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Whiteford Lighthouse

aka Whiteford Point Lighthouse

Gower, Glamorgan

Location Guide

Photo by Martin Edwards

Built in 1865, and remaining in operation until 1937 (another source says 1926).

Thought to be the only remaining sea washed cast iron lighthouse in the British Isles.

Photo by Rainer Boettchers

Photo by Graham Taylor

Whiteford Point Lighthouse is located off the coast at Whiteford Point near Whiteford Sands, on the Gower Peninsula, South Wales.

It has many stories, comes in different sizes and has a vast number or people interested in it, although for much of its life its been a wreck abandoned to the sea. Put in any search and you will find many photos and loads of reports, articles and more, a few I have selected and linked up further down.

Generally its either 44ft or 61ft high, has a single room, is made mostly of metal and still looks surprisingly solid considering the time its been abandoned to the sea. It was last in used in 1987 or 1937 or 1926.

I shall just have to go and investigate it myself, but for now, I have settled on taking a report principally from Wikipedia and then adding extra quotes by some others at the end.

So the main article is from an article on Wikipedia plus some other information from elsewhere.


Whiteford Point Lighthouse

It is an unusual cast-iron lighthouse built in 1865, by the Llanelli Harbour and Burry Navigation Commissioners to mark the shoals of Whiteford Point, replacing an earlier piled structure of 1854, of which nothing remains. It is the only wave-swept cast-iron tower of this size in Britain.

The tower is 44 feet high and stands just above low-water level. The base is about 24 feet in diameter and rises gracefully to a diameter of 11 feet six inches at lantern level. Around the base of the Lighthouse lies a pitched stone apron.

Construction and maintenance
The Lighthouse sits on 88 wooden piles driven into glacial moraine. These are linked horizontally by walling pieces, using 500 cast-iron plants and bolts. These would have formed a box, probably square or octagonal, which would have been excavated and partially filled with concrete. The materials were delivered by boat and, work undertaken during low tide.

The structure of the shell is formed from 105 bent and tapered cast-iron plates, each about 32mm thick, with an upstand flange on each side, and bolted with cast-iron bolts, each weighing 2 lbs. There are eight levels of panel tapering to the sixth 'course'. The first three horizontal joints are covered by iron bands supported on brackets and topped with fillets of concrete.

Throughout the 1870's vertical cracks developed in the plates of the lowest three rings. A local blacksmith, called Mr Powell, made wrought iron straps, which were then bolted to the flanges on each side of the cracked plates. At the time, the cracks were put down to lateral pressures, arising from the settlement of the inner masonry being composed of rough beach stones and 'bad' mortar. By 1884, 150 straps had been fitted. The compaction of the fill may have been compounded by movement (swaying) of the tower, reported in 1884 by the lighthouse keeper to have been 'several inches'. In 1885, the ground around the tower was strengthened with the addition of a concrete skirt 18" deep, bound by a 2" wide iron band, effectively anchoring the skirt to the base of the tower.

The equipment for the Lighthouse is listed in an inventory of 1888 and indicates that provision was made for two lighthouse keepers, although each of the census returns of 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901, name one keeper. The working pattern was two weeks at Whiteford Lighthouse alternating with two weeks at Llanelli Harbour Lighthouse.

The lamp
Three Argand lamps and reflectors were fitted, one towards the Lynch Pool or south channel, one towards Burry Port, and one towards Llanelli. In 1876, the Harbour Master set a fourth lamp to shine west along the north channel. The Admiralty chart of 1887 shows the "Arc of Visibility" of the lights from slightly west of south, through north, to slightly south of east.

The Lighthouse was discontinued in 1920, when responsibility for the light was transferred to Trinity House, who decided to establish a new beacon at Burry Holms. However, after pleas from local yachtsmen, the light was relit in the 1980s. This gave an additional point of reference when navigating the waters between the Gower Peninsula and Burry Port: on dark nights, boat crews often found themselves on top of Whiteford Point before realizing the fact. The cost was 1,300, with 1,000 being funded by the Harbour Commissioners, and the balance by Burry Port Yacht Club. The new light was fully automatic and switched on when daylight faded to a pre-determined level. Two nautical almanacs, published in 1987, Reeds, and Macmillan and Silk Cut, listed the Lighthouse as flashing every five seconds.

After a failure of the solar unit, the light was removed and not replaced. However, the Lighthouse still has navigational value in daylight. The Lighthouse is now owned by Carmarthenshire County Council.

Historical significance
The first known cast-iron British lighthouse was at Swansea Harbour and was built in 1803. The architect was Jernegan, and the plates were cast at the Neath Abbey Ironworks.

Cast-iron was also used for the Maryport Lighthouse, Cumberland, in 1834. In 1836, the lighthouse at the Town Pier, Gravesend, Kent, was built from cast-iron. In 1842, two cast-iron leading lights were erected at Aberdeen, with elegant tapering octagonal towers, and a smooth external face. At Sunderland, another well-known example was built on the pier head in 1856.

The first 'solid' rock or wave-washed cast-iron tower was erected on the exposed Fastnet Rock in 1854, but this cracked and was replaced by a masonry tower in 1904.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the engineer Alexander Gordon designed a number of fine cast-iron towers for colonial waters. These were cast at Pimlico and shipped out to be erected by comparatively unskilled labour. Some still survive in Jamaica and Bermuda, and a cast-iron tower at Tiri-tiri, New Zealand, built in 1920, is one of the last in this material.

Whiteford Lighthouse is the only cast-iron lighthouse in Britain which is wave-washed, although it can be reached on foot at low tide. The remaining handful of lighthouses of this type stand well clear of the water either on harbour piers or reefs.

Whiteford Lighthouse is listed by Cadw as Grade II* as a rare survival of a wave-swept cast-iron lighthouse in British coastal waters, and an important work of cast-iron architecture and nineteenth century lighthouse design and construction. It is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The fact that the first known cast-iron British lighthouse (Swansea Harbour, 1803) and one of the last (Whiteford Point, 1865) are close together geographically is of particular significance in a local context.

Article from Wikipedia information, plus other information from elsewhere.


Additional information

Engineering timelines  says

It is 61ft high and made using eight courses of cast iron plates, tapering markedly. These are bolted through internal and external flanges, and a wrought iron balcony is bracketed onto the 7th course. Wrought iron strengthening bands were added some time after construction.

The light was extinguished in 1921 but in 1982 a solar lamp was installed. The harbours of Burry Port and Llanelli, whose traffic made use of the light, are now largely unused. At low tide, the tower can be reached on foot but the approach is treacherous due to quicksand and unexploded shells.

The-Gower.com says

Off the end of Whiteford Point stands an old lighthouse which is now the only cast iron lighthouse, surrounded by sea in the UK. The approach to the lighthouse takes quite a while and it appears never to get any closer! Don't forget to check the tides before you set off.

Parking is in the little village of Cwm Ivy, it is a 15-20 minute walk through the National Nature Reserve and the sand dunes. There is always some sand, even at high tide. A haven for ornithologists and botanists alike

On a Photo set one photo shows a line of old supports that would have carried a walkway to the lighthouse

On another this feature is explained.

Transportheritage.com says

This is an unusual cast-iron lighthouse built in 1865, by the Llanelli Harbour and Burry Navigation Commissioners to mark the shoals of Whiteford Point, replacing an earlier piled structure of 1854, of which nothing remains. It is the only wave-swept cast-iron tower of this size in Britain. The tower is 44 feet high and stands just above low-water level. The base is about 24 feet in diameter and rises gracefully to a diameter of 11 feet six inches at lantern level. Around the base of the Lighthouse lies a pitched stone apron.

The Lighthouse sits on 88 wooden piles driven into glacial moraine. These are linked horizontally by walling pieces, using 500 cast-iron plants and bolts. These would have formed a box, probably square or octagonal, which would have been excavated and partially filled with concrete. The materials were delivered by boat and, work undertaken during low tide. The structure of the shell is formed from 105 bent and tapered cast-iron plates, each about 32mm thick, with an upstand flange on each side, and bolted with cast-iron bolts, each weighing 2lbs. There are eight levels of panel tapering to the sixth 'course'. The first three horizontal joints are covered by iron bands supported on brackets and topped with fillets of concrete.

Throughout the 1870s vertical cracks developed in the plates of the lowest three rings. A local blacksmith, called Mr Powell, made wrought iron straps, which were then bolted to the flanges on each side of the cracked plates. At the time, the cracks were put down to lateral pressures, arising from the settlement of the inner masonry being composed of rough beach stones and 'bad' mortar. By 1884, 150 straps had been fitted. The compaction of the fill may have been compounded by movement (swaying) of the tower, reported in 1884 by the lighthouse keeper to have been 'several inches'. In 1885, the ground around the tower was strengthened with the addition of a concrete skirt 18" deep, bound by a 2" wide iron band, effectively anchoring the skirt to the base of the tower.

The equipment for the Lighthouse is listed in an inventory of 1888 and indicates that provision was made for two lighthouse keepers, although each of the census returns of 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901, name one keeper. The working pattern was two weeks at Whitford Lighthouse alternating with two weeks at Llanelli Harbour Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse was discontinued in 1920, when responsibility for the light was transferred to Trinity House, who decided to establish a new beacon at Burry Holms. However, after pleas from local yachtsmen, the light was relit in the 1980s. This gave an additional point of reference when navigating the waters between Gower and Burry Port: on dark nights, boat crews often found themselves on top of Whiteford Point before realizing the fact. The cost was 1,300, with 1,000 being funded by the Harbour Commissioners, and the balance by Burry Port Yacht Club. The new light was fully automatic and switched on when daylight faded to a pre-determined level. Two nautical almanacs, published in 1987, Reeds, and Macmillan and Silk Cut, listed the Lighthouse as flashing every five seconds. After a failure of the solar unit, the light was removed and not replaced. However, the Lighthouse still has navigational value in daylight. The Lighthouse is now owned by Carmarthenshire County Council.
[edit]Historical significance

The first known cast-iron British lighthouse was at Swansea Harbour and was built in 1803. The architect was Jernegan, and the plates were cast at the Neath Abbey Ironworks. Cast-iron was also used for Maryport Lighthouse, Cumberland, in 1834. In 1836, the lighthouse at the Town Pier, Gravesend, Kent, was built from cast-iron. In 1842, two cast-iron leading lights were erected at Aberdeen, with elegant tapering octagonal towers, and a smooth external face. At Sunderland, another well-known example was built on the pier head in 1856.

The first 'solid' rock or wave-washed cast-iron tower was erected on the exposed Fastnet Rock in 1854, but this cracked and was replaced by a masonry tower in 1904.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, the engineer Alexander Gordon designed a number of fine cast-iron towers for colonial waters. These were cast at Pimlico and shipped out to be erected by comparatively unskilled labour. Some still survive in Jamaica and Bermuda, and a cast-iron tower at Tiri-tiri, New Zealand, built in 1920, is one of the last in this material.
Whiteford Lighthouse is the only cast-iron lighthouse in Britain which is wave-washed, although it can be reached at foot at low tide. The remaining handful of lighthouses of this type stand well clear of the water either on harbour piers or reefs.

Glamorgan walks says

WHITEFORD LIGHTHOUSE: This cast-iron lighthouse, the only sea-washed cast-iron lighthouse in the UK, was built in 1865 with the increase in trade coming from Llanelli and Burry Port. It marks the South side of the channel to Llanelli harbour and is located just above low-water mark. The heavy cast-iron plates  which make up the seven rings are bolted together with external flanges unlike other cast-iron towers which have them internal. There are copper glazing bars as befits Llanelli's copper-exporting prominence. Despite its presence, a major shipwreck took place nearby in 1868. 18 or 19 vessels had been towed out of Llanelli by steam tugs to proceed by sail. As they rounded Whiteford Point the wind died and a heavy swell lifted the boats up and down until their backs broke on the sands. Within an hour 16 of the boats were total wrecks. It was a quiet night and those ashore were oblivious to the drama at sea but the morning revealed a scene of devastation with broken boats and the bodies of sailors lying all the way from the point to Burry Holms. In 1764, John Wesley, crossed the estuary on horseback (with a guide!) from around this point and over to Pembrey

It was for sale

In 2000, the lighthouse was offered for sale for 1. An agreement is said to have been reached to restore the tower, but apparently this agreement collapsed. Later it was reported to be again for sale for 1, but buyers must prove they have 200,000 available for restoration, originally it was 100,000. The lighthouse has a single room and cannot be lived in.


Lighthouse information Grid

Name:

Whiteford Lighthouse, Gower Peninsula, Glamorgan

Current status:

Not working - ceased operation 1937 or 1926
One report
says that a solar lamp was installed in 1982, another says this unit broke down and was not replaced some some after 1987.

Geographic Position:

 

Grid Reference:

SS443973

Ceremonial County:

Glamorgan

Appearance:

round tapered cast iron tower with lantern and gallery

Map Link:

Multimap.com    Get-a-map

Aerial photo:

Google satellite view.

Other photos:

Geograph    photo    photo    Photo set

Originally built:

1854

Current lighthouse built:

1865

Height of Tower:

44ft 13.5m some sources say 61ft (18.6m)

Height of light above mean sea level:

 

Character of light:

none

Character of fog signal:

none

Range of light:

 

Owned / run by:

Llanelli Millennium Coastal Park

Getting there:

Can only be reached when tide is out
On Whiteford Point, on the south side of the Loughor Estuary opposite Burry Port. Walking to this site requires a long walk across the Whiteford Sands,

The-Gower report above gives a shorter way with a 15-20 minute walk.

Access:

Access to outside, no access inside

Website:

 

Other Useful Websites:

Wiki

BBC report when it was offered for sale

Royal commission on ancient and historical monuments in Wales Indexes to loads of other information, most not on line

ggat.org.uk a lot of historic background

Routes:  
Other Relevant pages:

For more articles, lists and other information see the Lighthouses Section

Lighthouse Map of England and Wales

Featured List of Lighthouses - England and Wales  

List of Minor Lighthouses and Lights - England and Wales

Notes:

 

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By: Keith Park   Section:  Lighthouses section Key:
Page Ref: Whiteford_Lighthouse Topic: Lighthouses Last Updated: 06/2010

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