First Summer Season is a Complete Success

The North Queensferry Heritage Trust is celebrating a successful first season of the Harbour Light Tower being opened to the public and fully operational for the first time in almost one hundred years.
More than 1,000 visitors have descended on North Queensferry over the course of the summer in order to visit this wonderful monument to the remarkable work of the Lighthouse Stevensons. The Light Tower, that has been meticulously restored to its former glory and was officially opened in June 2010 by HRH The Princess Royal, has attracted visitors from all over the United Kingdom and from as far as Australia and New Zealand.

The unique experience of lighting the oil lamp has been enjoyed by many, described by visitors as being “delightful”, “first class”, “spectacular” and “well worth visiting”. All in all, a wonderful response and The Heritage Trust is delighted at such positive feedback from visitors.

The North Queensferry Heritage Trust would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have been involved in the Harbour Light Tower restoration project and also a big thank you to all of our visitors who have made it all truly worth while. Here is to many more successful summer seasons.

The North Queensferry Heritage Trust welcomes visitors to the Light Tower year round and from the beginning of November until the end of March, the Light Tower can be visited by appointment. To make an appointment to visit the Light Tower, contact us by calling 07852 437384 or you can email us at manager@northqueensferrylighttower.com

JUNE 2010.

HRH THE PRINCESS ROYAL RELIGHTS LAMP AFTER 90 YEARS

On the 22nd June 2010, HRH The Princess Royal  relit the lamp of what is believed to be the world’s smallest Light Tower, restored to working order after lying derelict for almost 90 years. Only 21 feet high and built by world-renowned lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson, it ceased operations in 1890 and, apart from a period prior to WWI when it was lit briefly, had subsequently fallen into disrepair.

The Light Tower marks the northern end of the Queensferry Passage, the route across the Forth that brought south and north Scotland together, originally identified by Queen Margaret in the 11thC.

North Queensferry Heritage Trust (NHQT), who have leased the Light Tower from Fife Council on a 21 year lease, undertook the £75,000 restoration project that originally started back in 2007. A charity dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and beauty of North Queensferry and the immediate surroundings, NHQT now plans to open the Light Tower to the public and allow individuals to become Honorary Keepers by lighting the lamp to “Standard Flame Height”.

Speaking after the visit, James Lawson, Chairman of the Trust, said:

“It’s a great honour that HRH The Princess Royal agreed to be the first to relight the flame and be awarded Honorary Keeper status. When we first discussed restoring this tiny but significant piece of maritime history, I am not sure we thought it would take over three years to achieve. But, with the commitment of the community, the companies who carried out the refurbishment and the support from our funders, the Light Tower has been restored to full working order for the first time in around 120 years.

“The Light Tower is believed to be the smallest operational in the world today. I hope that it will become a destination for those with an interest in lighthouses and light towers from around the globe and will put North Queensferry firmly on the tourist map.”

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said:

“The HLF is delighted to have been able to help get this important community landmark shining brightly again. It is a beacon of the rich maritime heritage of the village, a heritage which through this project has been explored and brought to life. Now, as a new visitor attraction, others can share and enjoy the history of what was once a significant trading port.”

HRH The Princess Royal also unveiled a plaque to commemorate her visit and accepted a bound copy of local schoolchildren’s artwork from North Queensferry Primary School pupil Georgia White (age 11),  featuring the Lighthouses around Scotland and the Light Tower.

Later in the visit, at a private reception for those who had been involved in the restoration project, HRH The Princess Royal presented Euan Colston (age 11) with a prize for his winning artwork of the Lighthouse project. James Lawson, Chairman of the Trust, then awarded HRH with a Certificate making her an “Honorary Keeper of the Light Tower”.

The last Royal visit to North Queensferry was by Queen Victoria and Albert in 1842, when they crossed the Queensferry Passage to the Town Pier.

The original harbour light at North Queensferry was designed in 1812 by Robert Stevenson, consultant engineer to the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, and was installed on top of the Signal House on the pier.  It fulfilled the function of a lighthouse but was too high to be effective as a harbour light as it failed to illuminate the pier for those making the regular crossing.

So Stevenson designed a purpose-built tower in 1817, at a total height of 6.5 metres (approx 21 feet), and the original light on the Signal House was transferred to it. This Light Tower, with the flame-driven light, was operational until about 1890 and steadily fell into disrepair thereafter.  The flame was rekindled briefly prior to World War I using acetylene gas as the fuel source but ceased altogether in about 1920.

Although still in a fair state of repair considering its age and weathering, when NQHT finally started the restoration of the Light Tower, repairs to the external stonework was the first priority. Internally, the lime wash and mortar walls had to be totally renewed, including remaking missing stones, which make up the internal flue and air intake to the lamp. 200 years of time, tides and the prevailing winds ensured that decay, to a greater or lesser extent, would almost certainly be present in the cast iron windows and copper roof. But the full extent was only known once the lightroom (the domed area on the top) was safely inside the iron foundry and tests carried out.

The cast iron supports and window frames of the light room showed considerable deterioration and were subsequently replaced using the only original window frame as a template. All the internal light fitments had been removed, many years ago, with the exception of the smoke tube which acted as a flue for the small pipe stove thereby ensuring proper extraction of hot gases from the light itself. The lightroom, which had been removed on 4th February 2009, was reinstated on 19th August 2009 on top of the stone tower which, in the interim period, had been externally re-mortared.

To complete the restoration, the Trust installed a replica light copied from an original held by the National Museum of Scotland. The original Argand lamp, complete with 21 inch diameter parabolic reflector, was adapted by Stevenson to use whale oil as its fuel source. By 1812, this style of light was already installed at Inchkeith and Bell Rock lighthouses.

The North Queensferry Heritage Trust would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those who were involved with the restoration of the Light Tower.

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