Langness Lighthouse is located on a narrow, low-lying peninsula that juts out from Castletown on the Isle of Man’s southeast coast. The peninsula reaches into the Irish Sea, forming two natural refuges for Castletown and Derbyhaven.
The name Langness is said to mean Long Point. Rapid tides run around here, and just off the point is a reef called the Skerrances.
In 1801 engineer Robert Stevenson visited Langness and recommended building a light here.
In 1811 an unlit tower was built in the centre of the peninsula. This became known as the Herring Tower but did not prevent further shipwrecks. Over 40 shipwrecks were recorded after the Herring Tower was built. However, Trinity House rejected all representations for a lighthouse.
In 1832 a ship with Irish migrants was lost. 32 bodies were washed ashore and are buried in a communal grave called the Potato Grave, named after the potato-picking migrants.
In August 1874 experiments were undertaken at the newly completed Chicken Rock Lighthouse, off the Calf of Man. The lighthouse displayed a warning light over Langness with a sector light. However, at 8 miles distant, Chicken Rock proved inadequate for marking Langness.
Finally, in 1877, the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses were granted permission to build Langness Lighthouse.
There were delays in acquiring the land, yet the lighthouse was completed ahead of schedule. It was first lit in December 1880 displaying a white flashing light every 5 seconds. The fog signal initially blasted every 40 seconds, this was later altered to two blasts every 60 seconds. The fog signal was discontinued in 1987.
Two boat landings, one to the south at Dreswick, and one to the north overlooking Castletown ensured sheltered landings.
A nearby church was thought to be haunted for a while when people saw strange lights coming from it. Finally, they realised it was the newly built lighthouse shining through the windows and out the other side!
In 1928 Principal Keeper Mr Gutcher was tragically killed when he got caught in the foghorn’s Crossley engine’s flywheel.
There was a further disaster on 12th December 1933 when a fire broke out in the lantern, destroying the lamps. Following the fire, the lighting apparatus was upgraded, and in October 1937 a new optic mounted on a mercury float was installed. The character of the light was altered to one flash every 10 seconds. It was the first to use Charles Stevenson’s reflecting mirrors. This is now part of the collection of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses.
In 1994, with a reduction in the light range, the lighthouse’s status was regraded to a minor light.
The station became the last of the Isle of Man lights to be automated in 1996.
Following automation, the cottages and most of the outbuildings were sold off privately.
The Herring Tower is a short walk from the lighthouse.