Longships Lighthouse

Longships Lighthouse is an active 19th century lighthouse about 1.25 mi (2.01 km) off the coast of Land's End in Cornwall, England. It is the second lighthouse to be built on Carn Bras, the highest of the Longships islets which rises 39 feet (12 m) above high water level. In 1988 the lighthouse was automated, and the keepers withdrawn. It is now remotely monitored from the Trinity House Operations & Planning Centre in Harwich.[2]

Longships Lighthouse
Longships lighthouse from the seaward side
LocationLongships, Land's End
Coordinates50°4′00.69″N 5°44′48.39″W
Year first constructed1795 (first)
Year first lit1875 (current)
Constructiongranite tower
Tower shapetapered cylindrical tower with lantern and helipad on the top
Markings / patternunpainted tower, white lantern
Tower height35 m (115 ft)
Focal height35 m (115 ft)
Current lensFirst Order Dioptric
Intensity14,400 Candela
Range15 nmi (28 km; 17 mi)
CharacteristicIso WR 10s.
Fog signalone second blast every 10 seconds
Admiralty numberA0028
NGA number114-0024
ARLHS numberENG 069
Managing agentTrinity House[1]


The original tower was built in 1795 to the design of Trinity House architect Samuel Wyatt. It contained a fixed array of eighteen Argand lamps with reflectors, arranged in two tiers and shining out to sea,[3] probably the first time Argand lamps and reflectors had been installed in an offshore lighthouse.[4] The lantern was 79 feet (24 m) above sea level but very high seas obscured its light.[5]

In 1869 Trinity House began constructing a replacement.[6] The building of the present granite tower used much of the equipment that had previously been used in the construction of the Wolf Rock Lighthouse.[6] It was equipped with a first-order fixed optic built by Dr John Hopkinson of Chance Brothers.[7] The tower was first lit in December 1873 having cost £43,870 to build.[6] By 1884 it was showing an occulting light[8] with red sectors warning ships away from the Brisons and Rundlestone.[9]

Even after these improvements, the S.S. Bluejacket was wrecked on rocks near the lighthouse on a clear night in 1898, nearly demolishing the lighthouse in the process. Often due to bad weather there was a delay in relieving the men and supplying stores. In January 1901 there was some concern that the men had run short of provisions due to the severe weather. It was found that there was plenty of stores and the only hardship was their lack of tobacco. They had taken to smoking coffee, hops and tea leaves instead.[10]

In 1967 the light was modernised: an electric bulb replaced the old paraffin burner and a new revolving optic was installed displaying an isophase light visible up to 19 nautical miles (35 km) distant. At the same time the explosive fog signal (in use since the 1890s) was replaced with a more modern 'supertyfon' fog horn,[11] itself later replaced by an electric emitter when the lighthouse was automated.[12]

In 1974 a helipad was constructed on top of the lantern, greatly easing access.[3] In 1988 the lighthouse was automated.[11]


The current lantern emits one long five-second flash every ten seconds. Seaward flashes are white but they become red - due to tinted sectors - for any vessel straying too close to either Cape Cornwall to the north or Gwennap Head to the south-southeast. The white light has a range of 15 nautical miles (28 km; 17 mi), and the red sector light a slightly shorter range of 11 nautical miles (20 km; 13 mi). During poor visibility the fog horn sounds once every ten seconds.[13]

See also


  1. Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Southwest England (Devon and Cornwall)". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  2. "Longships Lighthouse". Lighthouses and lightvessels. Trinity House. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  3. Woodman, Richard; Wilson, Jane (2002). The Lighthouses of Trinity House. Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts.: Thomas Reed. pp. 96–97.
  4. Nancollas, Tom (2018). Seashaken Houses: A Lighthouse History from Eddystone to Fastnet. Particular Books. p. 111.
  5. Trinity House website; Longships lighthouse Archived 17 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved April 2010
  6. Nicholson, Christopher (1995). Rock lighthouses of Britain The end of an era?. Whittles Publishing. pp. 72–73. ISBN 1-870325-41-9.
  7. Elliot, George H. (1875). European Light-House Systems. London: Lockwood & co. p. 184. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  8. Edwards, E. Price (1884). Our Seamarks: a plain account of the Lighthouses, Lightships, Beacons, Buoys, and Fog-signals maintained on our Coasts. London: Longmans, Green & co. p. 185. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  9. Elliot, George H. (1875). European Light-House Systems. London: Lockwood & co. pp. 146–148. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  10. "Driven To Smoking Tea-Leaves". The Cornubian and Redruth Times (1962). 25 January 1901. p. 3.
  11. Nicholson, Christopher (1983). Rock lighthouses of Britain (1995 ed.). Caithness, Scotland: Whittles Publishing. p. 74.
  12. Renton, Alan (2001). Lost Sounds: The Story of Coast Fog Signals. Caithness, Scotland: Whittles.
  13. List of Lights, Pub. 114: British Isles, English Channel and North Sea (PDF). List of Lights. United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. 2016. p. 1.
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