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St. Catherines Lighthouse

St. Catherines

General Information


Established: 1323

Current Lighthouse Built: 1836

Automated: 1997

Operator: Trinity House

Designer: James Walker

Light Information


White: 26 Nautical Miles

Red: 17 Nautical Miles

The Lighthouse at St. Catherines Point marks the southernmost point of the Isle of Wight. The tower was built in 1838 after the loss of the sailing ship 'Claredon' on the point on October 11th 1836. The octagonal tower consists of 3 tiers - the largest being the lowest and the smallest being the highest. When the tower was first constructed it was often obscured by fog to a point where the light could not be seen - this problem continued up till 1875, when the tower was taken apart and shortened, section by section. The tower as a whole was shortened by 13 Metres; 5.7 from the top section and 7.3 from the middle - the base didn't require alteration so was left how it was originally built.

Another large change to the station came around in 1932, a smaller version of the light tower was constructed in front, as a fog signal tower following the collapse of the original fog signal building which was undermined by the sea - it is lower than the level of the gallery so it does not obstruct the light.

Due to the two towers looking very similar, locals have come to know them as "The Cow and the Calf" At somepoint over the years, the fog signal was changed in design and a Super Tyfon was put in place, on the top of the smaller tower - it was finally discontinued 1987.

Cliff erosion is a problem on this coast and every so one of the keepers jobs was to hang a plumbob down the centre of the tower and check it against a graph on the floor, to check for any ground movement, which might indicate a cliff collapse.

On the 1st June 1943 an enemy bomber destroyed the engine room, killing all three light keepers on duty who had taken shelter inside. R.T. Grenfell, C. Tomkins and W.E. Jones were buried in Niton village and a plaque in remembrance of them is displayed on the ground floor of the light tower.

At the top of the main light tower is the lantern, which houses a rotating fresnel lens, giving it the character of One White Flash Every 5 Seconds, visible for 26 nautical miles, which makes it the third brightest light operated by Trinity House. 7 metres below is a seperate lens shining a red light south over the Atherfield Ledge - this is visible for 17 Nautical Miles on a clear day.

Following automation of the station in 1997, it has been controled remotely from the Trinity House Depot in Harwich and is open to the public regually - check the Trinity House website for details.

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