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Trinity House, London (January 2007)
A meeting at Trinity House circa 1808

The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond is the official General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales and other British territorial waters (with the exception of Scotland, the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland). It is responsible for the provision and maintenance of navigational aids such as lighthouses, lightvessels, buoys and maritime radio/satellite communication systems. Trinity House is also the official deep sea pilotage authority providing expert navigators for ships trading in Northern European waters. It is a non-departmental public body.

Master of the Corporation

The Master of the Corporation (now a merely honorary title) is the Duke of Edinburgh. Previous Masters of Trinity House have included the diarist Samuel Pepys and the Duke of Wellington, and Admiral William Penn (father of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvaniamarker). Other prominent individuals in Britain, often connected with commercial shipping or the Admiralty, have been associated with Trinity House, including Winston Churchill, who gained his status as an Elder Brother of Trinity House as a result of his position as First Lord of the Admiralty before and during World War I. Often, especially on naval-related forays during the Second World War, he was seen in Trinity House cap or uniform. Winston Churchill also had a Trinity House vessel (THV) named after him, the THV Winston Churchill.


Trinity House is ruled by a court of thirty-one Elder Brethren, presided over by a Master, at present HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. These are appointed from 300 Younger Brethren who act as advisors and perform other duties as needed. The Younger Brethren are themselves appointed from lay people with maritime experience, mainly naval officers and ships' master but also harbourmasters, pilot, yachtsmen and anyone with useful experience.

Trinity House – headquarters of the Corporation of Trinity House

The present Trinity House, was designed by architect Samuel Wyatt and built in 1796, it has a suite of five state rooms with views over Trinity Square, The Tower of London and The River Thames.


The Corporation came into being in 1514 by Royal Charter granted by Henry VIII. The first Master was Thomas Spert, captain of Henry’s flagship Mary Rosemarker. The name of the guild derives from the church of Holy Trinity and St Clement, which adjoined the king's new dockyard at Deptfordmarker. For many years, Trinity House depots were maintained in Harwichmarker, Great Yarmouthmarker, Penzancemarker, Swanseamarker, East Cowesmarker and on the Thames (at Trinity Buoy Wharfmarker, closed in 1988).

In December 2002 it was announced that the Great Yarmouth, Penzance and East Cowes depots would close, leaving only Harwich and Swansea remaining, plus the two large tenders THV Patricia and THV Galatea.

Operational responsibilities and role of the corporation

Trinity House has three main functions:
  • It is the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, responsible for a range of general aids to navigation, 'signs of the sea', from lighthouses to radar beacons.
  • It is a charitable organisation dedicated to the safety, welfare and training of mariners.
  • It is a Deep Sea Pilotage Authority providing expert navigators for ships trading in Northern European waters.

The Corporation also inspects buoys provided by local harbour authorities.

It no longer provides local pilots for entering ports. Contrary to popular belief Trinity House is not (and never has been) part of HM Coastguard although it does work closely with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Trinity House is financed from “Light Dues” levied on commercial shipping calling at ports in the United Kingdommarker.



Trinity House maintains 69 lighthouses ranging from isolated rock towers like the Eddystonemarker to mainland towers like Southwold lighthousemarker.

All lighthouses have been automated since November 1998, when the UK's last manned lighthouse, North Forelandmarker in Kent, was converted to automatic operation. Lighthouse automation began as far back as 1910 thanks to an ingenious invention of Gustaf Dalén. His sun valve was fitted in a number of lighthouses powered by acetylene gas. The vital component was a black metal rod, which was suspended vertically and connected to the gas supply. As it absorbed the sun's heat, the rod expanded downwards, cutting off the gas during the day.

Automation in the modern context began in the early 1980s, made possible firstly by the construction of lantern top helipads at remote rock lighthouses, to enable the rapid transfer of technicians to a lighthouse in the event of a breakdown - and secondly, by the development of remote control technology which enables all lighthouses and lightvessels to be monitored and controlled from the Trinity House Operations and Planning Centre, in Harwich, Essex.

The other General Lighthouse Authorities in other parts of the British Islesmarker:


Trinity House operates three vessels around the coast of England, Wales and the Channel Islands.
  • THV Patricia (1982) is an 80m Multi Functional Tender. She carries out maintenance work on navigation aids, towing, wreck location and marking. She has a helicopter-landing pad, a 20 tonne main crane and 28 tonne bollard pull and towing winch.
  • THV Alert (2006) is a 39.3 m Rapid Intervention Vessel, able to respond rapidly to maritime incidents on the southeast coast of England. She is capable of buoy handling, wreck marking and towing. Fitted with multibeam and side scan hydrographic surveying capability and DP1 dynamic positioning, Alert can be utilised as a research platform with a large working deck.
  • THV Galatea (2007) is an 84m Multi Functional Tender with a helicopter-landing pad. Fitted with a range of high specification survey equipment and a 30 tonne capacity crane, azimuthing propellers, two 750 kW bow thrusters and DP2 dynamic positioning, Galatea replaced the 1987-built THV Mermaid.


In addition to the Maritime assets, the Corporation of Trinity House also owns two listed estates of predominantly residential buildings in The Borough (London SE1) and Greenwich. The rents from these properties form a substantial part of the corporation's income.


The Ensign of Trinity House is a British Red Ensign defaced with the shield of the coat of arms (a St George's Cross with a sailing ship in each quarter). The Master and Deputy Master each have their own flags.

See also


  2. Trinity House

External links

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