Trevose Head Lighthouse

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Trevose Head Lighthouse
Trevose Head Lighthouse - - 38438.jpg
Trevose Head Lighthouse
LocationTrevose Head
OS gridSW8507876563
Coordinates50°32′57″N 5°02′07″W / 50.549246°N 5.035173°W / 50.549246; -5.035173Coordinates: 50°32′57″N 5°02′07″W / 50.549246°N 5.035173°W / 50.549246; -5.035173
Constructionmasonry tower
Tower height27 m (89 ft)
Tower shapecylindrical tower with balcony and lantern attached to the keeper's house
Markingswhite tower and lantern
OperatorRural Retreats[1] [2]
HeritageGrade II listed building Edit this on Wikidata
First lit1 December 1847 Edit this on Wikidata
Focal height62 m (203 ft)
Lens1st order 3 panel catadioptric
Intensity279,000 candela
Range21 nmi (39 km; 24 mi)
CharacteristicFl W 7.5s.
Admiralty no.A5638
NGA no.6272
Fog signal2 blasts every 30s.
ARLHS no.ENG-157

Trevose Head Lighthouse is a lighthouse on Trevose Head on the north Cornish coast at grid reference SW850766 lying to the WSW of Padstow[3] and was sited here as there was previously no light from Land's End to Lundy[4] and it would be visible from Cape Cornwall to Hartland Point.[5]

The tower is 27 metres (89 ft) tall, and has a range of 20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi), but, on a clear night, you can just spot the light from Pendeen Lighthouse, over 35 miles (56 km) away.[citation needed]


The newly built Trevose Head lighthouse, Cornwall, England showing both 'high' and 'low' lights - from "The Illustrated London News" 1847


The site was surveyed by order of the Trinity Board in July 1844 with a design submitted that November and approved February 1845. Building began in that May with the laying out of the road and contract entered into with the builders the next month.[4] During gales on 20–21 November 1846 scaffolding attached to the tower was blown away.[6]

After completion of the first tower, it was determined that the light was under certain circumstances liable to be mistaken by mariners. A second lower light[7] was therefore proposed and (the decision having been taken in June 1847) it was constructed, 50 feet in front of the first light, with a covered passage between them for use by the lighthouse keepers.[4] Only the first built 'high' light now remains.

Designed by engineer James Walker[7] the two original lights, 'high' and 'low', were constructed under the supervision of Henry Norris[7] by builders Jacob & Thomas Olver of Falmouth.[8][4][7] They were provided with a pair of first-order fixed optics by Henry Lépaute of Paris[7] and each had an oil lamp with 4 concentric wicks manufactured by Messrs. Wilkins & Co. of Long Acre.[4][7]

The light was first lit on 1 December 1847.[7][9]

Later developments[edit]

In 1882, under Engineer-in-Chief James Douglass, the 'high' light was changed to an occulting light, now with a six-wick lamp, and the 'low' light was put out of use.[10] Under the new arrangement the high light was eclipsed (for three seconds) three times in quick succession every minute.[11]

The lighthouse in 1962 (showing the 36-ft long fog horn installed in 1913).

From 1911 a series of further improvements were made. First, the keepers' dwellings were upgraded.[10] Then, in 1912 the light was again updated and the current rotating optic (weighing 3.6 tons) was installed.[12] At the same time work began on installing a fog signal: a 5-inch siren attached to a 36-foot-long acoustic horn, which came into service in 1913; it was nicknamed 'Lord Rayleigh's trumpet' after its designer, the eminent physicist and acoustician.[13] The trumpet and siren were built on to the roof of a new engine house, containing a pair of Hornsby oil engines, the air compressor, reservoirs and other equipment.

In 1920 a paraffin vapour burner replaced the oil lamp; it was given a red filter to produce one red flash every 5 seconds.

The fog signal equipment all remained in service until 1963, when the trumpet and siren were replaced by a set of eight 'supertyfon' air horns mounted in a metal turret on top of the engine house. New diesel engines and Reavell compressors were provided.[13] The light was electrified in 1974.[10]

In 1995 the lighthouse was automated and became unmanned.[14] The red colour was removed from the light at this time and the rotation speed of the optic was slowed.[10] By this stage the engine house was suffering cracking due to erosion; with automation a new fog signal was installed (a stack of electric emitters placed at the foot of the lighthouse) whereupon the old engine house was demolished.[13]

Former keepers' cottages alongside the lighthouse.

The fog signal was decommissioned in 2012.[15] The former keepers' cottages (arranged in two semi-detached pairs) are nowadays available to rent as holiday accommodation.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Southwest England (Devon and Cornwall)". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  2. ^ Trevose Head Lighthouse Trinity House. Retrieved April 24, 2016
  3. ^ "New Lighthouse on Trevose Head". The Sailors' Magazine. December 1847. p. 284. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e "The Illustrated London News". 16 October 1847.
  5. ^ "Royal Cornwall Gazette". 3 November 1843. p. 8. Trevose Head is the only proper position for such lighthouse, as it is visible from all the coast between Cape Cornwall and Hartland Point
  6. ^ "Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette". 26 November 1846. p. 2. The storm on Friday and Saturday last...much of the scaffolding attached to the Trevose Lighthouse was blown away
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Lighthouse management : the report of the Royal Commissioners on Lights, Buoys, and Beacons, 1861, examined and refuted Vol. 2". pp. 92, 93.
  8. ^ "Royal Cornwall Gazette". 13 June 1845. p. 3. FALMOUTH EXPRESS...Messrs. Olver, builders, of this town, have taken a contract to build the intended Lighthouse on Trevose Head, near Padstow, which is to be completed in about 11 months.
  9. ^ "Woolmer's Exeter and Plymouth Gazette". 11 December 1847. p. 8. The new light-house so long talked of on Trevose Head has at length been completed...The light was first exhibited on 1st instant.
  10. ^ a b c d "Trevose Head Lighthouse". Trinity House. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  11. ^ London Gazette, Issue 25148, Page 4307, 19 September 1882
  12. ^ Woodman, Richard; Wilson, Jane (2002). The Lighthouses of Trinity House. Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts.: Thomas Reed. pp. 96–97.
  13. ^ a b c Renton, Alan (2001). Lost Sounds: The Story of Coast Fog Signals. Caithness, Scotland: Whittles.
  14. ^ "Trinity House - Trevose Head". Archived from the original on 29 May 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  15. ^ "Trevose Head and Tater Du fog horns switched off". BBC News. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  16. ^ "Trevose Head Lighthouse". cornwall guide. Retrieved 4 April 2019.

External links[edit]