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Start Point

50° 13'.344 N 003° 38'.539 W (not for navigation purposes)


Image of Start Point

Photo by Tricia Kennedy

History

Start Point is one of the most exposed peninsulas on the English Coast, running sharply almost a mile into the sea on the South side of Start Bay near Dartmouth. The Lighthouse, sited at the very end of the headland, has guided vessels in passage along the English Channel for over 150 years.

James Walker designed Start Point Lighthouse in 1836 and it owes much to the "gothic" movement in architecture of the time, with its battlemented parapet. Two white lights were originally exhibited, one revolving and one fixed to mark the Skerries Bank. A fixed red subsidiary light still marks this hazard. The optic used was the first of its kind in the Trinity House Service, being an approved form of Dioptric apparatus designed by Alan Stevenson, whose major work was the optic at the Skerryvore Lighthouse of 1844. Even so, the light was found to be inadequate in fog, and a bell was installed in the 1860s. The machinery was housed in a small building on the cliff face and operated by a weight which fell in a tube running down the sheer cliff. A siren replaced the bell after only fifteen years. In 1871, the intermediate floors of the tower of 1836 were removed and extra accommodation provided in common with all Trinity House Stations. An insight into the Lighthouse and the life of its keepers in the nineteenth century is given in a travelogue by Walter White:-

A substantial house, connected with the tall circular tower, in a walled enclosure, all nicely whitened, is the residence of the light-keepers. The buildings stand within a few yards of the verge of the cliff, the wall serving as a parapet, from which you look down on the craggy slope outside and the jutting rocks beyond - the outermost point. You may descend by the narrow path, protected also by a low white wall, and stride and scramble from rock to rock with but little risk of slipping, so rough are the surfaces with minute shells. A rude steep stair, chipped in the rock, leads down still lower to a little cove and a narrow strip of beach at the foot of the cliffs. It is the landing place for the lighthouse keepers when they go fishing, but can only be used in calm weather.

In recent years the ground under the fog signal house has become insecure finally resulting in the collapse of the building in December 1989. Since then the site has been levelled, a new retaining wall built and a free standing fog signal stack put in place.

Work began on the automation of Start Point Lighthouse in August 1992; this was carried out by LEC Marine at a cost of £82,754 and was completed in early 1993. The station is now monitored and controlled from the Trinity House Operations and Planning Centre at Harwich in Essex via a telemetry link.

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