Farne

55° 36.921' N 001° 39.346 W


Image of Farne

Photo by Ian Cowe

History

Off the coast of Northumberland lies a little archipelago of islands which takes it name from Farne, the largest and nearest to the land. These islands, situated in the main deep water coastal shipping lanes, make navigation in the area hazardous.

In 1673, Sir John Clayton erected a tower on the Farne Island as part of his comprehensive scheme for the East coast. However the influential Newcastle merchants refused to pay him any dues for its upkeep and the fire was never kindled. Proposals were again made in 1727 by coastal traders in the area, but little was done for another 50 years.

In 1776 an agreement was made between Trinity House and Mr J Blackett for the latter to build two lighthouses at his own expense. On 1 December 1778 two lighthouses exhibited lights, one on Farne Island and the other on the southern end of Staples Island. The Staples Island light was blown down in 1784 and rebuilt, possibly on Brownsman’s Island, the rebuilt tower was knocked down by heavy seas in 1800 and at that time was definitely rebuilt on Brownsman’s Island.

In 1809 the two towers, both coal lights, were decaying and arrangements were made for Trinity House to take then over and install new lights.

In 1811 the present Farne Lighthouse was built. Designed by Daniel Alexander, it is a squat, compact station, with a circular white tower 13 metres in height. The lantern and gallery with its closely strutted railings was installed with reflectors and Argand lamps. The keepers' cottages were sited just to the rear of the tower, and the whole station is surrounded by a stone wall. At the same time, a smaller light tower was constructed on the north west point of the island, 152 metres from the other lighthouse. The white tower displayed a fixed white light.

A new oil powered lighthouse was also built on Brownsman’s Island. In 1826 this was moved to Longstone Island.

In 1825 Trinity House bought out the lease from the Blacketts for the Farne Lighthouse at a cost of £36,484.

In 1910 the smaller Farne light was discontinued and the present lighthouse was converted to automatic operation with an acetylene light controlled by a sun valve. This remained in operation until the Farne Lighthouse was modernised and converted to solar powered operation in late 1996. The station is now controlled and monitored via a telemetry link from the Trinity House Operations and Planning Centre at Harwich.

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