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Pharology - History of Lighthouses in the British Isles - The Trinity House of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

BR07: The Trinity House of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

In 1536, the Charter which had formed the Corporation of Trinity House at Newcastle allowed for the erection of two towers, one on either side of the Tyne Estuary. By day these towers were intended as leading markers for shipping and at night provided with a coal or wood burning fire. Local records of the Parish of Tynemouth show that this project was completed in 1540, with 'two pence for English ships and fourpence for foreign vessels' being charged for their upkeep. Although these rudimentary lights served a local purpose, they were not considered full navigational lights.

Although the Seamarks Act of 1566 gives the impression that Trinity House of Deptford had taken an active part in establishing the Tynemouth light, this was not the case. In fact, because any new seamark had to be financed by Trinity House, the Brethren usually held back because of the Corporations supposed limited funds. The problems arose in 1540, when Henry VIII appointed Lord Russell as Lord High Admiral. Under the authority of the King, Russell appointed deputies to collect the beacon and buoyage levy, particularly from ships using the River Thames. However, most of the money went into the Crown purse or was used for other projects, leaving Trinity house short of cash. The second major lighthouse in Britain at Tynemouth Castle was thus really the result of pressure by the Mayor and Aldermen of Newcastle, who, in turn, ensured that the management and control of the light was vested with the Earl of Northumberland. Local records show that the Earl was also the Captain of the Castle.