Postcard from 1910 of Longships Lighthouse.  ​

Postcard from 1910 of Longships Lighthouse.

Postcard from 1910 of Longships Lighthouse.  ​

Longships Lighthouse


In the second half of the 18th century, Trinity House was petitioned repeatedly by ship owners for a lighthouse to be built on one of the rocks off Land’s End. In 1790 John Smeaton surveyed the area, and recommended either Wolf Rock or the Longships reef as potentially suitable locations. Trinity House sought a leaseholder, who would be responsible for building the tower and maintaining the light in return for the right to levy dues on passing ships. The lease was eventually granted, for a period of fifty years, to a Lieutenant Henry Smith (who had previously been involved in trying to establish a beacon on the rocks). He engaged Samuel Wyatt, who had recently been appointed the Surveyor of Trinity House, as architect for the project. Work on site began in 1793; however, Smith underestimated the time required and costs involved, and struggled to raise sufficient funds (since the levying of dues depended on the lighthouse being operational). He took out expensive loans to see the work through, but was unable to repay them as promised; (he ended up being sent to the Fleet Prison as a debtor … Read the rest


When a ship is observed from certain English light-houses (Bishop Rock, Caldy, Casquets, Chapman, Coquet, Eddystone, Flatholme, Godrevy, Hanois, Holyhead, Longships, Needles, Outer Farn, Round Island, Skerries, Smalls, South Bishop, South Stack, and St. Tudnall) making signals of distress or to require assistance, the lifeboat or other aid is summoned by the use of the following signals – by day, an explosive rocket fired every 10 minutes ; by night, an explosive rocket followed after 10 seconds by a rocket giving a white light. The answering signal is a red flag by day and two red star rockets by night.

Only the following Scottish lighthouses signal for aid and the day and night signals are the same, viz., two explosive rockets in quick succession every 5 minutes until the answering signal of a red flag by day or two red star rockets by night is given, (Barns Nest, Bass Rock, Buchan Ness, Cantick Head, Covesea Skerries, Davarr, Douglas Head, Fidra, Halburn, Hoy, Killantringan, Kinnaird Head, Lang Ness, Little Ross, May, Noss Head, Pentland, Pladda, St. Abbs, Sanda, Scurdy Ness, Stornoway, Stroma, and Turnberry). 

From English and Scottish light-vessels the day signal D B is hoisted and two guns are fired … Read the rest

Light-vessels & Buoys

By no means the least important of our sea marks are the light-vessels which serve to indicate many outlying dangers on our coasts such as sandbanks and shoals. Not a few of these obstructions are situated at too great a distance from the shore to be served by a land lighthouse, or in too great a depth of water to admit of the erection of a screw-pile lighthouse; many again are formed of material too loose to bear the weight of a stone or iron structure, or of so shifting a nature that it becomes necessary to move the light from time to time as their position changes. Yet another purpose is served by the light-vessel in Cardigan Bay, into which there is a most subtle and dangerous indraught – a set of water from the south-westward – so that vessels working up from Liverpool or the Clyde were in constant fear of drifting too far to the eastward and thus getting on shore in the northern curve of the bay but with the lightship placed midway between the north and south horns of the curve and the chord of the arc, in water far too deep for the foundations … Read the rest

The Lighthouses of Scotland

The coasts and harbours of Scotland are as well protected as those of England; indeed, so numerous are the lights of the first importance that space will not permit us to describe more than a few of the best known and most interesting. The earliest light in Scotland is supposed to have been that on the Isle of May, at the entrance to the Firth of Forth, where a coal fire was exhibited for the long period, of 181 years, It was originally a private venture, the right of levying tolls being vested in the owner of the island. This was the only coal-fire beacon known to have existed in Scotland, but as there were many somewhat similar lights in England a short description may not prove uninteresting. The original building had a pulley and box for raising the fuel to the top of the tower. In the inscription over the door of the tower appears the date 1636. It was considered one of the best coal fires in the kingdom, no less than 400 tons of coal being consumed every year, while three men were employed to keep the fire burning. Although there was no stint of coal or … Read the rest