Black Nore Point

Black Nore Point Lighthouse
Black Nore Point
Current Version Built:
Height (ft):
Sir Thomas Matthews

Black Nore Point Lighthouse is an interesting pre-fabricated lighthouse structure on stilts, built to a design drawn up by Sir Thomas Matthews, the Engineer-in-Chief for Trinity House at the time.

The First of these skeletal lighthouses was built in 1893, the year after Thomas Matthews was appointed as the Engineer-in-Chief to Trinity House – this was across the Severn at East Usk. (The example at East Usk has since been heavily altered) Another very similar light was constructed on Peninnis Head in the isles of Scilly, and there were others at Bamburgh until 1975 and Shornemead until 2004. This particular tower stands on the south bank of the River Severn, near Portishead and is one of the shorter variants of this design.

The metal tower is only 11 meters tall, and tapers inwards up to the gallery. The top half includes a watch-room/storage area with circular porthole windows, whilst the lantern itself is quite a confined space with tessellated triangular glazing. The tower is topped by a domed roof and a very small cupola vent, although this is not the original vent.

The lighthouse was originally built with a gas lamp and was connected to gas mains. The gas was stored in a tank next to the lighthouse, but the light had to be electrified in WWII to allow the light to be turned-off quickly for blackouts, so not to aid enemy navigation.

Black Nore Point is unique for being home to the world’s smallest Biform lens, a setup comprised of 2 optics arranged vertically, which was able to give a greater and more powerful light in reduced visibility. The rotation of these lenses gave the character of two white flashes every 10 seconds, and this was visible for 15 miles.

The lenses were originally driven by a clockwork mechanism, which had to be wound daily to keep the light operating – this was initially done by a member of the Ashford Family, who owned the land the tower was built on. The lighthouse continued to be hand-wound right up to 2000, when an electric motor was installed in the tower.

Trinity House took the decision to discontinue the light from 27 September 2010 and sold it to a local preservation trust for the sum of £1 in 2012. Initially the optics were removed by Trinity House, but were soon reinstated in the tower, albeit without the Mercury that the lenses floated on, so they can not be rotated.

Today the lighthouse is still maintained as a day-mark and is now a Grade II Listed building. Black Nore Point Lighthouse is not usually open to the public, so I would like to say thank the members of the Black Nore Lighthouse Trust for allowing me to have a look inside the tower.