The Corporation of Trinity House was originally a voluntary association of shipmen and mariners, and was granted a charter by Henry VIII in 1514 as "The Guild or Fraternity of the most glorious and undividable Trinity of St Clement". It received its coat of arms in 1573 and with it the authority to erect and maintain beacons, marks and signs of the sea, "for the better navigation of the coasts of England". Since then it has been the famous company responsible for buoys, lighthouses and lightships and pioneering the techniques involved.

Trinity House had its headquarters in a fine building in the City designed by the great James Wyatt in 1798, and established Trinity Buoy Wharf as its Thames-side workshop in 1803. At first wooden buoys and sea marks were made and stored here, and a mooring was provided for the Trinity House yacht, which was used to lay the buoys and collect them for maintenance and repair. The river wall along the Lea was rebuilt in brick in 1822, making this the oldest surviving structure on the site.

Many new buildings were constructed during the Victorian period, and a number still survive of which the earliest, the Electrician's Building, was built in 1836. It was designed by the then Chief Engineer of Trinity House, James Walker, originally for the storage of oil. He rebuilt the remainder of the river wall in 1852, and the first of two lighthouses here in 1854. On his death in 1862 he was succeeded by James Douglass who designed the lighthouse that still stands todayas London's only remaining Lighthouse.

The iconic Experimental Lighthouse, and its neighbour the Chain and Buoy Store were built by Douglass in 1864 and were in constant use to test maritime lighting equipment and train lighthouse keepers.  

The roof space ajoining the present lighthouse housed the workshop for the famous scientist Michael Faraday.

In 1869, Trinity House set up an engineering establishment at Trinity Buoy Wharf to repair and test the new iron buoys then coming into use. Overcrowding soon became a problem, and in 1875 the works expanded westwards into the neighbouring property, previously Green's Shipyard. By 1910 Trinity Buoy Wharf was a major local employer, with some 150 engineers, platers, riveters, pattern makers, blacksmith, tinsmiths, carpenters, painters, chain testers and labourers working here.

The Wharf continued through the twentieth century to be responsible for supplying and maintaining navigation buoys and lightships between Southwold in Suffolk and Dungeness in Kent. It was modernised and partially rebuilt between 1947 and 1966, and finally closed on 3rd December 1988 when it was purchased by the London Docklands Development Corporation. In 1998 Urban Space Management took the site on a long lease.

Back to all