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Architecture & vessels

Lighthouse

Built in 1864

Open to visitors every Saturday and Sunday: April to September 11am- 5pm, October to March 11am- 4pm. Free entry. Please note: the Lighthouse will be closed on the 3rd, 10th and 11th of October 2020.

Trinity Buoy Wharf is a home to the iconic Experimental Lighthouse- London’s only remaining example- built in 1864. The Lighthouse was never used to aid navigation on the Thames, but to experiment and develop lighting equipment for the Trinity House network of lighthouses, lightships and buoys. It was the place where the scientist Michael Faraday conducted his optical experiments, and was also a vital resource for the training of lighthouse personnel.

Left: Trinity Buoy Wharf Lighthouse 1920, right: Trinity Buoy Wharf Lighthouse 2020

Originally, there were two lighthouses at Trinity Buoy Wharf. The original one on the left was built in 1854 but demolished in the late 1920s.

All coastal lighthouses were built to help ships navigate treacherous seaways, but this one on the Thames was different. This was an experimental lighthouse, where the Trinity House Corporation developed and tested their maritime lighting equipment in the early days of electricity.

The lights were shone across the Thames to Shooters Hill, where observations were taken and their performance was measured. In the early to mid-twentieth century the lighthouse was also used to train lighthouse keepers.

Lighthouse Keepers training at Trinity Buoy Wharf

It was in the Experimental Lighthouse that one of history’s most eminent scientists, Michael Faraday, worked as Trinity House’s Scientific Adviser. In the 1840’s he developed the lenses used in maritime lighting, and invented a chimney which solved the problem of condensation from oil lamps seriously reducing the light they produced.

Michael Faraday

Now in its retirement the Lighthouse has a new life as a iconic visitor attraction. It is also a home to the Longplayer, a one thousand year long musical composition you can read about here.

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