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South Bishop Lighthouse

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Map ReferenceSM62SE
Grid ReferenceSM6513022620
Unitary (Local) AuthorityPembrokeshire
Old CountyPembrokeshire
CommunitySt Davids and the Cathedral Close
PeriodPost Medieval
The tower occupies the summit of a barren lava rock about 244m (800ft) by 122m (400ft) and 30.5m (100ft) high. The 11.3m (37ft) high tower was designed by James Walker. The superintendent of works was W.D. Frazer with George Burrell assisting. The circular tower is built of granite and is a very slightly tapering and capped by a rather feeble corbelled cornice, which has most unusual locally-made iron railings instead of Walker's usual battlemented parapet. The profile of the railings is bellied out in early nineteenth-century style, but the single intermediate horizontal rail has a modern appearance. The fine original iron lantern dated 1838 bears the inscription `WILKINSON, LONG ACRE LONDON 1838', and is the oldest completely unaltered lantern in a working lighthouse in England and Wales. It is 4.28m (14ft) in diameter, the glazed part is 3.05m (10ft) high and retains its original conical roof with ball finial-vent. The glazing is of panes 0.74m (2ft 5ins) high by 0.53m (1ft 9ins) wide and consists of four rows of 24 panes. The upper and lower rows are of flat glass, but the middle two rows have been replaced by curved panes to eliminate false flashes, a minor modification made by the early 1970s when the present Stone Chance lens was fitted. The lantern is carried on a 1.37m (4ft 6ins) iron lower wall, which retains the original brass vent covers; the base of the iron lower wall coincides with the level of the outer gallery which is unusual in being 1.07m (3ft 6ins) above the floor level of the service room. This floor is carried on four original cast-iron beams; the inner gallery has now been extended over the whole lantern, but the outer ring is carried on brackets which although shaped appear to be of steel, and may have replaced the original cast-iron fittings. The service-room was strengthened with rolled-steel joists when a revolving apparatus was fitted, together with a central weight tube extending the full height of the tower. The original Argand lamps were removed in 1858 when the optic from Lundy was installed, although it was reported in 1861 that only the eight central lenses were in use, without upper and lower refractive prisms. This reduced arrangement was lit by a four-burner lamp. The cast-iron beams used to carry both the service-room and the floor over the oil store or cellar are 0.23m (9ins) deep with upper flanges 0.15m (6ins) wide and the lower of 0.1m (4in). The tower is not residential and contains a stone geometric stair, the interior is lit by one round-headed window containing its original sashes. The tower is entered from a wide corridor connecting it with the dwellings at a mezzanine level, from this one stair leads down to the oil store and the other up to the base of the main stair. The entrance into the tower is a wide opening beneath a `Tudor style' arch; the form of this arch is repeated, although plainer, at the dwelling end of the corridor. The two original houses are symmetrically planned and are also built of granite. Modern windows have been fitted to the south-east front, but the old sashes survive on the north. The station has extra buildings within the walled enclosure on the north-west to house compressors and other equipment. The older whitewashed range has a hipped roof. The more modern a flat one. A helicopter landing-pad has recently been provided to the south-west of the tower. There are two landing places on the west and east; the latter only is now used. The paths and steps are lined with massive iron hand-rail posts.

Event and Historical Information:
In George Owen's 1603 Description of Pembrokeshire he described the dangerous nature of these offshore rocks thus: 'A seaboord this Iland Ramsey rangeth in order the Bushop and his clearkes'all ways seene at lowe water who are not w'out some small Quiristers, who shewe not themselves, but at spring tydes, and calme seas'The Bushop and those his clerkes preach deadly doctrine to their winter audience.'
An application to build a light was first made in 1831 by the traders of Cardigan, but it was not successful until June 1834. This lighthouse came into operation in 1839. It was automated in 1983 and is controlled from St Ann's Head.

Hague, D, 1994, Lighthouses of Wales: Their Architecture and Archaeology, pg67-70

Maritime Officer, January 2009.