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St Ann's Head Lighthouse

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Map ReferenceSM80SW
Grid ReferenceSM8069802801
Unitary (Local) AuthorityPembrokeshire
Old CountyPembrokeshire
This location is important as the probable site of a medieval lighthouse, the first built in Wales. Identifying the precise location is problematic as the tower was removed to prevent confusion for mariners. Some information can be gleaned from the drawings and watercolours made by John (Warwick) Smith, late in the 1790s, and by Charles Norris of Tenby who was painting early in the nineteenth century.

Event and Historical Information
In 1485, when Henry Tudor landed here on his way to Bosworth Field, there is a tradition that after he was crowned he erected a chapel to commemorate the landing. This may have been the now disappeared chapel of St Ann's. George Owen in the late sixteenth century, giving details of making a landfall, stressed the importance of the tower of St Ann's Chapel as a landmark. He described the chapel as being `decayed' with a round tower about 20ft (6.1m) high resembling a windmill or pigeon house, but he makes no mention of a light. The first reference to a light appears in 1662 when Trinity House was granted permission to erect a light;
no details were given, but it seems most likely that use was made of the existing tower. Two Dutch charts published in 1663 by Gerard and Johannes van Keulan show one light on the small-scale chart, but two lights are shown on their larger scale chart, with one of these labelled `Old Light Tower'. Captain Greenville Collins in his Coasting Pilot of 1693 includes two similar charts, but in this case the larger scale version only marks one tower. The first satisfactory evidence of a structure built and used as a lighthouse being built and used is in 1713 when, in answer to a petition, Joseph Allen, the local landowner at Dale, was granted a ninety-nine year lease to erect a lighthouse and to levy dues, providing that `out of the profits thereof' he should pay what `he thought reasonable towards the relief of the poor depending on the Corporation'. Mention is made then of only one tower, although later in the century there were two. It is possible that these were the medieval tower and that the second was a new construction, later to become the high light. It would appear that the two coal lights were a success, both in marking the entrance from the west and, perhaps more importantly, in giving a safe lead in from the south. When the two towers were in line ships would be sure of passing to the west of the Toe and Crow Rocks which lie about a mile off Linney Head six miles to the south-south-east. However towards the end of the eighteenth century they were said to have become unsatisfactory, and Captain Huddart was called in to survey the site and make recommendations. In 1798 John H. Allen made an application for an advance of £500 on account of the £2000 which Trinity House had agreed to make available. In May 1800 it was reported that the alterations and improvements had been completed. Three months later Mr. Allen reported that the works had cost £600 more than the estimated sum, and that this was due to the `great advances in the prices of labour and materials' but also because it had been found necessary to take down and rebuild both towers instead of one. Captain Huddart went to inspect the work in the same year and was in general satisfied. However the south lighthouse was placed somewhat to the eastward of the site he had recommended, but as this could not lead ships nearer to any danger than some 510m (560yds) when the lights were lined up by shipping, he thought that it was not material. It seems clear that Mr. Allen did not complete the work of demolition of the two older structures (St Anns chapel tower and the two dating to the 1700s). After an inspection of the site in 1813 it was reported that these two old lighthouses were still standing and, as there were so many objects on the point liable to cause confusion in hazy weather, it was recommended that they should be taken down and the old cinder heaps levelled. Recent aerial photographs taken by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust do show the trace of a building aligned east-west on the headland which may represent the remains of the chapel and its tower.

Sources include:
Admiralty; 1884, Sailing Directions for the Bristol Channel, 4th Ed, pg55
Hague, D, 1994, Lighthouses of Wales: Their Architecture and Archaeology, pg49-52
G. Owen, The Description of Pembrokeshire, ed. H. Owen, Vol.11., p. 551.
Trinity House Court Minutes, 1661-65.
Whormby, J, An Account of the Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strand... (1746; London, 1861).
Trinity House Court Minutes, 21 May 1713.Ibid., 6 December 1798.Ibid., 1 May 1800.Ibid., 7 August 1800.Ibid., 26 June 1800. Ibid., 6 May 1813.Ibid., 7 May 1844.
Royal Commission Report on Lights, Buoys & Beacons, 1861, pg101

Maritime Officer, RCAHMW, September 2014.