Click on any of the images to view the same in full size.
Some images are large and may take time rendering, please be patient.
Royal Sovereign Light Tower
Position: 50° 43'.40 N 00° 26'.13 E
What's in a name?
The first mention of the Royal Sovereign was in 1634 when King Charles 1st, told
his Master Shipwright, Phineas Pett, of his resolution to build, "a great new
ship". Within weeks Trinity House had raised objections to what they called, "the
strange and large dimensions" of the proposed new vessel, which was to be 124
feet long in the keel, 46 feet in breadth and have a draught of 22 feet. Despite
all the objections, Charles 1st proceeded, being entirely convinced that Britain could only
recover her lost prestige by having the greatest maritime strength in the world. This
vessel was launched on October 13th 1636 and had a long and successful career as a
flagship of the Navy, including leading the attack against the French Navy in July 1690 in
the Battle of Beachy Head.
She was finally destroyed by accidental fire in Chatham in 1696 in her 60th year.
A second Royal Sovereign
The second Royal Sovereign was the first of the 18th century First Rate Ships built by
Fisher Harding. She showed an increase in size over the earlier vessel having three decks,
a keel length of 174 feet, a beam of 50 feet and carried 50 guns, only HMS Victory exceeded
these dimensions. This was the vessel that saw action at the Battle of Trafalgar on October
21st 1805. She was the command of Vice Admiral Lord Cuthbert Collingwood who led the
leeward line of ships.
Royal Sovereign was the first vessel to open fire in the battle and hit the Santa
causing severe damage.
So brethren, when our founders chose the name 'Royal Sovereign Light' to distinguish the new
Bexhill lodge they handed down a title once borne by great and proud ships of the line that
hold a very special place in British Naval History.
The Predominant Wish
It was in 1875 that a light vessel was established on the Royal Sovereign shoals, 7 miles
from Bexhill and 11 miles from Eastbourne. This vessel was the first to have a flashing
light showing three successive flashes at one-minute intervals. The character was
subsequently changed to three quick flashes every 45 seconds in 1877.
When the light vessel was replaced by the tower in the June of 1971, the main light gave
one flash every 20 seconds of one half second duration. The intensity of the 400-watt light
was equal to two and a half million-candle power and was displayed 112
feet above high water. The range of the light was 28 sea miles.
Should the main lamp fail during service then an automatic lamp-changer will bring a second
lamp into operation.
Crew of the Royal Sovereign
The keepers of the Tower worked a month on and a month off. Personal supplies of food and
clothing were taken each time the crew changed.
Facilities improved as technology improved. Initially, on the lightship, fresh meat was
salted but of course fridge's and freezers were installed in the Light Tower.
Over the years the crew of the Eastbourne Lifeboat delivered extra Christmas 'goodies',
courtesy of friends and supporters. In more recent years the transfer of these was by
helicopter. In 1989 W.Bro. Roy Sydney was allowed to accompany the goods sent following the
traditional collection at the December meeting. This lead to the start of a friendship
with the then keeper, Dave McGovern. Dave was the last keeper of the Tower and transferred
to other stations when automation took place.
"Let there be Light"
When the Royal Sovereign Light Tower was completed in 1971 its final cost was £1.6 million.
Its very special shape must have caught the eye of many thousands of residents and visitors
when they enjoyed a stroll on the surrounding sea fronts. But perhaps the best remembered
feature will be the light that it emitted in fair weather and foul, warning working mariners
of the dangerous Royal Sovereign Shoals.
The original lamp was a 1000 watt, 100 volt lamp giving one flash every 20 seconds with an
intensity of 2,500,000 candelas . This gave a range of 28 miles and was positioned 112 feet
above High Water, whilst the fog signal gave uniform sound radiation and had a range of 5
Prior to automation in Autumn 1994 the lamp had been changed to a 400 watts Electric Metal
Arc giving the same signal and intensity.
Into the 21st Century
Automation of the Royal Sovereign Light Tower was completed in the Autumn of
1994 when it was converted to solar power. Banks of solar panels are mounted in
steel frames at an angle of 65 degrees facing south adjacent to the lantern
tower. The optic was replaced by a synchronised set of lanterns with six lamps.
Each lamp is little bigger than a human index finger and these are arranged on a
plastic mount best described as a 'snowflake' shape. When a bulb fails the
automatic lamp-changer moves the next new bulb into position until bulb number 5
is reached. At this stage an electronic trip message is sent by Vodaphone link
to Harwich from where the Royal Sovereign Light Tower is monitored, this enables
plans to be put in hand for the lamp-changer to be replaced. Since automation
the main light was reduced in range from 28 sea miles to12 sea miles and the
former air horn fog signal was replaced by a SA850 electric fog signal with a
Extracts from Trinity House
This lighthouse was completed in 1971 and replaced a light vessel which had marked the
Royal Sovereign Shoal since 1875. It is of concrete construction and was built in two
sections on the beach at Newhaven. The base and vertical pillar section were floated into
position and sunk on to a levelled area of the sea bed and the upper cabin section and
superstructure were then floated over the pillar section.
The pillar had an inner telescopic section which, when attached to the cabin, was jacked
up 13 metres and locked into position. The underside of the cabin is well above the maximum
wave height and the navigation light is 28 metres above sea level.
The cabin section contained accommodation for the keepers who manned the
lighthouse before its automation in 1994. The flat upper deck of the cabin
section provides a helicopter landing platform. The lighthouse tower, with the
control room, fog signal room and lantern is located at one corner of the main
deck with direct access to the cabin section below. Automation of the Royal
Sovereign Lighthouse was completed in August 1994. The lighthouse was converted
to solar power; banks of solar modules were mounted on a steel frame at an angle
of 65° facing due south, placed adjacent to the lantern tower. The optic was
replaced by a biform synchronised set of lanterns made by Tideland Signals Ltd
each containing a lamp-changer with 6 lamps.
Entire contents copyright ©2001 by Royal Sovereign all rights reserved.