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A couple of weekends ago, thinking it was time to catch up with developments at Trinity Bouy Wharf and despite the threatening grey clouds, I set forth to one of the most unusual corners of London. Walking along Orchard Place is a rather surreal experience with old buoys and a Taxi with a tree sticking out of the top. Street Art and Information boards add to the strange mixture of old and new.
Photo Eric Pemberton
Reaching Trinity Bouy Wharf and noticing the door to the Lighthouse was open, I thought it was time to explore inside London’s Lighthouse.
Inside the Lighthouse is the Longplayer installation, which has been running since the 31st December 1999,In addition to the listening post, there are 234 singing bowls, used as a part of the 66-foot-wide orchestral instrument to perform Longplayer Live, are on display. The steel structure, designed by Ingrid Hu, was commissioned to display and store the bowls and was installed in autumn 2012. Each tier of the structure, containing 39 bowls positioned sequentially, corresponds to one of the six concentric rings of the Longplayer Live instrument.
The Lighthouse has an interesting history, in 1864–6, a new chain and buoy store was built whose main feature was an experimental lighthouse tower incorporated into the east wall. This was not the first experimental lantern on the site, in the 1850s a lantern in one of the older storehouses was used for the electric lighting trials carried out under the direction of famous scientist Michael Faraday. In the new Lighthouse, Faraday asked for a ‘chamber’ with a rigid iron floor for examining optical apparatus which was provided.
The brick lighthouse tower is 36ft up to the gallery and 57ft to the top of the lantern. The lanterns were used in 1869 for trials of electric lighting from the eastern side, and the results observed from across the river in Charlton.
After the Second World War, the tower was used in the training of lighthouse keepers. A newspaper report from 1948 shows cadets being trained in all aspects of Lighthouse keeping.
TRAINING CADETS AS LIGHTHOUSE MEN
Despite the arduous duties and the loneliness of the life, lighthouse keeping is popular as a career in Britain, and there is no shortage of applicants. To join the lighthouse service a man must be British, between the ages of 19 and 28 years, must have completed his military service and must be single—he can marry after four years’ service, or when promoted to assistant keeper. Cadets receive their initial training at the Trinity House school for lighthouse men at Blackwall, London, where the following pictures were taken. The remainder of the training period is spent at light stations.
The Lighthouse was a site for Trinity House to test their Lighting equipment and train keepers to carry out the duties if they were looking after the various types of Light stations, The training included cleaning the glass of the lantern to refuelling the Light, maintaining the machinery and sounding a range of different types of fog signal.
A trip to Trinity Buoy Wharf is always worthwhile, but if you would like to look around the Lighthouse it is only open at weekends. Admission is free.
Opening Hours: Open every weekend, 11am – 5pm (winter times, October – March inclusive, 11am – 4pm).