Needles

50° 39.734' N 001° 35.500' W (not for navigation purposes)


Image of Needles

Beeston Media Ltd

History

Set in the western approaches to the Isle of Wight, the Needles form a narrow chalky peninsula which rises from jagged rocks to 120m cliffs. These rocks have always been a hazard to ships making their way up the Solent to Portsmouth and Southampton Water.

In 1781 merchants and shipowners petitioned Trinity House for a lighthouse. They obtained a patent in January 1782 which directed that lights should be:

kept burning in the nightseason whereby seafaring men and mariners might take notice and avoid danger..... and ships and other vessels of war might safely cruise during the night season in the British Channel.

Negotiations must have failed because it was not until 1785 that Trinity House erected to the designs of R. Jupp, for 30 years surveyor to the East India Company, three lighthouses at the Needles, St. Catherine's Point and Hurst Point. The Needles tower was lighted on the 29th September 1786. As the tower was situated on top of a cliff overhanging Scratchell's Bay, the light which was 144m above sea level was often obscured by sea mists and fogs and was therefore of limited use to mariners.

In 1859 Trinity House planned a new lighthouse to be built on the outermost of the chalk rocks near sea level. It was designed by James Walker and cost £20,000. The circular granite tower has perpendicular sides and is 33.25m high, of uniform diameter with an unevenly stepped base to break the waves and discourage sea sweeping up the tower. The wall varies from 1.07m in thickness at the entrance to 0.61m at the top. Much of the base rock was cut away to form the foundation, and cellars and storehouses were excavated in the chalk.

The light at the Needles has two white, two red and one green sector, with one of the red sectors intensified, these are set out as follows:
  • Red intensified sector shore to 300 marks the St Anthony Rocks
  • White sector 300 to 083 marks the approach to the Needles Channel from the west
  • Red sector 083 to 212 marks the Shingles Bank
  • White sector 212 to 217 marks the course through the Needles Channel
  • Green sector 217 to 224 marks a safe channel past the Hatherwood Rocks and the Warden Ledge

A helipad was built on top of the Needles Lighthouse in 1987.

The Needles Lighthouse was automated in 1994, the keepers left the lighthouse for the last time on 8th December. Needles was the last Trinity House lighthouse powered by 100V DC electricity from it's own generators; to enable the automation to be carried out mains power has been supplied via a subsea cable from the Needles Battery, which provides 240V AC power for the new equipment.

The original optic with it's arrangements of green and red glass giving the different coloured sectors of light remained after automation but a new three position lampchanger was installed with two 1500W 240V main lamps and a 24V battery powered emergency lamp.

The supertyphon air driven fog signal was replaced by two Honeywell ELG 500 Hz directional fog signals controlled by means of a fog detector. The emitter stacks were mounted at gallery level outside the helideck structure.

The Needles is monitored and controlled via a cellphone telemetry link from the Trinity House Operations and Planning Centre at Harwich, Essex.

Send us a photograph of Needles Lighthouse.

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