Lightvessels in the United Kingdom

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The history of Lightvessels in the United Kingdom goes back over 250 years. This page also gives a list of lightvessel stations within the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar.



The world's first lightvessel was the result of a business partnership between Robert Hamblin, an impoverished former barber and ship manager from King's Lynn, and David Avery, a projector and inventor.[1] Securing a patent on the technology they had developed, Avery had a lightvessel placed at the Nore in the Thames mouth in 1731, against the wishes of the lighthouse authority Trinity House, who considered the scheme worthless and the two men to be little more than adventurers. The lightvessel proved to be a great success, and Trinity House moved to acquire the patent themselves, granting Avery lease revenues in exchange. A further lightvessel was placed at the Dudgeon station, off the Norfolk coast, in 1736, with others following at Owers (1748) and Newarp (1790). Many others were commissioned during the nineteenth century, especially off England's east coast and the approaches to the Thames, where there were many treacherous shoals.

Following their acquisition of the patent, all English and Welsh lightvessels were maintained by Trinity House, with the exception of the four vessels in the approaches to the River Mersey, which were maintained by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board until 1973, and those in the Humber Estuary, which were the responsibility of the Humber Conservancy Board. In order to act as effective daymarks Trinity House lightvessels were painted red, with the station name in large white letters on the side of the hull, and a system of balls and cones at the masthead for identification. The first revolving light was fitted to the Swin Middle lightvessel in 1837: others used occulting or flashing lights. White lights were preferred for visibility though red and very occasionally green (as with the Mouse lightvessel) were also used.[2]

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