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Whiteford Point Lighthouse
Loughor Estuary, Gower Peninsula, Wales, UK
Whiteford Point Lighthouse
associated engineer
Not known
date  1865
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Lighthouse  |  reference  SS442973
ICE reference number  HEW 1256
photo  PHEW
Whiteford, or Whitford, Point Lighthouse is said to be the only surviving sea-swept cast iron lighthouse in the British Isles. It is located in the inter-tidal zone of the River Loughor (Llwchwr) Estuary, off the north west tip of the Gower Peninsula. The cast iron tower replaced a light carried on timber piles constructed only a few years earlier. Now disused and rather dilapidated, the lighthouse is Grade II* listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The light marked the shoals around Whiteford Point and guided shipping in the estuary and the harbours of Burry Port and Llanelli. The first structure was constructed in 1854, founded on 80 timber piles driven into the underlying glacial moraine. No trace of it remains. The present tower dates from 1865, built under powers obtained in the 1864 Llanelly Harbour Act. The base of its iron superstructure is surrounded by an apron of pitched stone, and at high tide it stands in over 6m of water.
The tower stands 13.4m tall and is tapered in profile, flaring at the base. Its diameter is 7.3m at the apron and 3.5m at lantern level. It is constructed in eight courses of shaped rectilinear cast iron plates, 1.2m high and 32mm thick, bolted together through external and internal flanges with bolts weighing 900g. The external flanges are an unusual feature, not seen on other cast iron lighthouses. There are a total of 105 plates, which reduce in width on successive tiers to stagger the vertical joints.
A wrought iron balcony is fixed to the seventh course using 10 sturdy cast iron cantilever brackets with roundels in the spandrels. The slatted timber walkway (now mostly gone) is carried on 2m long bellied iron beams. The railing's iron balusters are linked at the top by trefoils.
Above balcony level, the top tier of plates form a cylindrical drum, topped by the lantern structure. The lamphouse had three rings of rectangular windowpanes separated by non-ferrous glazing bars and a domed copper-sheeted roof with a decorative finial. Only parts of the metalwork remain. A small upper balcony, at the top of the eighth course, was used for the cleaning of the lantern's exterior.
An external ladder on the east side of the tower was used to enter the lighthouse via the balcony. A door opened into the room immediately below the lantern, with a ladder down to a storeroom, or living accommodation, inside the seventh tier. Portholes on the south-west and north-west sides provided daylight for the two rooms. The ladder has now been removed.
Wrought iron strengthening bands were added to the tower some time after its construction. Three substantial horizontal hoops, added in the 1870s, cover the lowest joints. By the mid 1880s, about 150 smaller straps had been added.
In 1884, Admiralty Sailing Directions record that the lighthouse showed a fixed white light from half-flood to half-ebb, visible for 14km, with a red warning light southward. Census records show one keeper tended the light, apparently alternating fortnightly with the keeper at Llanelli Harbour Lighthouse.
The tower remained in use until 1921, when its light was extinguished. During World War II (1939-45), army gunners used it as a reference marker. At low tide, the tower can be reached on foot after a 5km walk, but the approach is treacherous owing to quicksand and unexploded wartime shells.
The lack of a guiding light here has caused problems for sailors. In 1981, the yacht Rosalba was wrecked off the Cefn Sidan Sands, on the opposite side of the estuary, and four people died. In 1982, Llanelli Harbour Trust installed an automatic solar-powered beacon that flashed every 5 seconds. Its mechanism failed around 1990 and it was not replaced. In the 1990s, the paved apron was repaired to prevent further undermining.
In October 2007, a structural inspection revealed the interior of the tower to be brick-lined and in sound condition, with deposits left by birds. Previously it was thought to have been partly filled with stone ballast. A test drill showed a cast iron plate thickness of about 30mm.
Whiteford Point Lighthouse is Grade II* listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument (GM407). It has been leased by the Nature Conservancy Council from the Llanelli Harbour Trust but is now owned by Carmarthenshire County Council.
Commissioned by: Llanelli Harbour and Burry Navigation Commissioners
Ironwork: Hennett & Spink, Bridgwater
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH Wales

Whiteford Point Lighthouse