Heading down to the shoreline in front of the Old Lighthouse, a cluster of buildings formed the Experimental Station at Dungeness.
The Experimental Station was set up in 1955 in a building previously used by the Admiralty. It subsequently grew into a comprehensively equipped research facility capable of testing almost any aspects of lighthouse technology.
Trinity House carried out research and development work for all three Lighthouse Authorities: Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board and the Commissioners of Irish Lights.
The experimental station was an essential part of the research and development section of Trinity House.
In a wooden shed on the site, Guglielmo Marconi conducted his radio tests in the 1890s. In 1899 he became the first person to send a message across the English Channel, and he also carried out tests from South Foreland Lighthouse.
At the base’s seaward end, the Fog Signal House contained two large compressed air tanks and various signal generating equipment.
An emitter was hoisted up the gantry. A receiver moved up and down the site on top of a small railway wagon to record information about the signal’s efficiency.
In July 1958, fog signal trials were undertaken, comparing a diaphone siren and Supertyphon air horn to a triple frequency electric fog signal. The current operational lighthouse incorporated this latter system with tannoys cast into the concrete blocks.
The Low Lighthouse and diaphone signal remained in use until 1959. After that time, both were removed to make way for the base for the new tower.
Next to the fog signal house, a room contained equipment for testing lights. A telescope faced inland and to another hut that housed a turntable that could be rotated and tilted. Different lamps were tested on this equipment through a wide range of angles, and each lamp’s efficiency monitored.
A garage was used as another test facility site. Housed within were two diesel engines running continuously to determine their life-span. Valuable information fed back to the manufacturers who incorporated suggestions to produce engines specifically for use in lighthouses.
In another building, engineers tested engines and power sources, including different types of batteries.
Solar panels were put on the roof to check for their suitability, and a station was set up to look at using solar batteries in buoys.
A data logger took hourly readings of all the testing carried out on site.
The Decca Navigator Company also used the site as a research base for testing radars.
Trinity House sold off the Experimental Station in March 1993. The site’s properties have now been converted into private residences, very much with a contemporary theme.
Read about the Dungeness Lighthouses
Read more about visiting Dungeness