Isle of Walney Lighthouse is located off the west coast of England on the western end of Morecambe Bay. There have been two lighthouses on the Isle of Walney.
Although Barrow in Furness is now a large port, the lighthouse was built before its development for the aid of navigation into Lancaster.
A Royal Charter was granted in 1788, and the lighthouse was built in 1790 by the Lancaster Quay Commissioners.
In December 1803 the lantern caught fire and the wooden structure burned to the ground.
Following the destruction of the first lighthouse, a second, larger lighthouse was rebuilt in 1804 using local stone.
During the Second World War, one of the two cottages was converted into an officers’ mess as part of the island coastal defences. 170 soldiers established a camp at the lighthouse.
Fourteen prisoners of war were moved into the camp in 1946, carrying out odd jobs around the lighthouse in return for cigarettes and food. The remains of the barracks are still visible.
The lighthouse was extinguished during this time except for guiding allied convoys.
Originally one cottage was built for the first full-time keeper. This was converted into two houses in the late 19th century, when two keepers were employed.
The Swarbrick family was associated with the lighthouse for around a century. Born on 9th July 1919 on Piel Island, Peggy Swarbrick moved to Walney as a small girl from Barrow.
Peggy’s father was appointed Assistant Keeper and later promoted to Principal Keeper. By the end of the war, there were 5 children, so Peggy’s sister Ella was kept on as Assistant Keeper. When her father died, Peggy’s brother in law took over and her sister remained Assistant Keeper.
Peggy took over as Assistant Keeper in 1967, having married now retired engineer Ken Braithwaite. When her brother in law died in 1975 she was promoted to Principal Keeper, becoming the only female Principal Keeper in the country. Mrs Braithwaite was awarded an MBE in 1984.
Peggy retired in 1994 aged 74, moving to Barrow with her husband Ken, and her former assistant Ian Clark took over. He was still in charge when Peggy died in January 1996.
The lighthouse was automated in 2003, replaced by an electric light. It was the last to use a catoptric (reflector) system and was the last manned lighthouse in the country to be automated.
Please note that the area is a nature reserve, and some areas are restricted. Because of these restrictions dogs are not allowed. There is no access to the beach at the southern end of the island.
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