Photo with kind permission of Trinity House.
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1901043002 Needles Point by Martin Boyle & Ken Trethewey
Position: 50° 39'.70 N 01° 35.42 W
Location: Most westerly soldier rock off Scratchell's Bay - Isle Wight Hampshire
No. on Admiralty list of lights: 0528
Officially established & lit: 22nd May 1859
Designers/Builders: James Walker - Site engineerThomas Ormiston
Original structure: Tubular granite tower
Height of structure: 87ft (26.34m) from base chalk to focal point of light
Set in the western approaches to the Isle of Wight, the Needles form a narrow chalky peninsula which rises from jagged rocks to 120m cliffs. These rocks have always been a hazard to ships making their way up the Solent to Portsmouth and Southampton Water.
In 1781 merchants and shipowners petitioned Trinity House for a lighthouse. They obtained a patent in January 1782 which directed that lights should be:
'kept burning in the night season whereby seafaring men and mariners might take notice and avoid danger..... and ships and other vessels of war might safely cruise during the night season in the British Channel.'
It was proposed that William Tatnall should, at his own expense, build the lighthouses, dwellings and necessary communicating roads and provide keepers at the Needles, St. Catherine's Point and Hurst Point. All dues would go to Trinity House who in turn would pay Tatnall £960 a year for 21 years; alternatively Trinity House would build the lights.
Negotiations must have failed because it was not until 1785 that Trinity House erected to the designs of R. Jupp, for 30 years surveyor to the East India Company, three lighthouses at the Needles, St. Catherine's Point and Hurst Point. The Needles tower was lighted on the 29th September 1786. As the tower was situated on top of a cliff overhanging Scratchell's Bay, the light which was 144m above sea level was often obscured by sea mists and fogs and was therefore of limited use to mariners.
In 1859 Trinity House planned a new lighthouse to be built on the outermost of the chalk rocks near sea level. It was designed by James Walker and cost £20,000. The circular granite tower has perpendicular sides and is 33.25mm high, of uniform diameter with an unevenly stepped base to break the waves and discourage sea sweeping up the tower. The wall varies from 1.07m in thickness at the entrance to 0.61m at the top. Much of the base rock was cut away to form the foundation, and cellars and storehouses were excavated in the chalk.
The light at the Needles has two white, two red and one green sector, with one of the red sectors intensified, these are set out as follows:
Red intensified sector shore to 300° marks the St Anthony Rocks
White sector 300° to 083° marks the approach to the Needles Channel from the west
Red sector 083° to 212° marks the Shingles Bank
White sector 212° to 217° marks the course through the Needles Channel
Green sector 217° to 224° marks a safe channel past the Hatherwood Rocks and the Warden Ledge.
A helipad was built on top of the Needles Lighthouse in 1987.
The Needles Lighthouse was automated in 1994, the keepers left the lighthouse for the last time on 8th December.
Needles was the last Trinity House lighthouse powered by 100V DC electricity from it's own generators; to enable the automation to be carried out mains power has been supplied via a subsea cable from the Needles Battery, which provides 240V AC power for the new equipment.
The original optic with it's arrangements of green and red glass giving the different coloured sectors of light remained after automation but a new three position lampchanger was installed with two 1500W 240V main lamps and a 24V battery powered emergency lamp.
The supertyphon air driven fog signal was replaced by two Honeywell ELG 500 Hz directional fog signals controlled by means of a fog detector. The emitter stacks were mounted at gallery level outside the helideck structure.
The Needles is monitored and controlled via a cellphone telemetry link from the Trinity House Operations Control Centre at Harwich, Essex.