Who or what is Trinity House?
Trinity House is a charity dedicated to safeguarding shipping and seafarers, providing education, support and welfare to the seafaring community with a statutory duty as a General Lighthouse Authority to deliver a reliable, efficient and cost-effective aids to navigation service for the benefit and safety of all mariners.
The Corporation of Trinity House is an independent corporation with over 500 years of expertise in maritime safety. We were incorporated by Royal Charter by Henry VIII on 20 May 1514 and today work to a very similar mandate, with powers derived from a renewed Royal Charter of 1685 (RC000622) and the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
What day to day functions does Trinity House perform?
Our primary purpose is to guide ships safely through some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, such as the Dover Strait.
We also enable mariners to locate their positions to within 5-10 metres through our Differential GPS radio navigation service. The service operates around the clock, every day of the year and in all weather conditions.
Doesn't Trinity House just maintains lighthouses and buoys?
Far from it. We are one of the pioneers in the development of solar and wind energy systems for both onshore and offshore installations. We also make use of sophisticated remote communications systems to secure the reliability of our aids to navigation.
What does the Corporation do?
The Corporation of Trinity House is the UK's largest endowed maritime charity, donating over £4m annually. The funds are raised through rents generated from land bequeathed to the Corporation as well as through the hiring out of the charity's magnificent headquarters on Tower Hill for all manner of events from grand weddings and receptions to discreet meetings.
The accounts of the General Lighthouse Authority and the corporate charity are entirely separate.
How is the General Lighthouse Authority funded?
The service provided by Trinity House is financed from 'Light Dues' levied on commercial vessels calling at ports in the British Isles, based on the net registered tonnage of the vessel. The rate is set by the Department of Transport, and annually reviewed.
Light dues are paid in to the General Lighthouse Fund (GLF), which is under the stewardship of the Department for Transport. The fund is used to finance the lighthouse services provided by Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board (responsible for Scotland and the Isle of Man) and the Commissioners of Irish Lights (responsible for the waters around both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland).
Why are lighthouses different colours and heights?
Lighthouses are painted differently to help identification of them by the mariner during the day. For example, a lighthouse may be painted all white if its surroundings/background is dark, such as fields or woodland. This will help it stand out from its background. The red and white stripes help the mariner identify the lighthouse if the lighthouse is up against a white background, such as cliffs or rocks.
The height of a lighthouse takes into account the curvature of the earth, so the higher light above MHW (mean high water), the further away it can be seen at sea. But the light should not be so high up that local sailors will not see it. It is possible that a sailor sitting a mile or so out at sea may not see the light if the beam is too high. Hence, you will frequently get shorter lighthouses on the top of cliffs and taller lighthouses built nearer the water surface.
The actual shape of the lighthouse often depended upon the whim of the individual designer, which is why there are some that look like traditional lighthouses whereas others look like castles.
Additionally lighthouses in fairly close proximity to each other have different flash patterns (or characteristics) to allow the mariner to visually identify their location as well as relying on their technical equipment on board. Some lighthouses in different geographical areas (e.g. east and west coast) share the same flash patterns.
Which are the smallest and tallest Trinity House lighthouses?
In comparison the tallest lighthouse in the world is in Yokohama, Japan and measures 106m.
What type of paint is used on your lighthouses?
We mainly use two different paint systems depending on the wall material i.e. render, stone, granite.
In 1982/83 Trinity House started a Grit Blasting program to remove all old paint coatings from the wall elevations and apply a two part polyurethane system, a gloss finish.
This is a very hard coating and gives a six to eight year period before recoating is required. The joinery of the station is re painted every three to four years with oil based undercoat and gloss.
The polyurethane system is also used on the station metal work.
In the last ten years, on grit blasted render stations, we have been applying a more flexible coating, Monolastex Smooth which is water based coating. The coating gives water vapour permeability, tolerates thermal movements in the substrate, and contains an active fungistatic system which prevents the growth of mould, fungus and algae on the paint surface. This system provides a matt finish.
We have found the system user friendly and easy to apply. It is certified as a two coat application plus a priming coat which lasts for 15 years but in our exposed environment we recoat our stations every six to eight years.
We have had problems with offshore lighthouses which are damp and have little or no heating.
After carrying out paint trials with a number of products we found a liquid plastics product which has preformed well when used in our off shore buildings. It is vapour permeable and is a fungicidal system. It is highly elastic so tolerates structural movement.
Why are you called Trinity House?
Our full name is ‘The Master, Wardens and Assistants of the Guild, Fraternity or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St. Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond, in the County of Kent'. As such we are a guild, or house, named for the Holy Trinity - therefore we are Trinity House. Saint Clement is sometimes referred to as the patron saint of sailors, as he was drowned with an anchor.
What is the role of an Elder or Younger Brother?
Trinity House comprises a Fraternity of almost 400 Younger Brethren drawn from various sectors in the maritime community but around 70% are from the Royal Navy or Merchant Navy. About 12% are Pilots or Harbour Masters.
The Elder Brethren constitute the Court of the Corporation. By statute, all must first have been admitted as Younger Brethren but many are elected because of the influential positions they hold, or have held, elsewhere. The majority, however, are current or former trustees of the Trinity House Charities or Directors of the Lighthouse Service.
Why are they named Elder Brethren and Younger Brethren?
When Henry VIII granted the Royal Charter in 1514 he tasked his “trewe and faithfull subjects, shipmen and mariners of this Our Realm of England” to “begyn of new and erecte and establish a Guild or Brotherhood of themselves or other persons as well men as women, whatsoever they be…”. Thereby the idea of Brothers or Brethren was established.
What does the motto 'Trinitas in Unitate' on your coat of arms mean?
Translated from the Latin, it reads ‘Three In One', and relates to the Holy Trinity from whom we took our name in 1514.
Is it possible to have a tour of Trinity House?
From time to time tours of Trinity House on Tower Hill, London are offered. There is a charge per person and this fee is paid in to the Trinity House charitable fund providing education and welfare services for past, present and future mariners. The tour lasts for approximately 75 minutes and is limited to 25 people per tour.
How are visibility readings for the Shipping Forecast measured?
Trinity House has visibility detectors at each site where we require the operation of a fog signal or light during restricted visibility. The detector consists of a light beam of a frequency close to infra red which reflects on any moisture particles in the air such as fog or mist. A detector set at 90 degrees to the beam measures any scattered reflections of the beam and this is a measure of the visibility in the area. It takes a sample every 20 minutes. For Trinity House’s purposes if the detector records a reading of reduced visibility it automatically activates the operation of the light and/or fog signal.
Do you have records of ship wrecks?
No. Please contact the UK Hydrographic Office.
Do you have records of former lighthouse and lightvessel personnel?
Yes, some of them. Please contact us with your research request.
Please note that in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), if the date of birth of the subject of the enquiry is less than 100 years ago we are required to ask for proof of death (death certificate) before we can undertake to supply personal record information.
Do you have records of former Trinity House pilots?
Unfortunately not, please contact
London Metropolitan Archive, 40 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 0HB
Who do I contact about Trinity House Hull, Newcastle or Leith?
For Trinity House Hull, please write to Trinity House, Trinity House Lane, Hull, Humberside HU1 2JE. Or visit the National Archives website.
For Trinity House Leith please write to Trinity House (Leith), 99 Kirkgate, Edinburgh EH6 6BJ.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Visit website for details of Newcastle upon Tyne Trinity House.
Records of Trinity House Newcastle are held at Tyne & Wear Archives although many (including those most commonly accessed for genealogical purposes) are retained at the House itself.
Tyne & Wear Archives, Blandford House, Blandford Square, Newcastle-Upon Tyne NE1 4JA
Who do I contact about the Merchant Navy?
Please call the Merchant Navy Association on 01733 205001 or visit www.mna.org.uk
Who do I contact about the Royal Navy?
Please visit www.royalnavy.mod.uk
Who do I contact about the coastguard?
Please visit the Maritime & Coastguard Agency website for further details
The coastguard's historical records are held at the National Archive
Who do I contact about the RNLI?
Records of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution are held at
RNLI HQ, West Quay Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 1HZ
Were Trinity House lighthouses switched off during the Second World War?
The lights on many lighthouses and lightvessels were extinguished during the Second World War, but not all lights were extinguished outright. Trinity House worked extensively with the Admiralty to decide which lights should be merely dimmed, so as to aid navigation for Britain's merchant and fighting ships.
Trinity House Pilots worked throughout the nights to get ships into safe ports, and Trinity House Tenders worked to help clear minefields, evacuate the occupied Channel Islands and take part in the events of D-Day.
Many lighthouses on enemy flight paths were painted with camouflage paint. Many Keepers on Lighthouses, and crewmen on Lightvessels lost their lives, and are commemorated on a memorial in Trinity Square in London.