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Longships Lighthouse (1795), site of
Carn Bras, Land's End, Cornwall
associated engineer
Samuel Wyatt
date  1790 - 29th September 1795
era  Georgian  |  category  Lighthouse  |  reference  SW320253
ICE reference number  HEW 1358
Land's End, the most south-westerly point of mainland Britain, is a wild rocky place in stormy weather. The Longships Lighthouse that today sits 2km west of the cliffs, on Carn Bras rock, is the second on this site, the first having been replaced in 1875.
Lieutenant Henry Smith built the original lighthouse on the highest point of the largest rock of the Longships group in 1795, under licence from Trinity House — the lighthouse authority for the coast of England and Wales. Trinity House had obtained permission for such a light in 1790 and granted Smith a 50-year lease. Smith was to both supervised erection and run the lighthouse.
The circular three-storey tower was designed by Trinity House engineer Samual Wyatt. The base of the structure was 17.7m above high water level and the tower just 12.2m tall. Its non-flashing oil light was regularly obscured by high seas. The lantern house was made of wood and copper. It housed 18 metal parabolic reflectors and Argand lamps set in two rows.
On the ground floor water tanks and stores were kept. The second floor housed the living room, while the lighthouse keepers slept on the third floor under the lantern.
Very shortly after the lighthouse began operations, Smith was declared incapable of running the light and Trinity House took it over, remitting its operating profits to his family. This arrangement cost the organisation dearly and in 1836, they finally bought out the lease holders, ending the profit arrangements. Trinity House had four keepers in residence, with two on duty at any one time.
According to Trinity House, the light had to be replaced because of its unsatisfactory height — it was often under water during storms. Another reason sometimes given is that the rock on which it was founded was deteriorating.
Either, way, it's replacement was designed by a later Trinity House engineer, James Douglass, and completed in 1875. This is the light we can see off Land's End today. It has been unmanned since 1967 and was automated in 1988.
There is a watercolour of Longships Lighthouse and its rock during a storm by J.M.W. Turner, painted sometime around 1835.
Research: ECPK
bibliography
www.cornwall-calling.co.uk/lighthouses/
www.trinityhouse.co.uk
reference sources   CEH South
Location

Longships Lighthouse (1795), site of