Place of the lighthouse
The LighthouseDescription LIGHTHOUSE: Alan Stevenson, engineer, James Smith, contractor, dated 1844. Tall circular 7-storey lighthouse/tower with semi-circular, single storey range clasping base. White painted tooled ashlar, polished ashlar dressings, some contrasting painted. Centre entrance in S face; pedimented doorpiece with pulvinated stringcourse and inscription. Further entrances in S facing end gables of single storey range. Singel narrow window in each storey of N face (sea facing); flared corbelled upper stage with cast-iron balustrade and galzed light. KEEPERS' COTTAGES: pair single storey, Egyptian style cottages; 10-bay (2 mirrored 5 bays) frontage with alternating advanced and recessed bays. Tooled ashlar, polished ashlar dressings, all white painted. Entrance or window in advanced bays, each with heavy concave cornice; 4- pane glazing to sash windows; flat roofs with batteries of 2 or 4 square stacks with flared copes. Cottages and lighthouse linked by low coped wall enclosing central court. STEADING: presumably 1844. Long single storey, 2 facing 6- bay range; tooled rubble, tooled ashlar dressings. Off-centre segmental-headed cart bay (now masked by double leaf plank doors); 6 dooways and mural vents; 2 ridge stacks; piended slate roofs. Statement of Special Interest Inscription over main lighthouse entrance reads 'In salutem omnium Northern Lights. Alan Stevenson, LLB, Engineer, James Smith, Contractor, William Middlemiss, Superintendent. MDLCC XL1V'. The lighthouse now with automated light, the original light in Lossiemouth Fisheries Museum. The Covesea Skerries lighthouse, is one of nearly 200 lighthouses that are located all around Scotland’s wild coastline and is built on top of a small headland on the south coast of the Moray Firth at Covesea, near Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland.
Following a storm in the Moray Firth in November 1826 when 16 vessels sunk, applications made for lighthouses at Tarbat Ness, on the opposite coast, and at Covesea Skerries. The Commissioners of Northern Light Houses (the precursor of the NLB) and Trinity House found that a lighthouse at Covesea was unnecessary but this was against public opinion.
After many letters and petitions from local people, a suitable site was chosen and the building of a lighthouse on the Craighead and a beacon on the Halliman Skerries were approved. The 13 meters tall grid iron tower, which can still be seen on the Skerries today, was erected in 1845.The Covesea Skerries Lighthouse was completed in 1846 and was completed at a cost of £ 11,514 (equivalent to £1,005,562 as of 2015). High walls were built around the lighthouse complex as shelter but these caused 'strong whirlwinds' in the courtyard. This interfered with lightkeepers lookout so the walls were lowered in 1907
This coastline, with its partially submerged rocky outcrops, has always been hazardous for vessels. There are tales of the Celtic hermit, Saint Gerardine, who according to the legend walks on the hills with a lantern, to warn seafarers away from the dangerous Covesea and Halliman Skerries. (Halliman Skerries still retain in their name a reference to the holy hermit.)
Covesea Skerries Lighthouse was designed by Alan Stevenson was member of the famous 'Stevensons' family who over a period of 150 years built most of the lighthouses around Scotland’s coast. It was built by James Smith, a building contractor from Inverness. The lighthouse stands 36 meters high and its light had a range of 44 kilometers / 24 nautical miles, flashing red and white every 20 seconds. The lighthouse complex included the two keepers cottages along with workshops and offices on the ground floor.
Alan Stevenson, the architect of the lighthouse, had a facination with Egypt and instilled Egyptian themes in many of his lighthouses. Here at Covesea he added numerous pieces of Egyptian detail in his architecture and along with lighthouse of Ardnamurchan on the West Coast has the best examples of his handwork. Egyptian influences can be seen in the entrance to the tower, the chimneys of the cottages and the arches at the top of the lighthouse tower beneath the balcony.
The original 1845 Fresnel lens was built in the Parisian workshop of Francois Soleil. The light was rotated by a clockwork mechanism with gradually descending weights, providing the energy. The lighthouse keeper must winched these weights up every day and the lighthouse still has the hollow central void which held these weights.
A Principal Lightkeeper, an Assistant and their families lived at Covesea Skerries until the light became automated in 1984. Lightkeeping was a remote, lonely and hard existence. One task overruled everything: the light must burning at maximum intensity throughout the hours of darkness. During long winter nights, the need to constantly check everything and trim the lamp wicks every four hours and that was extremely demanding.
On daytime, and the relentless demands of ‘lightkeeping’ continued as reflectors were polished, oil was replenished and windows cleaned in preparation for the next evening. This work had to be undertaken in partial darkness. If light from the sun hits the lens, the intense heat could damage the burner and possibly going to fire.
The original lens from Covesea Skerries Lighthouse was made from a series of perfectly polished crystal glass lenses set into a brass structure. Called a Fresnel Lens, after its French creator, these intricate constructions were flat on one side and ridged at the other, like the rings of a tree. Each ring is slightly thinner than the next and focuses the light toward the centre, creating a narrow beam of light. This lens is now in the Lossiemouth Fisheries and Community Museum; it is so large that it can be seen on both, the lower and upper floor.
The light was monitored from the Northern Lighthouse Board's offices in Edinburgh. The light was visited on a regular basis by a local person to carry out basic maintenance and cleaning. Once a year the 'Northern Lighthouse Board' technicians would visit the light to carry an yearly inspection.
The light was finally extinguished in 2012 following 166 years of loyal service. the light is replaced by a "North Cardinal" navigational lit buoy fitted with X Band Radar Beacon on the north eastern extremity of the Halliman Skerries on 21 February 2012.
The lighthouse is a Category A Listed Building, deemed to be 'of national importance'. It is now owned by Covesea Lighthouse Community Company who are preserves this iconic building as a heritage and education centre for all.
Following the discontinuation of the light in 2012, the Board no longer had required the ground at Covesea and plans were put in place to sell the Category A Listed property. In July 2012 the Northern Lighthouse Board received notification from The Scottish Government that the Covesea Lighthouse Community Company Limited had registered an interest in the Covesea Skerries property. The Covesea Lighthouse Community Company was formed by the local business association in Lossiemouth to develop the lighthouse site for tourism.
The Covesea Lighthouse Community Company managed to secure a major grant from the Scottish Land Fund and on 4 April 2013 the Northern Lighthouse Board sold the entire lighthouse complex at Covesea Skerries to the community. The plan is now to develop the iconic landmark as a major tourism hub to promote local heritage, the area's unique wildlife and environment and its links to the nearby airbase at RAF Lossiemouth.
|Engineer||: Alan Stevenson (1807-1865)|
|Lat, Lon||: 57°43.447' N, 03°20.326' W|
|Character||: Flashing(4) White/Red every 20 s.|
|Range||: White: 44.4 km / 24 nM|
|: Red: 37 km / 20 NM|
|Elevation||: 49 meters above sealevel|
|Tower||: 36 meters|
|Init. Costs||: £ ?.|
|Econ. Costs*||: £ ?.|
|*) According to: MeasuringWorth.com|
|Last Keepers||: ? - PLK|
|: ? - ALK|
|: ? - ALK|
|Fog horn||: ...|
|Status||: Discontinued 2 March 2012|
|Authority||: Covesea Lighthouse Community|
|Remarks||: Cat.A listed - LB37605 - 26/01/1971|