Lizard Point (TH)
Photo with kind permission of Trinity House. 1901043134 Lizard Point by Martin Boyle
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POSITION 49° 57'.06 N 05° 12'.01 W
Location: Between Falmouth & Penzance-South West Cornwall
No. On Admiralty List of Lights: 0060
Present Station Established: Between 24th May 1750-15th July 1751
Tower Composition: Octagonal granite
Height of Towers: 2 in number 61 ft (18.6 m)(only east tower in service)
Designer: Captain J. Cartert & Captain E. Smith
Builder: Thomas Fonnereau
Focal Height of Light: 232 ft (70.7 m) (east tower)above mean high water
Focal height of west light (when in service): 229 ft (69.8 m) above mean high water
First Lit: 15th July 1752
Light Characteristic: white flash every 10 seconds
Visible Range on clear night: nominal 24 nautical miles
Radar Beacon: Morse 'AL' on vessel's radar display
Automated: 16th July 1998
Lizard Lighthouse is a landfall and coastal mark giving a guide to vessels in passage along the English Channel and warning of the hazardous waters off Lizard Point.
This area of rugged Cornish coastline has a notorious reputation as being the Graveyard of Ships.
It has been stated that the activities of organized local communities which formed themselves into barbaric wreckers is grossly exaggerated. In fact the details of numerous heartless acts by the fishing and mining peoples during the long winter months is well documented.
The distinctive twin towers of the Lizard Lighthouse mark the most southerly point of mainland Britain.
The coastline is particularly hazardous, and from early times the need for a beacon was obvious.
Sir John Killigrew, a philanthropic Cornishman, applied for a patent. Apparently, because it was thought that a light on Lizard Point would guide enemy vessels and pirates to a safe landing, the patent was granted with the proviso that the light should be extinguished at the approach of the enemy.
Killigrew agreed to erect the lighthouse at his own expense, for a rent of "twenty nobles by the year", for a term of thirty years. Although he was willing to build the tower, he was too poor to bear the cost of maintenance, and intended to fund the project by collecting from ships that passed the point any voluntary contributions that the owners might offer him.
In spite of the difficulty of recruiting local labour, the tower was finished by Christmas 1619, and proved a great benefit to mariners. However, the shipowners offered nothing for its upkeep, and the mounting costs of maintenance were bankrupting Killigrew. Thus, in the face of more opposition from Trinity House, James I set a fee of one halfpenny a ton on all vessels passing the light. This caused such an uproar from the shipowners that the patent was withdrawn, the light extinguished and the tower demolished.
Applications were made in ensuing years, but it was not until 1748 that Trinity House supported an attempt by Thomas Fonnereau to erect a lighthouse. The building was completed in 1751, and consisted of two towers, with a cottage built between them, in which an overlooker lay on a sort of couch, with a window on either side commanding a view of the lanterns. When the bellows-blowers relaxed their efforts and the fires dimmed, he would remind them of their duties by a blast from a cow horn.
However the towers remained unlit for nearly 12 months, because the Corporations surveyors failed to sign the completion documents which would allow Thomas Fonnereau to collect his light dues from passing shipping. A light was first exhibited on the 15th July 1752.
Further problems arose with the agreement between Thomas Fonnereau and Trinity House about a clause in the lease documents. This additional item stated that at the end of the term Thomas Fonnereau had to vacate the station peacefully. He also had to give up at least one and a half acres of Lizard Point without a penny claim in compensation being made against the Corporation. Thomas Fonnereau spent many years trying to have the clause revoked in the Law Courts but to no avail. In 1771 he was a bankrupt.
Trinity House assumed responsibility in 1771 and from that time maintained and managed the lights.
Structural alterations were made in 1812 which left the station much as it is today.
It was also one of the first English lighthouse station to utilize the power of electricity.
A major change in the equipment came in 1903 and at a time when the west light was taken out of service.
The Lizard Lighthouse was automated in 1998 with the keepers leaving on the 16th July.