicFl WR 10s.
Admiralty numberex-A5654
NGA numberex-6284
ARLHS numberENG 047
Managing agentHall for Cornwall[1]
HeritageGrade II listed building Edit this on Wikidata

Godrevy Lighthouse was built in 1858–1859 on Godrevy Island in St Ives Bay, Cornwall. Standing approximately 300 metres (980 ft) off Godrevy Head, it marks the Stones reef, which has been a hazard to shipping for centuries.


The Stones claimed many ships, prompting calls for a lighthouse to be built, but nothing came of plans until the wreck of the iron screw steamer SS Nile during a storm on 30 November 1854. All of her passengers and crew, numbering about 40 people in total, were lost.[2]

The disaster prompted fresh calls for a light to be built. Richard Short, a St Ives master mariner, wrote to the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette the day after the news of the sinking broke to note: "[H]ad there been a light on Godrevy Island, which the inhabitants of this town have often applied for, it would not doubt have been the means of warning the ill-fated ship of the dangerous rocks she was approaching. Many applications have been made from time to time concerning the erection of a light to warn mariners against this dangerous reef, but it has never been attended to, and to that account may be attributed the destruction of hundreds of lives and a mass of property ... Scarcely a month passes by in the winter season without some vessel striking on these rocks, and hundreds of poor fellows have perished there in dark dreary nights without one being left to tell the tale."[3]

Further though less lethal accidents followed, prompting a local clergyman, the Rev. J.W. Murray of Hayle, to start a petition to Trinity House to build a lighthouse on the island. The petitioners were informed in October 1856 that Trinity House had agreed to build the Godrevy Lighthouse.[4] By December 1857, James Sutcliffe had been appointed as the engineer for the project, with James Walker contracted to design the lighthouse. Its construction took around a year at a cost of £7,082 15s 12d and the light began operating on 1 March 1859.[2]


The lighthouse is a white octagonal tower, 86 feet (26 m) high and made of rubble stone bedded in mortar. It is situated almost in the centre of the island and was originally provided with cottages for the keepers. The first light was an oil lamp within a large (first-order) revolving catadioptric optic by Henri Lepaute of Paris, which flashed white every ten seconds; it consisted of 24 Fresnel lens panels with multiple rows of reflecting prisms above and below.[5] There was also a fixed red light below the main light, which could be seen over a 45-degree arc of danger from the reef. The main light's rotation was powered by a clockwork motor, driven by a large weight that descended down a cavity in the wall of the tower. The lights had a range of seventeen and fifteen miles respectively. A fog bell was also provided,.[2] which sounded once every five seconds.[6]

Originally, the light was manned by two men at a time, working two months on and one month off, but landing keepers by boat was always a perilous activity at Godrevy and in 1933 the lighthouse was automated: a new second-order fixed catadioptric lens was installed together with an acetylene burner activated by a sun valve; the new light had a flashing characteristic and a red sector was incorporated which replaced the subsidiary red light.[7] The fog bell was deactivated at the same time. By 1939 the keepers had been withdrawn and their cottages were subsequently demolished.[2]

In 1995, the lighthouse was modernised and converted to solar powered operation.[7] In 2012 Trinity House discontinued use of the light within the tower, replacing it with an LED light mounted on a steel platform nearby on the rocks. Godrevy is still listed by Trinity House as a lighthouse, and the tower is maintained by them as a daymark. The new light maintains the same pattern as its predecessor, flashing white/red every ten seconds, with the red sector only being visible in the arc of danger from the reef. The range of the light is around 8 nautical miles (15 km).[7]

Godrevy Light by Charles Thomas and Jessica Mann describes the history of this lighthouse and shows the many works of art it inspired. One of those whom the lighthouse is said to have inspired was Virginia Woolf, author of To the Lighthouse – although she locates the lighthouse in the Hebrides. She first visited on 12 September 1892, signing the visitors' book, as did pre–Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt who was in the same party. The lighthouse's visitors' book, containing the signature of Virginia Stephen (Woolf), was sold at auction at Bonhams on 22 November 2011 for £10,250.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Godrevy Lighthouse The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 22 April 2016
  2. ^ a b c d Denton, Tony; Leach, Nicholas (2011). Lighthouses of England: The South West: The Lighthouses of Cornwall, North Devon, Somerset and the Bristol Channel. Lichfield: Foxglove Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-9564560-3-8.
  3. ^ "Shipwreck and Loss of Life". Reynold's Newspaper. London. 10 December 1854. p. 6.
  4. ^ "Godrevy Light". The Royal Cornwall Gazette, Falmouth Packet, and General Advertiser. 31 October 1856. p. 5.
  5. ^ "Lighthouse management : the report of the Royal Commissioners on Lights, Buoys, and Beacons, 1861, examined and refuted Vol. 2". p. 92.
  6. ^ Woodman, Richard; Wilson, Jane (2002). The Lighthouses of Trinity House. Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts.: Thomas Reed. pp. 198–200.
  7. ^ a b c "Godrevy Lighthouse". Trinity House. Archived from the original on 22 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Visitors' book signed by Woolf is sold for £10,250". Western Morning News. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2012.

Further reading[edit]

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