Lizard Lighthouse, Cornwall

Lizard Point marks the most southerly tip of mainland Britain, and its hazardous rocks have claimed many ships through the centuries. Lighthouses have existed in Britain since Roman times, but the first beacon to be erected at Lizard Point was not until 1619. Sir John Killigrew received the first patent to build the beacon and, although not a particularly wealthy man, he funded the venture from his own pocket.

Despite its immediate success and benefit to shipping, maintenance to Lizard Lighthouse proved problematical, and eventually James I finally agreed to levy a charge of one halfpenny per ton to all ships passing the light. This action caused such an uproar in the shipping community that the patent was withdrawn and the beacon demolished. Over a century passed before Trinity House again supported an attempt to construct another light.

Thomas Fonnereau finally obtained a patent for the construction of a new Lizard Lighhouse, which was completed in 1751. More elaborate than the original beacon, the replacement lighthouse consisted of two towers, each containing a light, and a keeper's cottage situated inbetween. Trinity House assumed full responsibility for the Lizard Lighthouse in 1771, and in 1812 structural alterations were undertaken which left the Lizard Lighthouse much as it can be seen today. Electrified in 1924, and fully automated in 1998, Lizard Lighthouse is now one of six reference stations operating around the coast of Britain fitted with the differential global positioning system.

The height of the light above mean high water is 231ft (70m) and contains a 400 watt metal hallied lamp. The lens is a second order 28 inches (700mm) rotating caladioptric which, in conjunction with the lamp, gives a white flash every three seconds and can be seen from a distance of up to 25 sea miles. Although the fog warning signal was electrified in 1998, the previous compressed air signal was preserved and remains the last operational example in Britain.

Lizard Lighthouse is now accessible to the public, and visitors are able to ascend the light tower (offering some breathtaking views), as well as being able to explore preserved engines in the engine room.

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