The rugged peninsula of Start Point, with the lighthouse perched on the end, is an iconic image of Start Bay. But what was it like to live and work in this isolated place?
“In a good south-west gale you could be blown off your feet coming across that yard. But I loved it here.” Gordon Partridge, Start Point lighthouse keeper, from 1975.
You can see for yourself and from the aerial photograph that Start Point would be a challenging area for passing ships. Suggestions for a lighthouse here were made as early as 1542 but ruled out in a time of conflict, because it might help enemy ships! Increases in shipping brought more even shipwrecks. Recognising the dangers, the Admiralty applied for a lighthouse here in 1827. It took 40 men two years to build the 92 foot (28 metre) tall tower, at a cost of £5892 (just over 4 million pounds today). In 1836 it flashed its warning for the first time.
The lamp, originally oil, could be seen 21 miles out to sea. Powered by electricity since 1959, it flashes three times every ten seconds with a range of 25 nautical miles. There is also a fixed red light over the Skerries Bank. When needed a foghorn booms out to sea once every minute.
Lighthouse keepers and their families lived in the tower until houses were built for them at its base. The inhabitants grew vegetables, kept pigs and chickens and collected seagull eggs from nearby cliffs. Extra supplies came in by sea until the roads were improved after the First World War. Before then the remoteness of the lighthouse made it an unpopular posting with the keepers’ wives. The nearest shop was in Hallsands and could only be reached by walking along the coast path and the children had to walk four miles to school in Huccombe. The lighthouse was automated in 1993 and is now monitored and controlled from the Trinity House Control Centre at Harwich in Essex. You can find out more about how the keepers lived and worked in the lighthouse on a guided tour. The lighthouse is open from Easter to October.