Wolf Rock Lighthouse

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Wolf Rock Lighthouse
Phare de Wolf Rock - 3.jpg
Wolf Rock Lighthouse
Wolf Rock Lighthouse is located in Cornwall
Wolf Rock Lighthouse
Location Land's End
Coordinates 49°56.72′N 05°48.50′W / 49.94533°N 5.80833°W / 49.94533; -5.80833Coordinates: 49°56.72′N 05°48.50′W / 49.94533°N 5.80833°W / 49.94533; -5.80833
Year first constructed 1869
Automated 1988
Foundation concrete base
Construction granite tower
Tower shape tapered cylindrical tower with lantern and helipad on the top
Markings / pattern unpainted tower, white lantern
Height 41 m (135 ft)
Focal height 34 m (112 ft)
Intensity 17,100 candela
Range 16 nautical miles (30 km; 18 mi)
Characteristic Fl W 15s.
Fog signal 1 blast every 30s.
Racon Edit this on Wikidata
Admiralty number A0030
NGA number 0028
ARLHS number ENG 170
Managing agent

Trinity House[1]


Wolf Rock Lighthouse is on the Wolf Rock, 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, England.[3] The fissures in the rock produce a howling sound in gales, hence the name.[4]

The lighthouse is 41 metres (135 ft) in height and is constructed from Cornish granite prepared at Penzance, on the mainland of Cornwall. It took eight years, from 1861 to 1869, to build due to the treacherous weather conditions that can occur between Cornwall and Scilly.[5] The light can be seen from Land's End by day and night, and is almost exactly halfway between the Lizard and the Isles of Scilly. It has a range of 23 nautical miles (43 km; 26 mi) and was automated in 1988. The lighthouse was the first in the world to be fitted with a helipad.[6]


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.[7]


The Gabrielle of Milford Haven was wrecked on the Wolf Rock in 1394. Her cargo, worth £1000, was washed ashore in Cornwall and collected as wreck.[8]

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 the daymark was washed away. In the late 1830s John Thurburn built a beacon, which was completed on 15 July 1840,[9] [10]and in November of that year was wrecked by storms when the pole and globe on its top were washed away[11] and not replaced until 1842[12] but they were once more washed away in a storm on 9 October 1844.[13] Trinity House engineer 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 this was completed in 1848,[14] it can still be seen next to the lighthouse. In July 1861, engineer James Douglass surveyed the rock and Walker started to build the lighthouse the following March, based on Smeaton's third Eddystone Lighthouse. Walker died in October 1862 and James Douglass was appointed engineer-in-chief to the Trinity House, William Douglass, the younger brother of James became resident engineer.[15]:ch4 Completed on 19 July 1869,[16] the light first shone in January 1870 and in 1879 it was reported that the light flashed red and white.[17] In 1972 it became the first lighthouse in the world to be fitted with a helipad and the lighthouse became automated in July 1988.[4]

The Wolf Rock was the site of a hake (Merluccius merluccius) fishery in the 1870s, especially by fishermen from St Ives with 400 employed in October 1879.[18]

Popular culture[edit]

The Wolf Rock Lighthouse features prominently in the classic 1925 Dr Thorndyke detective novel, The Shadow of the Wolf, by R. Austin Freeman.[19]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wolf Rock The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 24 April 2016
  2. ^ Wolf Rock Lighthouse Trinity House. Retrieved 24 April 2016
  3. ^ Admiralty Chart 1148: Isles of Scilly to Lands End.
  4. ^ a b Jones, Robin (2011). Lighthouses of the South West. Wellington, Somerset: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 107 4. 
  5. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Southwest England (Devon and Cornwall)". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  6. ^ "Trinity House Wolf Rock". www.trinityhouse.co.uk. Corporation of Trinity House. 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  7. ^ Hall, Anthony (1994). J T Greensmith, ed. West Cornwall. Geologists' Association Guide No. 19 (Second ed.). The Geologists' Association. ISBN 0 900717 57 2. 
  8. ^ St Levan Local History Group (2004). The Book of St Levan. Tiverton: Halsgrove. ISBN 1 84114 328 6. 
  9. ^ "Ship News", London Evening Standard, p. 3, 18 July 1840, PENZANCE, July 16.— The beacon on the Wolf Rock was completed yesterday; it is a cone of 18 feet at the base, and is surmounted by a lantern of six feet in diameter; the total elevation above the surface of the rock Is 46 feet. 
  10. ^ "Penzance", Royal Cornwall Gazette, p. 2, 24 July 1840, At the close of the proceedings, the Commission having been informed by Mr. Pearce, agent to Lloyds that the exertions of the Trinity Board at the Wolf Rock had been crowned with success in the erection of a cast iron beacon, which had been completed only the preceding night, embarked on board the steamer accompanied by Mr. Pearce, to inspect it, when they expressed their decided approbation of the manner in which the work had been accomplished. The rock was at half tide; and the base of the beacon, which 18 feet in diameter, is about 7 feet above low water, spring tide. It is a cone composed of 10 courses of 2 feet 2 inches and an eleventh coarse of 3 feet, giving about 23 feet perpendicular height - This is surmounted by a strong oak mast of 34 feet, 11 of which are imbedded in the cone A ball of copper hoops, of 6 feet diameter, crowns the whole, giving a total elevation of 53 feet above low water and about 35 feet above high water at spring tides; and although nearly three leagues off, it is distinctly visible from the western land. The Beacon is painted read and white, in horizontal stripes. 
  11. ^ "The Wolfe-Rock", Royal Cornwall Gazette, p. 2, 27 November 1840, The pole and globe of the beacon on this most dangerous rock, were carried away in the late storms. The conical part of the beacon remains visible above the level of high-water spring-tides; and is supposed to be uninjured. 
  12. ^ "Notice to Mariners", Caledonian Mercury, p. 4, 5 August 1842, Wolf Rock Beacon - The Pole and Globe of the beacon which were carried away from the beacon upon the Wolf Rock, off the Land's End of Cornwall during the storm in November 1840, have been reinstated 
  13. ^ "NOTICE TO MARINERS.- WOLF ROCK and RUNDLESTONE BEACONS.", Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, p. 4, 28 October 1844, TRINITY-HOUSE, London, October 25, 1844. INFORMATION has been received, that in the Storm on the 9th instant the BALLS and upper parts of the wrought IRON MASTS of the WOLF ROCK and RUNDLESTONE BEACONS were BROKEN AWAY. By Order, J. HERBERT, Secretary. 
  14. ^ "THE WOLF-ROCK LIGHTHOUSE", Royal Cornwall Gazette, p. 6, 11 April 1862, In 1848 this stone beacon was cased outside with thick iron plates (perforated), and a new iron mast and globe erected, with the centre ten feet higher than the former one 
  15. ^ "LIFE OF WILLIAM DOUGLASS M.INST.C.E." (PDF). uslhs.org. 
  16. ^ "THE GREAT WOLF ROCK", Liverpool Mercury, p. 4, 23 July 1869, On Monday last the last stone of the lighthouse which now surmounts the Wolf Rock was laid by Sir F. Arrow, the deputy master of the Trinity House 
  17. ^ "Wreck of a French Brig. A Resolute and Stubborn Frenchman". The Cornishman (45). 22 May 1879. p. 4. 
  18. ^ "St Ives". The Cornishman (65). 9 October 1879. p. 5. 
  19. ^ Work available at Project Gutenberg Australia (retrieved 12/03/2014)

External links[edit]