The coast of the North East has been described as one of the most dangerous in the British
The North Sea had for centuries provided a vital line of communication between
Scotland and England, not only for trade but also for the conveyance of passengers, and
shipwrecks had been by and large taken as par for the course. However, with the upsurge
in cargoes being carried from the ports of the North East, there was a corresponding rise
in the number of wrecks, leading to increasingly vitriolic demands for action to be taken,
in the form of better navigational aids.
At one stage it was said that there were an average of 44 wrecks per mile on this coast.
The Newcastle Trinity House received its first royal charter in 1536 and it eventually
took responsibility from Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north to Whitby in the south. It
established buoys and beacons, licensed shipmasters, mates and pilots, advised and
carried out improvements to rivers and ports. In 1584, the Lord High Admiral issued a
proclamation empowering Hull Trinity House also to establish buoys and beacons, and to
collect dues for their maintenance. The modern era of lighthouse building began at the
start of the eighteenth century. In the wake of the Industrial Revolution bigger ships
carried payloads that mariners would at one time have barely dreamed possible. Advances
in structural engineering and new and efficient lighting equipment paved the way for
bigger and more powerful lighthouses to be built, including ones that could stand everything the sea could throw at them.
Today, improvements in maritime navigation and GPS have all helped to make lighthouses redundant. But the public love lighthouses. They are popular with photographers,
painters and even poets, and the whole of Britain and way beyond was inspired by keeper’s
daughter Grace Darling who defied tempestuous seas to rescue survivors from an 1838
shipwreck in the Farne Islands.>
Britain is a great seafaring nation, and lighthouses are an
essential part of its proud national tradition and heritage, on its picturesque yet savage North
East coast, more than anywhere. These magnificent structures, from Berwick-upon-Tweed to
Whitgift, are celebrated in this fascinating book by Robin Jones, with a hugely informative
text and a stunning collection of historic and contemporary images.
Robin Jones graduated in English from Birmingham City University and is a former news editor
at the Birmingham Evening Mail who established Heritage Railway magazine in 1999.
A resident of Baston in Lincolnshire, he spends much of his time exploring and photographing the coast with his wife Jenny.
His previous books for Halsgrove include Lighthouses of the South West, Lighthouses of the
East Coast, Shakespeare’s Warwickshire, Steam’s New Dawn, Spirit of Padstow and Britain’s
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 234 7, hardback, 214x230mm, 144 pages. Published October 2014.