As early as the 17th century the Killigrew family flew a large red flag from an elm tree as a rudimentary aid to navigation; this was eventually taken down in 1779 to avoid its being used by invading fleets.
In December 1830 the Mayor and the shipowners of the port of Falmouth made an application for a light to be placed on St. Anthony to guide vessels to safety, and to help them clear the hazardous Manacles if used together with the Lizard Lighthouse. A design was prepared by Trinity House’s consultant engineer James Walker, and a Notice to Mariners was issued by Trinity House on 6 April 1835 describing the new light, lit on 20 April:
“…in order to render it readily distinguishable from all other Lights in that vicinity, it will present a quick but regular succession of Flashes of Brilliant Light.”
Catoptric reflectors and Argand lamps were installed with a revolving clockwork mechanism. On Easter Monday 1835 when the light was first exhibited, ‘immense crowds’ visited the lighthouse and the booths that were set up for the occasion.
Until 1954 the lighthouse possessed a huge bell, as a fog signal, which hung outside the tower; it was replaced by a modern fog horn.
St. Anthony Lighthouse was automated in 1987. The lighthouse is now monitored and controlled from Trinity House’s Planning Centre in Harwich, Essex.