Personal Page Item                            personal page index

Radio Foreland

A copy free feature of the National Trust open day 21st March 2010

Issue: 1 Updated: 27th August 2011

Trinity House Emblem

1. Trinity House Lighthouse emblem

Guarding the busy Dover Straits the South Foreland Lighthouse made a historic & significant contribution to radio broadcasting, read on to find out how ...

St Margaret's Bay

2. Brilliant walking country: St Margaret's-at-Cliffe pictured in May 2009 with its memorial obelisk to the Dover Patrol for its role in the protection of shipping during WW1

More on the Dover Patrol

St Margaret's Bay seafront property

3. Below lies St Margaret's Bay where Noel Coward owned this house, leased to Ian Fleming creator of 'James Bond' pdf here who took his secret agent number 007 from the nearby Deal - London coach service

P&O Pride of Dover

4. Frequent ferries cross the busy sea lanes of the English Channel, above P&O ferry 'The Pride of Dover' makes her approach to the port

South Foreland Lighthouse from St Margaret's

5. The South Foreland Lighthouse approached from St Margaret's Bay

South Foreland Lighthouse from Dover

6. Looks nicer approached from the Dover side on a spring day in 2009

South Foreland Lighthouse

7. For more than 600 years a signal light on this site has warned shipping of the dangers of the nearby Goodwin Sands

The first recorded light dates from 1367 a hermit living in a cave at St Margaret's Bay light beacon fires

Wooden towers were constructed in 1635 with a coal burning metal brazier affixed to the top with a second light made at North Foreland

South Foreland Lighthouse opening times

8. Opening times & prices

The treacherous Goodwin's 3 miles (4km) off the coast stretch are constantly shifting at times 'coughing up' long forgotten wrecks

The banks are around 2 miles (3km) wide & virtually 10 miles (15k) in length, with more than 2000 recorded & before records began numerous unaccounted for along with a great number of near loses

South Foreland Lighthouse lobby

9. Inside the lobby to the Lighthouse, below the stairs leading above to the 'Weights Room' the 'Generator & Battery Room'

South Foreland Lighthouse Oil Cellar

10. Once known as the 'Oil Cellar' this room is below ground which maintains a constant temperature

The present tower dates from 1843 previously coal fires provided beacons, in 1719 glazing was fitted around the brazier

But smoke from burning coal obscured the glass so oil was introduced in 1793

Sperm Whales oil was used initially tried but found too expensive, rape seed oil being used instead until 1858 when the South Foreland became the first Lighthouse to use an electric light powered by even if somewhat unreliable

South Foreland Lighthouse spare window panes

11. Flawless spare glass window panes curved to fit the round shape of the Lantern House outside windows, note some are diamond shaped, others triangular to help form a very strong framework

N.B. The original Lighthouse windows have survived the rigors of it's harsh exposed location & two world wars

These glass panes are stored in the 'Weights Room' a main feature of which is a the cast iron column housing the weights

Converted to a flashing signal in 1904 Lighthouse Keepers hand cranked 110 turns to pull the quarter ton weights to the top of the Lighthouse to power lens rotation

South Foreland Lighthouse Watch Room South Foreland Lighthouse Switch Panel

12. The 'Watch Room' where one of three duty keepers would spend the majority of their shift, the glass fronted cupboard contains memorabilia associated with e Goodwin's & the Lighthouse

13. The electrical switch panel

South Foreland Lighthouse Clockwork Mechanism

14. Clockwork mechanism for lens rotation

South Foreland Lighthouse Lens/Blimp South Foreland Lighthouse Lens/Blimp

15. Combined lens & 'Blimp' (blackout) characteristic sequence of 3 white flashes every 20 seconds

With a 3,500 watt parabolic mounted bulb the 5' light beam is visible for 26 miles on a clear night

16. The heavy cast iron & glass optic assembly sits on a mercury bed for an almost friction free movement

Jacks are used to raise the assembly for periodically cleaning, the mercury is drained & filtered before being returned to the system

Jon Lamb

17. Jon Lamb outside on the top deck showing people around on 'open day'

South Foreland Lighthouse Engine House

18. Constructed in 1872 the engine house now a private dwelling was built between the main & lower light

With 2 coke fired boilers powering 2 steam generators remained in service for 50 years

Another first for South Foreland came in 1922 when it became the first Lighthouse to use mains power

South Foreland Lighthouse Lower Light

19. The Lower Light: Ships would align the top & lower light vertically to avoid the Goodwin Sands, but with the sands constantly shifting by 1904 the lights showed safe passage across the sands

The lower light decommissioned the upper light became a flashing rather than fixed signal

Dover Coastguard, Dover Castle, TV Mast

20. Dover Straits Coastguard Station policing the worlds busiest shipping lanes 2 miles distant

Centre the top of Dover Castle Keep around 4 miles distant & beyond the 798' Dover TV antenna at West Hougham

Dover Harbour

21. Dover Harbour from the top of the Lighthouse

Dover Harbour History

Davy Harness

22. Unusual, these are for quick escape in the event of an explosion or fire, Keepers would feed ropes through the guides to abseil down the outside of the Lighthouse

This 'Davy Harness' ropes were secured to a ring bolt on the Lighthouse, even though never used in anger Keepers were encouraged to practice

Swingate Radar Towers

23. Part of the Home Radar Station Chain the Towers at Swingate were built in the 1930's & remained in MoD service until 1955 & were very much in the front line during WWII

Inernal Stairs South Foreland Lighthouse exterior of tower

24. Jon Lamb descends the stairs

25. Lighthouse outside, the 'Davy Harness' rope guides can be seen to the left

South Foreland Lighthouse from Langdon

26. Sited 374' above the white cliffs of Dover the 69' at 443' it's the highest Lighthouse in the UK

South Foreland Lighthouse East Cottage

27. Both the East & West former Lighthouse Keeper Cottages are available for Holidays

South Foreland Lighthouse West Cottage

28. The Western Cottage

Norfolk Lines Maersk

29. Norfolk Lines 'Maersk'

Norfolk Lines Maersk & P&O Pride of Dover

30. The 'Maersk' inward passes 'The Pride of Dover' outward bound

Langdon Cliffs path sign

31. Path sign to the cliff top walk

South Foreland Lighthouse from Langdon Cliffs

32. The Lighthouse from Langdon Cliffs

Seafrance's Rodin

33. Seafrance 'Rodin' making for Dover

Dover Harbour from cliff edge

34. Dover Harbour from the cliff edge

Rodin entering Dover

35. 'Rodin' makes entry to the port

South Foreland Lower Light South Foreland Lower Light

36 & 37. The Lower Light also constructed in 1843 now in private grounds, said to house a lawnmower a great shame not open to the public

South Foreland from Langdon Cliffs

38. Another view of South Foreland Lighthouse from Langdon Cliffs walk

'Radio Foreland' in the earliest days of experimental broadcasting it was from here that Guglielmo Marconi conducted the first 2 way ship to shore radio message

On Christmas eve 1898 a Morse Code exchange was made between South Foreland Lighthouse & the East Goodwin Lightship

East Goodwin Lightship in 1899

East Goodwin Lightship with Marconi's aerial attached to the mast

The short Marconi broadcast over a distance of 10 miles (16km) was followed on 27th March 1899 by an International wireless transmission from Wimereux in France to the South Foreland Lighthouse 'Greetings from France across the ether'

The highly successful trial was exploited to the full with Marconi demonstrating his wireless directly to Trinity House who soon adopted the system

Marconi 1912 Logo History of the Marconi CompanyMarconi 1912 Logo

The first emergency use of radio was on 11th March 1899 as the 'Elbe' went aground on the Goodwin Sands. The first 'distress' SOS then known as a CQD message came from the East Goodwin Lightship after she'd been hit by the steamer 'RF Matthews' in dense fog

More on Radio from South Foreland

Deal Pier & Ramsgate

39. View east to Deal with its short pier & beyond Ramsgate

Deal beach

40. With no harbour fishing boats are hauled up the beach on runners

Deal beach boats

41. Steel rings with rollers are set in concrete blocks sunk in the seabed at low tide, so that motor winches can haul the vessels in & out of the water

Deal Pier & Pegwell Bay

42. Pegwell Bay & distant Ramsgate from Deal Pier

Deal Pier & Ramsgate

43. Ramsgate

Port Ramsgate

44. Port Ramsgate with a TransEuropa Ferry on its mooring

More detail in BRFM

Deal seafront from Deal Pier

45. Deal's seafront from below its pier

Deal seafront from Deal Pier

46. Deal sea frontage

St Margaret's Bay from Deal Pier

47. St Margaret's Bay from Deal Pier

Deal's Time Bell Tower

48. The famous Time Ball Tower mariners aid

South Foreland Lighthouse leaflet

49. For visits to South Foreland Lighthouse

For more on all National Trust properties

More on the Goodwin Sands

Return to the Personal Page Index


[HOME] (c) Bob Le-Roi 2010