Aerial Photo by Marinas.com (more images available)
We have three location guides on the lighthouses on the Farne Islands, plus another on the Farne Islands from a wildlife perspective.
Although there were 5 lighthouses in total, one was a very small one, also on Inner Farrne, and the Staple Island Lighthouse was moved, after being damaged several times, to Brownsman’s Island.
Later around 1811 or just after, a new oil powered lighthouse was also built on Brownsman’s Island. In 1826 this was moved to Longstone Island.
In this location guide we are just looking at the lighthouse on Longstone Island from 1826, information on the history of the lighthouses on the Farne Islands can be found in the location guide covering the Inner Farne Lighthouse. We also have another location guide to the Farne Islands this is more general, covering tourism, wildlife and how to get to the islands.
Photo from Geograph
The Longstone Lighthouse, or Outer Farne, as it was first called, is on Longstone Rock, one of the Outer Staple Islands. Vegetation was very scanty being predominantly matgrass.
Although there had been suggestions before, the first lighthouse to be put on Longstone was the current one in 1826. This is on the westernmost side of the reef.
The lighthouse, designed and built by Joseph Nelson is now a red and white circular tower built of rough stone with iron railings around the lantern gallery. The light originally came from the Argand lamps with 12 burners, parabolic reflectors 21 inches in diameter and 9 inches deep and a catadioptric optical apparatus. The cost of the Lighthouse and the dwellings was approximately £4,771, the lantern alone costing £1,441.
When built it was different to today, as shown in the postcard below from 1903, it appears to have been a stone colour all over, and the red higher accommodation extension and second smaller tower did not exist. We know that major alterations were made later in 1952, and it may be that these additional parts come from this later time.
1903 Postcard - Image from Camera Images GBPictures archive.
Photo by Jeff Tomlinson
The island was a bleak situation to endure and the isolation must have been terrible. Often storms were so bad as to drive the family into the upper rooms of the tower to seek refuge, the waves being so enormous that they covered the living quarters. Remember originally only the stone coloured part of the accommodation unit existed.
Longstone Lighthouse is most famous as the scene of the steam ship 'Forfarshire' wreck and the exploits of Grace Darling, a daughter of the keeper in charge. In September 1838 the steamer Forfarshire, bound from Hull to Dundee, went aground on Hawkers Rocks, about a mile from the lighthouse, when 43 people were drowned, the stern portion of the vessel being split off and carried away in the storm. The forepart, to which clung the survivors, remained fast on the rocks. At daybreak William Darling, the keeper, and the fishermen ashore saw the wreck, but the waves were beating against the rocks so much that the fishermen thought it impossible to attempt a rescue and even Darling hesitated. He was finally persuaded to make the attempt by his daughter, with her as the second hand in the small lighthouse boat. On reaching the wreck after a terrific struggle they brought back 4 men and 1 woman in their frail open boat and later a further four survivors, all 9 had to be accommodated and fed at the lighthouse for 2 days until the storm abated and they could be taken to the mainland. This gallant action made Grace Darling and her father famous. The Royal Human Society voted them its gold medal, the Government made them a grant and a public subscription was organised.
There is a museum run by the RNLI based at Bamburgh, that tells the story of this rescue and has many personal items from the family, as well as the boat used in the rescue. The museum is at Radcliffe Road, Bamburgh, Northumberland, NE69 7AE Tel 01668 214 910. Entry cost £2.75 adults, £1.75 concessions and children, family tickets (2+3) are £7.25. See Grace Darling Museum there is also additional information available by clicking here.
Major alterations were made to the Lighthouse in 1952 and the light was converted to electricity.
Longstone Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation in September 1990 and is now monitored from the Trinity House Operations Control Centre at Harwich in Essex.
Photo by William Safford
The photo above shows an evening view taken from the lamp room of the Longstone Lighthouse, showing the site of the famous Grace Darling rescue. The small islands in the foreground are Clover Carr and Big Harker, and the larger island with the old lighthouse is Brownsman (closer view on the Staple Island Lighthouse page). On a stormy night in 1838, the steamship Forfarshire ran aground on Big Harker and broke up. Grace and her father rowed out in a small boat and saved the lives of 4 men and a woman who were clinging to the rocks. Of course the sea was not like this at that time.
Visiting this Lighthouse
The Longstone tour includes a 30 minute tour (approx) of the inside of the lighthouse, a cruise around the Farne Islands to view the seabirds and the famous Grey Seal colony, with full commentary en-route. The trip lasts approx 2 hours. Landing/opening of the lighthouse is at the boatman's discretion in line with Health and Safety Regulations, most days from April to October subject to tides and weather they run 4 trips a day.
You get to sail out to this isolated lighthouse in the beautiful Farne Islands, famous for the daring rescue of survivors of the Forfarshire shipwreck by the Lighthouse Keeper and his daughter, William and Grace Darling, in 1838.
Visitors can view Grace's tiny bedroom from where she spotted nine survivors desperately clinging to the rocks. Despite a raging storm, the Darlings launched the lighthouse boat and rescued the survivors, caring for them in the lighthouse for two days until the storm subsided.
Trips out to visit this lighthouse and see
inside are available and are booked with Golden Gate Boat Trips. The guy on
the boat has a key and they operate this tour franchise on a licence from
Trinity House. The can be contacted via telephone on
01665 721 210
(9am to 4.30pm) or 01655 721 819 or
via their website:
FULL DAY TRIPS: They also run some full day trips that allow you to spend part of the day on two islands, including in some combinations Longstone and access to see the inside of the lighthouse. This is most often taken up by those interested in wildlife photography.
Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.
Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.