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Godrevy Lighthouse
Godrevy Island, St Ives Bay, Cornwall
associated engineer
James Walker
date  1858 - 1st March 1859
era  Victorian  |  category  Lighthouse  |  reference  SW575436
The white octagonal tower on Godrevy Island in St Ives Bay was the model used by Virginia Woolf for her novel To The Lighthouse. It was built to warn ships away from the rocks known as The Stones, which extend about 2.5km from the island.
St Ives Bay is about 5.5km across, with Godrevy Island located on the eastern side. Ships cross the bay to reach Hayle and St Ives. The iron-screw passenger steamer Nile foundered on The Stones in November 1854 with the loss of all hands. This tragedy was the catalyst for the commissioning of the lighthouse by Trinity House, the authority that controls lighthouses in England and Wales.
Work began in 1858 to a design by James Walker and the light first shone on 1st March 1859. The project cost a little over 7000.
The 26m high white-painted tower is made of rubble stone bedded in mortar. The lamp in the galleried lantern is 37m above Mean High Water. There was an adjoining cottage for the keepers. Initially, the lighthouse was manned by a crew of three, two on site at a time. This was increased to four after Christmas 1925, with three on site at a time. Thereafter, Trinity House insisted that all stations should be manned by three keepers.
The original lighting apparatus was intended for Bishop Rock Lighthouse but Bishop Rock's first tower was washed away before the lamp could be installed and it was used here instead.
The optic was mounted on rollers and revolved on a circular track, driven by a clockwork motor — powered by a weight moving down a cavity in the tower wall. The light flashed white every 10 seconds with a range of 27km, while a fixed red lamp (reef warning) below the main light showed over an arc of 44 degrees and had a range of 24km. There was also a 152kg fog signal bell, which was struck once every 5 seconds when necessary.
In 1939, the keepers were withdrawn and the lighthouse was automated. A new second-order catadioptric lens was installed and the fog bell was removed. In 1995, the station was converted to solar power. Maintenance is done by crews brought in by helicopter.
The present light is a 75W tungsten halogen lamp inside a 700mm fixed white optic with red sector (reef warning), which flashes once every 10 seconds. The white sector has an intensity of 4370 candela with a range of 22km, and the red sector has an intensity of 817 candela and a range of 17km.
In August 2005 following consultation, Trinity House announced that the lighthouse would remain operational for the safety of mariners. However, the light's range was reduced to 19km as part of the general maintenance and engineering programme.
Research: ECPK
"Cornwall's Lighthouse Heritage" by Michael Tarrant
Twelveheads Press, Truro, 1993
"A.L. Rowse's Cornwall" by A.L. Rowse
George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Limited, London, 1988

Godrevy Lighthouse