WHITEFORD POINT LIGHTHOUSE
Map Reference SS49NW
Grid Reference SS4437897281
Unitary (Local) Authority Swansea
Old County Glamorgan
Type of Site LIGHTHOUSE
Broad Class Maritime
Period Post Medieval
Site Description Important as the only wave-swept cast-iron tower of a large size left in Britain. It also retains its early copper-sheeted roof and non-ferrous glazing bars. The 13.41m (44ft) high tower stands just above low-water level and is the only wave-swept cast-iron tower of such a size in Britain. At high tide it stands in over 6.1m (20ft) of water. Rising from a circular base about 7.32m (24ft) in diameter, the tower sweeps up in a graceful curve to a diameter of 3.51m (11ft 6ins) at lantern level above the pitched stone apron around its base. It consists of seven rings or courses of heavy cast-iron plates bolted together by means of external flanges, in marked contrast to all other cast-iron towers which have internal flanges presenting a smooth external face. The interior, which is now inaccessible, is said to be partly filled with stone ballast. The iron plates are 1.22m (4ft) high and about 1.22m (4ft) wide near the base but narrow as they ascend in order to facilitate the staggering of the joints. Three substantial horizontal wrought-iron straps cover the lowest joints. The lantern and elegant gallery railings are remarkably refined. From the seventh course of iron plates ten sturdy cast-iron brackets with roundel-decorated spandrels carry the main balcony which, in order to lessen resistance, had a slatted wooden floor. The balcony parapet or balustrade consists of delicate iron balusters linked at the top with trefoils and carried on strong bellied beams 1.98m (6ft 6ins) long. Access to the structure was by means of an external ladder on the east side, which has now been removed. This led to the balcony from which a door led into the lantern room, and from this a ladder gave access to the store room which also served as a somewhat cramped `living' room. Both rooms were lit by two lunettes on the south-west and north-west, at the lower level these are set in the centre of the panels, but the upper ones are formed in the vertical joints. As the eighth course of cast-iron plates forming the low cast-iron wall carrying the lantern is over six feet high it was necessary to provide a second smaller upper balcony for cleaning the outside of the lantern. The lantern is formed of three rows of twenty rectangular panes; as the slender glazing-bars are intact it seems reasonable to suppose that like the attractive ogee-domed top they are of non-ferrous metal. A few sheets of copper survive on the dome and the pretty finial seems complete. There is no visible evidence of any flue a heating stove for the comfort of the keepers. Some undermining of the stone base was noted in the early 1990s.
Event and Historical Information
The tower built in 1865 to mark the shoals of whiteford Point in the Burry Estuary, replacing an earlier piled structure of 1854 of which there are no remains. It seems likely that the station could not have been residential and may have been operated on a system of tidal or daily watches from the mainland. Admiralty Sailing Directions dating to 1884 note 'From Whitford lighthouse, a fixed white light is shown from half-flood to half ebb seaward or westward of the bearing NE 3/4 E; it is elevated 55 feet above high water, and can be seen from a distance of 9 miles. There is a red sector southward of the given bearing to warn vessels of their approach to the Scar. When it is considered dangerous to cross the bar, the drum is hoisted at Whiteford lighthouse during the above time of tide.' The lighthouse was in use in 1914, but discontinued by 1933. It has since been occasionally lit in Summer by local boating interests.
Admiralty; 1884, Sailing Directions for the Bristol Channel, 4th Ed, pg93
Hague, D, 1994, Lighthouses of Wales: Their Architecture and Archaeology, pg49-52
Maritime Officer, RCAHMW, Septemebr 2014.