Inchkeith lighthouse
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Place of the lighthouse

The Barn Ness Lighthouse is located 5 km southwest from Dunbar. This lighthouse marks the southern entrance to the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh. The lighthouse is on low rocky ground, close to the sea.

The Lighthouse

Description LIGHTHOUSE: Built by Thomas Smith, engineer; 1803-4. The lighthouse has a short, circular, painted ashlar tower with a lantern resting on a 2-storey base. The top of the lighthouse has a crenellated parapet and string course. The lighthouse has a projecting semicircular bay with an inscription which reads".... lighted on the 14th of September 1804...". The light and upper floors are reached by a wheel stair in the tower. The lighthouse has a series of single storey ancillary buildings, one of which was used as the lighthouse keepers' cottage. The lighthouse and ancillary buildings are surrounded by rubble boundary walls which include a 50 yard stretch of wall (with loop-hole) from 16th century fort (see separate designation record: SM3838). In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: scheduled monument SM3838 (see separate designation record). Statement of Special Interest The building of the lighthouse involved removal of almost all of a fort built by the French after they captured the island from the English in 1549, and partially demolished in 1567. The lighthouse originally had 1 stationary light. In 1815 a heptagon (seven lenses revolving around a fixed burner) was installed, this revolving light was purchased by the Government of Newfoundland and installed on Cape Spear in 1835 after installation in 1834 of a dioptic lantern. In 1889 an octagon (8 lenses) and new machinery were installed. The light is now entirely automated. In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: scheduled monument SM3838 (see separate designation record). Statutory Address revised in 2018. Previously listed as 'INCHKEITH ISLAND, LIGHTHOUSE AND REMAINS OF INCHKEITH FORT AND BOUNDARY WALLS .
Inchkeith (from the Scottish Gaelic: Innis Cheith) is an island in the Firth of Forth, Scotland, administratively part of the Kinghorn parish of the county of Fife. Inchkeith has had a colourful history as a result of its proximity to Edinburgh and strategic location for use as home for a lighthouse and for military purposes defending the Firth of Forth from attack from vesselping, and more recently protecting the upstream Forth Bridge and Rosyth Dockyard. Inchkeith has, by some accounts, been inhabited (intermittently) for almost 1,800 years. Inchkeith is approximately half the size of the Isle of May at the mouth of the Firth, but is higher.

The island lies roughly between Leith and Kinghorn and has in its time been The Seat of Pictish Kings, a base for early Christian Evangelists, an isolation colony for the plague stricken, a medieval fortress, a victim of siege and blockade, a scene of a gory battle, a wild scraggy pasturage and a site for heavy guns during two world wars.

The island is majestically dominated by the lighthouse which was built in 1803, the light being established on 14 September 1804.

Vegetable Oil was first used in Britain as Lighthouse illuminant in Liverpool in 1736 and became more widely used by the close of the eighteenth century with the advent of the argand burner. Oil lamps did not replace coal fires on the Isle of May until 1816 and at Dungeness until 1831.

Mineral oil or paraffin was discovered by James Young in 1846 and first produced commercially in the early 1850's. However, the burners then available for the consumption of vegetable oil were not suitable for use with paraffin, as they required a greater supply of air to the burner. In 1868 Captain Doty devised a mineral oil burner suitable for Lighthouse use. The advantage of mineral oil was for equal rate consumption of fuel, the cost was halved and the luminous intensity increased.

Inchkeith lighthouse

The original fixed light gave way to a revolving beacon in 1815 and in 1835 the first dioptric lantern used in Scotland was installed - a fixed burner revolving round a heptagon. Later an octagonal optic of lenses rotated around an incandescent paraffin lamp, producing a beam of 167,000 candlepower which could be seen in clear visibility for 21 miles. The mechanism for rotating the lantern was of the Grandfather Clock principle. The lantern took four minutes for one revolution. Paraffin oil under pressure forced up a centre column provided the fuel for the light. Near the special mantle it was vaporised and the 55mm burner sent out a light of 167,000 candlepower.

The lens was made up of 8 sections and as the light lined up with each the flash was sent out. Prisms close together but not connected, sent it out horizontally over the water. Surrounding all this were long panes of glass which had to be spotless every evening. During good weather the prisms and mantle were protected by blinds because the sun glinting through the glass and on to the prisms could have had a burning effect.

A fog signal on Inchkeith was established in 1899. It consisted of a horn operated by compressed air giving two blasts of 3.5 seconds duration every 90 seconds. In 1958 a further development took place. A diaphone Fog Signal giving 4 blasts each of 1.5 seconds duration in quick succession every 60 seconds was established on an experimental basis on Inchcolm. It was remotely controlled by Radar telephone from Inchkeith Lighthouse. This was replaced with an electrically operated system controlled by an automatic fog detector in 1986.

The lighthouse was automated in 1986 and the Lightkeepers withdrawn. The present light is an array of lamps, similar to car headlamps which flashes white every 15 seconds for a range of 22 miles, and rotated on a gearless pedestal which only requires a low voltage supply.

The system is powered by banks of nickel cadmium batteries charged on a time cycle of three times per week by one of two (12.5 KVA) markon alternators with TS3 Lister diesel enginees.

The station is monitored by BT Radar link via the PSTN (Public Service Telephone Network) to Headquarters at 84 George Street which is manned 24 hours per day. Technicians can if required from George Street, start up the engines by remote control.

On the 21 June 2013 the operational responsibility and ownervessel of three lighthouses in the Firth of Forth was transferred from the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) to Forth Ports. The lighthouses at Inchkeith, Fidra and Elie Ness have been looked after by the NLB since they were established as early as 1804, however it was considered that as the lights were within the limits of the Forth Ports harbour they qualified for transfer to the Forth Ports under the terms of the Merchant vesselping Act 1995.

The lighthouse building is listed as a building of Architectural/Historic interest.

Inchkeith was visited in 1773 by Boswell and Johnson, Johnson stalking 'like a giant among the luxuriant thistles and nettles,' and in 1817 by Thomas Carlyle who described it as 'prettily savage'. At this time, the island was part of the Granton estates of the Duke of Buccleuch, who was eventually to sell it to the War Office c.1890. Military use of the island came to an end by the mid-1950s and ownervessel passed to the Northern Lighthouse Board. When its lighthouse was automated in 1986 the island was bought by entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer.

Inchkeith lighthouse



Character: Fl W 15s 67m 14M
(fl.0.4s - ec.14.6s)

Inchkeith lighthouse
Lightcharacter of Inchkeith (click to enlarge)

Engineers: Thomas Smith (1752-1815)
: Robert Stevenson (1772-1850)

Lat, Lon: 56°02.013' N, 003°08.173' W

Established: September 14, 1804
Character: Flashing White every 15 secs.
Range: 14 NM ~ 25.9 km
Elevation: 67 meters above sealevel
Tower: 19 meters, 64 steps to the top.
Init. Costs: £ ?.
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to:

Automated: 1986
Last Keepers: D.M. Leslie - PLK
: J.A. Morrice - ALK
: J. Jamieson - ALK
Fog horn: Org. 2 blasts of 3.5 s. every 90 s.
: Replaced in 1958 4 blasts of 1.5 s.
. every 60 s.

Status: Operationel
Authority: 2013 - Forth Ports PLC
Remarks: Candlepower 269.280 cd
: Cat.B listed - LB9707 - 03/08/1971

Inchkeith lighthouse
Inchkeith lighthouse

inchkeith lighthouse
Inchkeith lighthouse

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