Trevose Head (TH)
Photo with kind permission of Trinity House.
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POSITION 50° 32'.92 N 05° 02'.07 W
Location: Promontory between Padstow & Newquay, North Cornwall
Admiralty List of Lights Ref: 5638
Present Lighthouse Established: 1847
Designer: James Walker
Builder: Jacob & Thomas Olver
Tower Composition: Circular cavity wall granite with rendered finish
Height of tower: 87 ft (26.52 m)
Focal Height of Light: 129 ft (39.32 m) above mean high water
Light Characteristic: one white flash every 7.5 seconds
Visible Distance on a Clear Night : nominal 20 nautical miles
First Lit: 1st December 1847
Automated: December 1995
Last keepers left: 20th December 1995
A lighthouse was first proposed for this area of the North Cornish coast as early as 1809 there being no light at that time to guide ships trading in the Bristol Channel other than the Longships to the south and the old Lundy light to the north.
The position was further considered by Trinity House in 1813 and again in 1832, but it was not until 1st December 1847 that an oil light comprising wicks backed with reflectors, was first lit at Trevose Head.
The light is situated on the north west extremity of the head, with gigantic cliffs of grey granite rising sheer from the sea to a height of 150 ft (46 m) or more.
The area, like so much of the Devon and Cornish coastline is constantly threatened by sea mists that make even the most powerful lights seem like candles. This makes it difficult to understand why a fog signal was not installed at that time.
Prior to 1882 there were 2 fixed red lights at Trevose Head. The High light in the tower we see today and to the front of this a Low light. An entry in the Channel Pilot of 1859 gives the details for Trevose as follows:-
'Trevose Head lights - two fixed bright lights, at different elevations. The highest of these lights burns at an elevation of 204 feet above the level of high water, and illuminates 274 degrees of the compass, or from E. ½ S., round seaward to south, and is visible for 19 miles. The lower light, which is placed about 50 feet in advance, or to seaward of the higher light, burns at an elevation of 129 feet above the level of high water, and illuminates about 176 degrees of the compass, or from N:E ½ E., round seaward to S.W. ¾ W., visible for 16 miles.'
1882 saw a change in the light at Trevose, with the installation of an occulting light in the High light and the discontinuance of the Low light. The relevant entry from the Station Order Book gives us the details:-
'1882 31st August - inspected High light apparatus after alterations and additions. An Intermittent Light with 3 occultations in quick succession every minute as follows; light - 45 seconds, eclipse - 3 seconds, light - 3 seconds, eclipse - 3 seconds, light - 3 seconds, eclipse -3 seconds, total duration 60 seconds. Tested the apparatus and found all satisfactorily completed for exhibition. James Douglas.'
Another entry on the same day by the Superintendent gives us this extract:-
'The light is now exhibited (7pm) and the machinery is keeping perfect time, everything connected with the change is quite satisfactory - as the night is foggy I have given instructions to light the six wicks.'
It was during the period 1869 to 1919 when Lord Rayleigh was scientific adviser to Trinity House, that the first mention of a fog horn was made in the Station Order Book. In addition another change to the light took place during this period - in the Autumn of 1911 the dwellings underwent extensive alterations and work to construct a fog signal house commenced. Details of the new light are given in the Station Order Book as follows:-
'August 1st 1912. - visited by Captain Clarke and Sir Thomas Matthews, Engineer-in-Chief and Mr. Hood on exhibition of the new light flashing every five seconds - all found in good order. The work on the new fog signal progressing favourably.'
On 6th February 1913 the new fog signal was put in to service at an inauguration ceremony attended by the then Deputy Master Captain Blake and Captains Crawford and Marshall accompanied by Sir Thomas Matthews.
The new fog horn developed by Lord Rayleigh, who was experimenting at that time with new types of fog signal, took the form of an enormous trumpet. Rectangular in shape the new horn was 36 ft (11 m) with the aperture 18 ft (5.5 m) by 2 ft (610 mm), it being intended that this shape would give a wide horizontal spread of sound. It must have been successful because it stayed in use until the new fog signal was introduced in 1963, a Supertyphon with 8 horns.
During the 1912-13 modernisation, the first order (920mm) catadioptric lens with the three symmetrical panels was put into service, and it was into this lens in around 1920 that the Hood vapour burner was installed. Newly developed the Hood high power vaporized oil burner, with autoform mantel was a great improvement. The autoform mantle formed itself into a spherical shape when burnt off. The light produced was a 198,000 candle power red flash of 0.3 second duration every 5 seconds with a nominal range of 25 miles; the 3.6 tonnes lens was driven by a clockwork motor driven by weights.
Trevose Lighthouse was automated in 1995 and the keepers were with drawn on 20th December.
The existing optic was retained but the rotation speed was slowed to alter the character to one flash every 7.5 rather than every 5 seconds. The red screens were removed to give a white light. The lamp was changed to 35 watt metal halide in a two position lampchanger.
A Tideland ML300 lantern mounted on the lantern gallery hand rail gives an emergency 10 sea mile light. The air fog signal was replaced by an electric omnidirectional signal controlled by a fog detector.
The light is controlled by a photocell mounted on the lantern murette; telemetry equipment was also installed for remote monitoring and control from the Trinity House Operations Control Centre at Harwich in Essex.
At this time there is an on-station attendant keeper.