Objects | Engineering


Souter Lighthouse’s Optic, 1914

Souter Lighthouse, National Trust, Tyne and Wear

Maritime, Firsts

1900 – 1945

Commissioned in 1871, Souter was the world’s first purpose-built lighthouse to use the new technology of electricity.

Its role was to warn ships away from the dangerous rocks between the rivers Tyne and Wear.

In 1914 Souter was upgraded to use burning oil as its light source. This massive 4.5 ton optic was installed as part of this refit. Amongst the largest type of lighthouse optic, its technical precision enabled the best use of light which shone through the lenses, and was deflected by the prisms. The beacon was lit – and the optic turned – from dusk ‘til dawn each night from 1914 to November 1988, when Souter was decommissioned.

However, the optic still works, and is turned, and the light lit, for heritage value, maintenance and fun! The optic is at the top of Souter’s tower, 75 feet above the ground, 150 feet above sea level, up a climb of 76 steps.

Made for Trinity House by Chance Brothers of Smethwick, near Birmingham; installed at Souter in 1914.

On display at Souter Lighthouse, National Trust

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