Photo with kind permission of Trinity House.
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POSITION 50° 42'.44 N 01° 32'.94 W
Location: Westerly entrance into the Solent, between Isle of Wight and Dorset coast
No. On Admiralty List of Lights: 0538.1 (formerly known as the rear light)
Present Tower Built: 1868
Tower Composition: circular Purbeck stone masonry
Height of Tower: 85 ft 4 ins (26 m) (from shingle foundations)
Designer: James Nicholas Douglass
Focal Height of Light: 81 ft 9 ins (25 m) above mean high water
First Lit: 7th April 1868
Light Characteristic: white and red isophase every 6 seconds
Visible Range on clear night: nominal 14 nautical miles (white)
Visible Range on clear night: nominal 11 nautical miles (red)
Modernisation from acetylene to electricity: July 1997
Hurst Point Lighthouse guides vessels through the hazardous western approaches to the Solent, indicating the line of approach through the Needles Channel.
Although it is said that a light was shown on Hurst Point as early as 1733, the first Trinity House record relates to a meeting of shipmasters and merchants in 1781 to approve the terms of a formal petition to Trinity House for lights in the neighbourhood of the Isle of Wight.
As a result a patent was obtained in January 1782 which stated that "ships and vessels have been lost... and the lives, ships and goods of His Majesty's subjects as well as the King's Royal Navy continue to be exposed to the like calamities more especially in the night time and in hard southerly gales". The patent directed that the lights should be "kept burning in the night season whereby seafaring men and mariners might take notice of and avoid dangers..... and ships and other vessels of war might safely cruise during the night season in the British Channel".
Before they received the patent Trinity House discussed several draft agreements with William Tatnell, Merchant of Ironmonger Lane, London, who projected the lights. In 1781, it was proposed that Tatnell should erect at his own expense lights, buildings and roads and provide proper lightkeepers at the Needles, St. Catherine's Point and Hurst, at sites to be chosen by Trinity House or its Surveyor.
In 1785, negotiations with Tatnell fell through and Trinity House erected to the designs of Richard Jupp three lighthouses at the Needles, St. Catherine's Point and Hurst. The Hurst Tower, sited to the south west of the old Hurst Castle, was lit for the first time on 29th September 1786.
In due course, however, shipping found that this light was obscured from certain directions and the Corporation constructed in 1812 an additional and higher light, both to remedy this defect and to give a guiding line to vessels.
Extensive additions were made to the castle between 1865 and 1873 necessitating the repositioning of the lights. In 1866, a new lighthouse which was called the Low Light, was built to replace the old Hurst Tower. The new lighthouse consisted of a white circular granite tower with a red lantern. This light was replaced in 1911 with a new Low Lighthouse, a red square metal structure standing on a framework of steel joists attached to the wall of Hurst Castle.
The 1812 High Lighthouse was also replaced in 1867 by the 85 ft 4 ins (26 m) tower which is still working today.
A major modernisation of Hurst Point High Lighthouse was completed in July 1997. Prompted by the growth in volume and diversity of traffic using the Needles Channel and following extensive consultation with the marine community, high intensity projectors were installed on Hurst High Lighthouse. These are exhibited day and night to mark the channel between the Needles and the Shingles Bank.
The projectors, sited in the service room below the lantern of the High Lighthouse, provide an accurate system of red, green and white directional lights giving precise cut offs over narrow arcs of visibility which can be realigned in the event of movement of the Shingles Bank.
The main light at Hurst High still uses the unusual first order lens which is separated into sectors of different focal lengths with a red sector provided by shades inside the lantern. The acetylene light source has been replaced by standard Trinity House electrically powered equipment.
The Low Lighthouse, which was built on the wall of Hurst Castle, was decommissioned and painted grey to match the surrounding background colours in order to eliminate navigational confusion and the former High Lighthouse is now known just as Hurst Point Lighthouse.