St Marys Lighthouse
The lighthouse on St Mary's Island, sometimes refered to as the Whitley Bay Lighthouse is located just north of the entrance to the River Tyne and was built in 1898 to make the aproach more visible from the north (souter point had been built to the south of the river mouth just 27 years earlier)
The lighthouse was built to a recognisable design used by Sir Thomas Matthews - it is a large station similar to the arangement at portland bill, consisting of a large two-story keepers house linked to the 46 metre high tower by a short corridor, but unusually the lighthouse is partially surrounded by its own seawall.
The light was lit for the first time on 31st August 1898 and replaced the old lighthouse in the grounds of Tynemouth Priory, which was closed and taken down stone-by-stone following lighting. The large rotating fresnel lens gave 2 flashes of a one ⅔ of a seconds duration each, seperated by an eclipse of 2 seconds, followed by 16⅔ seconds of darkness - this was visible for 17 nautical miles.
The original large optic was removed in 1977 when the light was electrified and and was sent to the Penzance Lighthouse Museum - it was replaced by a smaller optic from Withernsea Lighthouse, which was removed when that lighthouse was discontinued in 1976.
When the Lighthouse Museum closed, it was kept in storage and later returned to the lighthouse for display in 2011, whilst at the same time, a multicatoptic with parabolic reflectors from Lightship 21 that was displayed for many years at the base of the tower after having been saved from after the lightship had been converted to automatic operation in nearby Tynemouth, was sent back for re-assembly on the ship in Kent.
Amazingly, despite being electrified in 1977 and automated in 1982, the lighthouse was taken out of service only 2 years later!
Soon after being decomissioned, the local council took over the site and opened the tower to the public - it is still owned by the council but maintained by 'The friends of St. Mary's Island'. Today the lighthouse is floodlit in purple throughout the night.
In January 2012 the Northern Lights, which is where green paterns in the sky occour during outer-space solar storms, could be seen from around the north of england - one of the most publicised images from the event showed the floodlit lighthouse tower in the foreground with a green sky behind.