Heritage Locations

Trevose Head Lighthouse

Set 45 m above the sea, this lighthouse of 1847 is open to visitors.


Period of construction:
1800 - 1849

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:


Trevose Head, Padstow, North Cornwall PL28 8JB

PL28 8JB

Nearest Town:

Heritage Centre:

A light structure was proposed in the area in 1809, as a guide for shipping using the Bristol Channel, because the only nearby lights at the time were the Longships and Lundy lighthouses. Trinity House considered the matter in 1813 and 1832, and eventually a lighthouse was constructed for it in 1847 by Thomas and Jacob Olver of Falmouth.

The light in use today is one of a pair originally constructed here - a higher light and a lower. Pairs of fixed lights helped ships get their positions more accurately. It is the 27 m (89 ft) tall higher light that remains in use - a white-painted cylindrical stone tower with gallery. Nearby are dwellings for keepers. Operations began at the end of 1847 with a crew of two men. The two original lights were oil lamps, backed with reflectors. The higher light was in the same position as the present lantern - 62 m (203 ft) above high water level. It was visible for 31km. The lower light was 15 m (49 ft) to seaward of the higher one, 39 m (128 ft) above high water level and visible for 26 km (16 miles).

After refurbishment work in 1882, use of the lower light was discontinued and the higher light was replaced with a single occulting white lamp. There were three keepers at this time. Further work was undertaken in 1911 and 1912 to modernise the keepers' houses and construct a fog signal house - surprisingly, the lighthouse had no fog signal at the very beginning, considering how much this coast is affected by sea mist. In August 1912, the lantern was changed to a flashing red light using a 920 mm first order catadioptric lens with three symmetrical panels.

In February 1913, a new fog signal became available. It was developed by Lord Rayleigh, scientific adviser to Trinity House. Shaped like a rectangular trumpet 11 m (36 ft) long, with an aperture 5.5 m (18 ft) wide by 0.6 m (2 ft) high, it was designed to give a wide horizontal spread of sound.

Sometime around 1920, a Hood high power vaporised oil burner with autoform mantel was installed in the lantern, which produced a red flash of 0.3 seconds duration and 194,200 candela intensity, once every 5 seconds. This increased the light's visible range to a nominal 40 km (25 miles). The motive power for the 3.7 tonne lens came from a clockwork motor driven by weights.

In 1963, the Rayleigh fog signal was replaced with a Supertyphon signal with eight horns. In 1974, the lighthouse was converted to electric power. The lantern now flashed red every 5 seconds and had a range of 40 km (25 miles).

Automation came in 1995 and the crew left at the end of that year. Telemetry was installed to enable remote control. The existing lantern (1912) has been kept, although the rotational speed has been slowed down. The light now shines white and the lamp has been changed to 35W halide in a two-position lamp changer. This has an intensity of 89,900 candela and a range of 37 km (23 miles). The lighting and extinguishing of the lamp is controlled by a photocell attached to the lantern murette. A new emergency light has been mounted on the gallery handrail and it has a range of 19 km (11.8 miles). A new electric omni-directional fog signal controlled by a fog detector was installed to replace the old air fog signal. When operating, it gives two blasts every 30 seconds. 


Bowen, J.P., British Lighthouses, British Council, ASIN: B001A8HS24 (1947)

Denton, A. & Leach, Nicholas, Lighthouses of England and Wales: A Complete Guide, Landmark Publishing, ISBN-10: 1843063190 (2007)

Hague, Douglas and Christie, Rosemary, Lighthouses, Their Architecture, History and Archaeology, Gomer Press, ISBN-0850883245(1975)

Naish, John, Seamarks, Their History and Development Adlard Coles Nautical, ISBN-10: 0540073091 (1985)

Nicholson, Christopher, Rock lighthouses of Britain; The end of an era?, Whittles Publishing, ISBN 1870325419. (1995)

Payton, Charles, Lighthouses: Towers of the Sea, National Trust Books, ISBN-10: 1905400128 (2006)

The Sailors' Magazine, "New Lighthouse on Trevose Head", December 1847 Issue (1847)

Woodman, Richard & Wilson, Jane, The Lighthouses of Trinity House, ISBN 1 904050 00 X (2002) 

Opening Times:
The lighthouse is open to the public on weekdays.

How To Find:
By road: A turning northward off B3276 west of Padstow leads to the lighthouse.


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