Chicken Rock
Chicken Rock lighthouse
photos: ©

Isle of Man

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Update: 29-03-2024

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Place of the lighthouse

The Chicken Rock (Manx: Carrick ny Kirkey) lighthouse, is placed on a cliff at the southernmost end of the Isle of Man. The islolated cliff lies southwest of the island Calf of Man and 4.5 kilometres off the Isle of Man mainland (see also the picture at the end of this page).

Building of the Lighthouse

The need for a lighthouse on Chicken Rock was identified by the problems of fog obscuring the two lights on the nearby Calf of Man. The two lights on the Calf of Man would appear as one from the rocks. The problem, however, was that the higher light on the Calf of Man was often (about 30% of the time) within the fog belt which made its visibility not reliable. These dangerous waters, aside from this problem, were marked by these lighthouses for a period of nearly 60 years (between 1818- 1875).

In 1869, the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners (predecessor of the NLB) approved a recommendation to build a lighthouse, 44-meter high tower, on the Chicken Rock. the work began in 1870, taking almost five years to complete.

The tower, designed by David Lillie Stevenson and Thomas Stevenson, used granite from Dalbeattie in the county Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. The lighthouse is constructed of granite blocks forming a tapered tower, with a lantern room and gallery. The builders prepared and shaped the stone blocks at a base in Port St Mary (mainland Isle of Man) before shipped to the rock. Conditions were difficult as the rock was only above water for about five hours a day. Construction of the lighthouse finished in December 1874, with the first official lighting day taking place on 1 January 1875. The total cost was £64,559.

Keepers from the Calf of Man
YearKeeperTo StationYear

1873T. Dawson(PLK)Chicken Rock1875
H. Mercer Chicken Rock1875
N. McDonald Chicken Rock1875
P.J. Wallace Chicken Rock1875

As a result the two lighthouses on the island Calf of Man fell into disuse. The four keepers from the Calf of Man High and Low Lighthouses were transferred to the Chicken Rock lighthouse, becoming the first four lighthouse keepers. Their accommodation was now within the tower. However, the old Calf of Man keepershouses were used as the keepers’ shore station until 1886.

Chicken Shore station
Chicken Rock Shore station in Port St Mary

When the Commissioners (of the NLB), inspected Chicken Rock lighthouse and the Shore Station on the Calf of Man, recommended that the shore station be removed to Port St Mary, where the boatman and crew lived, who supplied the lighthouse. This decision was partly due to the fact that little wanted to grow on the Calf of Man, given the “legions of rats” that lived on the island.

Note: At the same time as overseeing this project, the Stevenson brothers were also involved in the building of the lighthouse on Dubh Artach, located in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland. The Dubh Artach lighthouse is also a granite tower on a rock.

Warning systems (Light)

In 1875, the first lighting consisted of eight annular lenses. The light was originally fuelled by paraffin with 5 wicks, although the type of fuel used and whether the optics should display a red sector light was a matter of dispute between David and the Northern Lighthouse Board. The optic revolved by clockwork around a paraffin vapour burner once every 4 minutes giving a flash every 30 seconds. The clockwork had to be manually wound every hour. In 1905 an incandescent paraffin vapor burner was installed.

After the fire in 1960, the lighthouse was automated. A 4th order catadioptric lens was fitted burning propane AGA and gave a flashing white light every 5 seconds. In 1990 the lighthouse was equipped with solar panels and a six-way lamp changer. The new lighting was provided by a 35 Watt Halegon lamp. In 1999 the 4th Order lens was removed and transferred to the House of Mannanan museum in Peel on the Isle of Man. In 2007 this was replaced by a 70 Watt CDMT Biform on one gearless pedestal, the range increased from 13 to 20 Nautical Miles. Following this upgrade, the Calf of Man Lighthouse was decommissioned. The emergency lighting of the lighthouse consisted of two Sabik LED350-3 lanterns. These Sabik lights are mounted on the balcony and, as the type number indicates, consist of 3 layers.

Warning system (Fog signals)

The lighthouse was equipped with two bells that gave an acoustic signal in foggy weather, when the light was not visible. The two fog bells sounded every 30 seconds in poor visibility. The bells were replaced in 1890 by a tonite fog signal. In 1911 a much louder fog signal was installed. The old bell was removed to St Catherine’s church in Port Erin and used as the church bell. Following the fire at Chicken Rock, a temporary fog horn was used until 1968 when a permanent foghorn gave two blasts every 60 seconds. The fog signal was discontinued in June 2005. Automation By 1962 the lighthouse was repaired and automated. A fourth-order optic and propane gas burner gave a flashing white light every 5 seconds. The bullseyes, part of the Fresnel lens, from the original 1875 optic, were reused in Bell Rock Lighthouse between 1964-88. By 1968 a new light was established on the Calf of Man. As a result, Chicken Rock Lighthouse was downgraded to minor light status. A radio beacon station was established at Cregneish on the isle of Man in 1938 to provide maintain communication with Chicken Rock Lighthouse. Once it had become a major light again, Chicken Rock Lighthouse was monitored by radio link to Langness Lighthouse. By 2012 it was monitored by satellite link to the Northern Lighthouse Board’s operational centre in Edinbourgh.

Chicken Rock Lighthouse features on an Isle of Man 10p coin.

Fire on the lighthouse (1960)

On the night of 23 December 1960 the lighthouse was seriously damaged internally by fire and during 1961 detailed consideration was given to the problem of the future status of the station and the provision of navigational aids generally in the area. The keepers became trapped at the top of the burning tower. The Port St Mary Lifeboat crew rescued them in very difficult weather conditions.

The fire caused considerable damage to the tower. The repair work required also hastened its automation. In the following two years during its restoration, the Calf of Man Low Light exhibited a temporary light.

The proposal for a major light and fog signal on the Calf Man was included provisionally in the Engineer’s new Works in September 1961 and the Commissioners subsequently agreed that the matter be referred to the Shipowners through this Advisory Committee for consideration. The Secretary of the Committee later reported a substantial majority in favour of the proposal subject to a number of conditions including the addition of a form of automatic fog on the Chicken Rock. The light was automated in 1961.

A fire heavily damaged the interior of the lighthouse on 23 December 1960. The three lighthouse keepers, one of whom suffered burns from the fire, were rescued by the Port St Mary RNLI lifeboat. Although the lighthouse was repaired following the fire, it was not used by any resident keepers again, and was instead automated in 1961.

Fog horn

A fog signal was added about 1890.

History Approval to start work on the building was given in 1868, with work completed in 1874. The first official lighting day was on 1st January 1875. The lighthouse was design by David and Thomas Stevenson. A significant fire occurred in 1960, which resulted in the three keepers having to be rescued by Port St Mary lifeboat. Following the fire, the lighthouse was automated and has remained in this state since. Details MATERIALS: Granite Blocks. Metal framed glass to lantern room. Elements of timber panelling. PLAN: Circular in plan. Lower levels containing coal and water store, oil store and a dry store. Upper levels containing kitchen, provision room, and bedrooms. All below lantern/light room at top of tower. EXTERIOR: The building is formed of a tapering cylindrical tower with a lantern room and gallery at its top. The lighthouse is constructed of granite blocks shipped from Scotland, and shaped in Port St Mary before being transported to the Rock. The external terrace at the top of the tower houses various items of communications equipment including a radar beacon. INTERIOR: The historic interior below the light room was damaged by fire in 1960. Sections of timber panelling to window reveals in domestic accommodation still present. The lighting equipment has been upgraded at various points since construction, most recently in 2007, when the light’s range was increased from 12 to 21 miles.

From the NLB

Lighthouse keepers of the Chicken Rock
Names with brackets (Year) indicates keeper was there - no other information available

YearFrom StationKeeper NameTo StationYear

1875Calf of Man T. Dawson
1875Calf of Man H. Mercer
1875Calf of Man N. McDonald
1875Calf of Man P.J. Wallace Skerryvore 1894
N. McIntosh (1888)
J. Black (1888)
S. Fraser(1888)
A. Hudgeon (1888)
A. Laidlow (1890)
R. MacIntosh (1894)
1894Hoy A. McLeod
1894Douglas Head A. Milne
1896 T. Dawson Turnberry 1907
A. McDonald((1903)
T. Middleman(1906)
A. Rogers (1906)
W. Seddons (1906)
1906 A. Ingram Dunnet Head 1910
1907 J. Simson Girdle Ness 1911
1906 M. Bruce Butt of Lewis 1914
1910 J.H. McLeod Maughold Head 1918
1911Skerryvore J. Gair
W. Quillin (1911)
1914Girdle Ness R. Anderson
R. Laidlow (1913)
A. Bruce
T. Middlemiss (1912)
1916 W. Smith Girdle Ness 1925
1918 D. MacKenzie Butt of Lewis 1920
H.D. McInnes Bressey 1925
1919 J. Hislop Pladda 1926
1920Mull of GallwayJ.T. Gifford Tiumpan Head 1924
1924Dunnet Head J. Cunningham Rhinns of Islay1927
1925Kinnaird Head B. MacKenzie Maughold Head 1930
1926Kinnaird Head W. Emslie
1927Inchkeith J. Petrie
J. Henderson (1929)
1929Cape Wrath C.L. Gilbertson
A. Davidson Douglas Head 1935
1930Barns Ness A. Sim Mull of Kintyre1935
J. Campbell (1930)
1935Copinsay J. Foubister Girdle Ness 1941
A. MacAuley Fair Isle 1937
1937Rhinns of IslayT. Shaw Point of Ayre 1943
J. Fobisher (1938)
J. Kirkpatrick Maughold Head 1938
1938Maughold Head G. Davidson
1941Sumburgh Head T. Rendall
1943Point of Ayre R. Park 1946
1946Tod Head T. Budge Dunnet Head 1948
1946 G. Sulter
1946 D. Galbraith Stoer Head 1953
1953Buchan Ness A. MacEachern
J. Mainland (1949)
N. Squires (1949)
D. Cormack (1949)
1948Langness C. Roberts Inchkeith 1960
J. McGaw (1955)
E. Sayle (1956)
A. McGaw (1956)
T. Kermode (1956)
A. Brown (1956)
A. Comb (1957)
1955Orkneys A. Adams
1960Dunnet Head J.A. Ross
L. Anderson (1960)
1960Copinsay A. Salthouse* Langness
*) Salthouse was posted to provide cooking and cleaning etc services to workers repairing the lighthouse after the fire and automation of the light

Calf of Man Established: 1968 Height of tower: 11 metres Automated: 22nd March 1995 Fog signal was discontinued on 12th august 2005 Discontinued: 21st June 2007 Engineer: Peter H Hyslop (who repaired Chicken Rock)

Chicken Rock Chicken Rock is a rock situated 1 mile south of Calf of Man. The general topography is of an algae covered rock, submerged at high tide. The adjacent island of Calf of Man is one of the areas of outstanding natural beauty and ecological significance for wildlife conservation and public enjoyment operated by Manx Natural Heritage. The main structures at this station consist of: the Lighthouse Tower, Heli-pad and an access path. The tower is approximately 44 metres high, although only 38 metres above MHWS. 1.3.2 -History The “Chicken” Rock was originally marked in 1818 by two Lighthouses on the Calf of Man in a leading line. A sextant enabled the mariner to gauge his actual distance at 1½ miles offshore. Due to their height at over 93 metres the Lighthouses could not be observed in fog or low cloud when most required.

On 13 November 1866, the Board of Trade forwarded a copy of one of the resolutions come to unanimously by the Committee appointed by the Mercantile Service Association of Liverpool to consider the subject of lighting the St George's channel. It was to the effect that "The night light on Calf of Man now so often enveloped in fog and so rendered useless, to be removed to the Chicken Rock which is one mile and a half out and is a rock of considerable size and great danger". This was remitted to David Thomas Stevenson, Engineer to the Commissioners, who agreed in his report on the subject on 22 October 1867. The matter was referred to Trinity House, who wrote on 21 November 1867 to the Board of Trade recommending the proposal.

Trinity House emphasised that "the Calf of Man Lights were not to be depended upon from the well-known prevalence of fog on the Calf even when other high lands are clear", and that, as a result at the distance of 8 miles, they were insufficient to warn vessels of their proximity to Langness. A light on the Chicken Rock would be of great assistant to Mariners navigating East, West and North of the Isle of Man. On 6 April 1868 sanction to proceed was given by the Board of Trade.

However, it was not until 6 June 1873 that the last stone of the tower was laid. On 29 April 1873 the Board of Trade conveyed to Trinity House their statutory sanction to the proposal that "the character of the light now in course of erection as Chicken Rock should be revolving of the natural colour and attain its greatest brilliancy every half a minute and further to the requisite arrangements for throwing from the same lighthouse a red sector of the light to mark the path round Langness Point. These arrangements can be carried out either by fixing an auxiliary condensing apparatus, consisting of small holophotes at the rear of the main apparatus, in the lantern of the Lighthouse or by some other method, which the optical skill of Messrs Stevenson may advise".

There was considerable correspondence and disagreement between D T Stevenson and Trinity House regarding the proposal to show a red arc from Chicken Rock to make a track round Langness Point and to fit ten holophotes in the lightroom. Mr Stevenson argued that the red arc would be useless in hazy weather, that there would be out of superficial reflections, poor ventilation and the revolving plane would be out of centre in the Lightroom. Trinity House refuted these objections and stated difficulties could be overcome by using a larger lantern with main apparatus in centre and by using Calzo Oil instead of paraffin.

Under protest the red arc and auxiliary apparatus were fitted. However, experiments were carried out which confirmed Mr Stevenson's opinions and when the Chicken Rock Light was exhibited for the first time on 1 January 1875, it was without the red auxiliary and with the use of paraffin instead of Calzo. The Commissioners, having inspected Chicken Rock Light and the Shore Station at the Calf of Man in 1875, recommended that the shore station be removed to Port St Mary, where the boatman crew lived. Over and above, nothing could grow in the gardens "for legions of rats".

The proposal for a major light and fog signal on the Calf of Man was included provisionally in the Engineer's new Works in September 1961 and the Commissioners subsequently agreed that the matter be referred to the Shipowners through this Advisory Committee for consideration. The Secretary of the Committee later reported a substantial majority in favour of the proposal subject to a number of conditions including the addition of a form of automatic fog on the Chicken Rock. A temporary electric light was installed at Chicken Rock until the tower was automated in 1961.
Overview Calf of Man
Overview Calf of Man and Chicken Rock

Chicken Rock


Character: Fl W 5s 38m 20M
(fl. 0.5s - ec. 4,5s)

Chicken Rock lighthouse
Lightcharacter of Chicken Rock (click to enlarge)
Engineer: David Lillie Stevenson (1815-1886)
: Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887)

Lat, Lon: 54°02.271' N, 004°50.315' W

Established: January 1, 1875
Character: Flashing White every 5 seconds
Range: 18 NM ~ 33.3 km
Elavation: 38 meter above sealevel
Tower: Granite, 44 meters
Init. Costs: £ 64,559.
Econ. Costs*: £ 108,900.000.
*) According to:

Automated: 1961 (After fire and renovation)
Last Keepers: PLK - J. Ross
: ALK - L. Anderson
: ALK - A. Brown
Fog Signal: Electric Horn - 1 blast ever 60s.
: Discontinued June 2005
RACON: C(- o - o) M

Status: Operational
Authority: Northern Lighthouse Board
Remarks: Battery powered horn
: Manx PBR310 - 07/07/2021

Youtube - Chicken Rock Lighthouse

Story about the Calf of Man lighthouses.

Chicken Rock
Plan of the Chicken Rock Lighthouse

Chicken Rock
Chicken Rock inline with the Calf of Man Lighthouses

Chicken Rock
Chicken Rock Lighthouse

Chicken Rock
Chicken Rock Lighthouse

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