Glimpse history through old images of Dungeness, on the coast of Kent, England.
The Dungeness Lighthouse
In 1958, British Pathe recorded the lighthouse being maintained by the lighthouse keeper. Then they visited the factory making lighthouse parts at Crawley in West Sussex.
The Dungeness Lighthouse was opened by HRM Prince of Wales in 1904, and was the second to be built on the shingle peninsula. It was decommisioned in 1960 in the same era the nuclear power station opened and a new modern lighthouse was built. Over time the tides move the shingle, and the sea had moved further away, so a new lighthouse was needed.
Luckily that meant the lighthouse seen in this footage became a tourist attraction, and is protected by a Grade II listing on the building.
Lighthouse Story (1958) – British Pathé on YouTube
Female Lightboat Launchers
Originally broadcast 5 February, 1970, this footage captured a Dungeness tradition which had lasted several generations. Women were the lifeboat launchers, paid a pound for the first 2 hours of an emergency shift, and 7 shillings and 6 pence per hour after that.
We see 48 year old Doris Tart jump on her bicycle, ride up to the shingle beach, and help a group of women drag heavy timbers into place. It took an average of 7 minutes to get the timbers into place, allowing the lifeboat to be released down into the sea.
Then the women would sit in a wooden hut and wait for the lifeboat to return. Joan and Betty also speak to the camera as they wait.
As we learn from one of the lifeboat crew, the men would prefer men doing the launch job, but there aren’t enough men around when the fishing boats are out at sea.
The lifeboat returns, and the women are out to get the boat and timbers back into storage.
1970: Lady LIFEBOAT LAUNCHERS of DUNGENESS | Nationwide | World of Work | BBC Archive – BBC Archive on YouTube
Extract from “Report of the … and … Meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science” Volume 56, by the British Association for the Advancement of Science
At the South Foreland High Lighthouse , on December 8 , 1858 , the first im
portant application of the electric are light , as a rival to oil and gas for coast light
ing , was made with a pair of Holmes ‘ machines , and thus were steel magnets made
to serve not only , as in the mariner’s compass , to guide him on his path , but also
to warn him of danger . In 1859 the experimental trials at the South Foreland
were discontinued , but they were sufficiently encouraging to lead to the permanent
installation of the electric light at Dungeness Lighthouse in 1862 .
In 1863 the
electric arc light was adopted by the French lighthouse authorities at Cape La Hêve.
In 1871 , after practical trials with a new alternating current machine of
Holmes , two of such machines were supplied to a new lighthouse on Souter Point ,
coast of Durham , and in the following year the electric are light , with these
machines , was established in both the High and Low Lighthouses at the South
Foreland , where it still shines successfully .
The early experience with the electric
light at Dungeness was far from encouraging . Frequent extinctions of the light
occurred from various causes connected with the machinery and apparatus , and the
oil light had , at such times , to be substituted . As no advantage can counterbalance
the want of certainty in signals for the guidance of the mariner , no further step in
the development of the electric light was taken by the Trinity House until the
latter part of 1866 , when favourable reports were received from the French light
house authorities of the working of the Alliance Company’s system at the two
lighthouses of Cape La Hêve .
Complaints were also received from mariners , in
the locality of Dungeness , of the dazzling effect on the eyes when navigating , as
they are there frequently required to do , close inshore , thus being prevented from
rightly judging their distance from this low and dangerous point . Therefore , in
1874 , the electrice light was removed from Dungeness , and a powerful oil light sub
In 1877 the electric arc light was installed at the Lizard Lighthouses
on the south coast of Cornwall , and arrangements are now being made for
establishing it at St. Catherine’s Lighthouse , Isle of Wight , and at the High Tower ,
on the Isle of May , Frith of Forth . I have mentioned that the first machines of
Holmes at the South Foreland were direct current , the machines provided by him
for Dungeness being also of the same type . The French lighthouse authorities ,
however , adopted for their lighthouses at Cape La Hêve the Alliance ‘ Alternating
Current Magneto – Electric Machines , and , in consequence of the less wear and tear
of these machines with greater reliability through their having no commutator ,
Holmes was required to supply alternating current machines for Souter Point and
the South Foreland . Those machines have been running at these stations fourteen
years and fifteen years respectively . They have during this period required only
a very trifling amount of repair , and are still in excellent order , but the time must
soon arrive for replacing them by more powerful machines .