Inner Farne Lighthouse is located on Inner Farne Island situated offshore of Bamburgh in Northumberland. It is accessed by boat from Seahouses or helicopter from Eshott near Morpeth.
In 1811, the present Inner 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.
In 1825, Trinity House bought out the lease from the Blacketts for Inner Farne Lighthouse at a cost of £36,484.
In 1910, Trinity House converted the present lighthouse to automatic operation with an acetylene light controlled by a sun valve. This remained in operation until the lighthouse was modernised and converted to solar powered operation in late 1996.
The National Trust acquired the Farne Islands in 1925 and Trinity House now leases the operational areas of the lighthouse from them.
The project to update the lighthouse began in autumn 2019 with a site visit to scope the project and build on the mandate. The visit was also attended by the National Trust who were a key stakeholder for the project.
Prior to the modernisation the lighthouse was already solar powered with aging panels and still had wet lead acid batteries with outdated charging equipment. The light source was redundant technology that was being phased out due to replacements not being available.
The site also had an emergency accommodation pod in the acetylene building. This was at the end of its life and the decision was taken to plan to remove it and relocate it into the old battery room moving the smaller new batteries into the tower base. The station’s domestic power was provided by a small diesel generator; we decided that this should be removed and replaced with an inverter so that no fuel would be stored on site and no emissions from an engine.
In tandem with the early project management works on Inner Farne, the St Tudwal’s Lighthouse modernisation design and Caldey Lighthouse minor works planning stages were underway. All three projects planned to use the new-to-service eight-sided RLS LED light source developed by the tri-GLA research and development team GRAD. This allows the main and standby light to be exhibited from an existing optic.
In 2021 when the design visit was finally able to take place, COVID-19 was still a major issue and the country was in lockdown. This meant that eating out and vehicle sharing was not an option, likewise for discussing the design face to face. However, the trip to the island went ahead and the relevant information was collected, discussed and processed remotely. The other issue with the lockdown meant that engaging external stakeholders was more of a challenge initially due to furlough of staff.
Inner Farne is a haven to wildlife for marine mammals and migratory birds. The islands see puffins and seals in large numbers and species such as Arctic terns, shags, kittiwakes, razorbills, eider ducks and guillemots. On one trip, the team witnessed a dolphin calf.
The sensitive nature of the islands meant that certain elements of the works were constrained to periods outside the bird-breeding season and the works involved some careful negotiations with both the National Trust and Natural England.
The lighthouse is also listed and this needed to be taken into account. A listed building application was submitted for the works mainly involving external alterations and works to the light pedestal.
The mobilisation was planned for the first week of March 2022 and was particularly challenging with the weather conditions. Agile use of resources including the local boat, helicopter, THV Galatea and the work force was required as weather reports changed by the hour. Approximately 35 loads were delivered.
There are no facilities or real storage on Inner Farne and the site needed some temporary cabins, which were erected in two days.
There was also the public access to the islands for the tours to consider so fencing was erected. Soil erosion and avoiding bird’s eggs were highlighted as potential risks by the National trust and Natural England so a network of temporary covered walkways were also laid.
This—coupled with the installation of the new light source, temporary aid to navigation control equipment and the new solar array—made for a productive week in some challenging circumstances.
The rest of the installation began in early April and lasted to July. The team had to also negotiate some challenging weather, parts delays caused by the pandemic and an evolving design due to the inability to pre-commission correctly because of late delivery of electrical cubicles. These challenges were dealt with well by all parties with some great teamwork and individual efforts to get the job done.
Later in the summer the light was viewed and accepted by THV Galatea with some complimentary comments on it effectiveness.
The demobilisation and removal of the old accommodation pod was completed in September with the first cup round of teas brewed using the new inverter system in the new day room completed during the week.
The system has finished its soak test following some snagging works at the start of December and is to be handed over prior to the end of March 2022.