Photo with kind permission of Trinity House.
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POSITION 50° 40'.05 N 00° 57'.07 W
Location: Approaches to Solent, between Portsmouth & Isle of Wight, Hampshire
No. on Admiralty list of lights: 0780
Officially established: 1920
Designers/Builders: George Menzies & British Admiralty
Conversion to light tower: David W Hood - Trinity House
Original structure: Submerged concrete based - steel tower
Height of light above mean high water: 88ft 6 ins (27m)
First lit: 23rd August 1920
Automated 26th August 1983
In the early part of 1918 attacks by German U-boats on the British merchant fleet was a major concern for the Admiralty. It was decided to take a very positive, although unorthodox measure to counter these submarines. The result was a startling plan was drawn up by "backroom" scientists. The intention was to sink a line of eight towers similar to forts (each costing £1 million) between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight and to link them with steel boom nets. This in turn would effectively close the English Channel to enemy ships.
About 3,000 civilian workmen were brought to a quiet backwater at Shoreham in Sussex and work began almost at once on two of these towers - each 40 feet in diameter with latticed steel work surrounding the 90 foot cylindrical steel tower and built on a hollow 80 foot thick concrete base designed to be flooded and sunk in about 20 fathoms. The vast honey combed concrete base was shaped with pointed bows and stern for easy towing.
One tower was completed when the war finished in November, and the other half finished giant was broken up for scrap. After much thought it was decided to use the solitary "white elephant" to replace the old Nab Light Vessel by sinking it at the eastern end of the Spithead approaches, also serving as an invaluable naval defence post, if required.
On a calm day in 1920 two paddle wheel tugs towed the tower to a position near the light vessel. There were many anxious moments as the base was opened to the sea, but this brain child of a civilian designer, Mr. G. Menzies, performed exactly as planned and settled without incident, kept steady by the immense volume of water inside the base.
Staffed since 1920 as an off-shore lighthouse, by three keepers who were relieved monthly, the station was automated in 1983 and converted to solar powered operation in 1995. The latter involved the installation of a complete new proprietary lantern manufactured by Orga.