Calf of Man Lighthouses

Two lighthouses in line
Calf of Man Low Light with Chicken Rock Lighthouse beyond
Photo: Patrick Tubby

There have been three lighthouses on the Calf of Man. The Calf of Man High and Low Lighthouses worked together to mark the offshore Chicken Rock. The newer light was established in 1968 but has since been discontinued.

High and Low Lighthouses

On 7th June 1818, the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses were granted permission through an Act of Parliament to build lighthouses on the Isle of Man.

The Duke of Atholl, owner of the Calf of Man, eventually agreed to allow ten acres of land for the erection of lighthouse buildings. In 1817 work began to build two lighthouses.

High Lighthouse
Calf of Man High Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The Calf of Man High and Low Lighthouses were 560 feet apart and operated as leading lights to mark the Chicken rock, a mile offshore to the south of the Calf.

The High Lighthouse was 60 feet high with a two-storey keepers’ cottage connected by a single-storey service room.

The Calf of Man Low Light was similar in design, with the tower being 50 feet high.

Calf of Man Low Lighthouse
Calf of Man Low Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

In August 1818 one of the supply boats was wrecked on the rocks in the Calf of Man Sounds causing delays to the lighthouse’s construction.

The two lights were completed and exhibited for the first time on 1st February 1819. Both displayed rotating clockwork-driven lights which synchronised to flash at the same time every two minutes.

However, poor weather conditions often obscured the High Light. As a result, the Commissioners decided to build a lighthouse Chicken Rock itself.

Foghorn at the Low Light

Both lighthouses were discontinued in January 1875 when Chicken Rock Lighthouse was completed.

The lighthouse keepers moved to Chicken Rock. The keepers’ cottages on the Calf of Man were retained as a shore base until 1886 when the Shore Station at Port St Mary was used.

Calf of Man Lighthouses
The High and Low Lights with Calf of Man New Light in the centre
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Calf of Man Lighthouse

The new Calf of Man Lighthouse, established in 1968, was the last manned lighthouse built by the Northern Lighthouse Board. It was located between the old High and Low Lighthouses.

Calf of Man New Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Accommodation for the four keepers was in a single-storey building alongside the lighthouse.

In 1972 a helicopter landing pad was added nearby, and in 1994 the automation process began. A fourth-order double catadioptric lens from Barra Head Lighthouse replaced the sealed beam units.

The keepers moved out on 22nd March 1995 when the lighthouse was automated. A keeper based in Port St Mary then carried out maintenance.

Four lighthouses
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The shore station for the lighthouse keepers and their families was located at Port St Mary and was used until automation on 31st March 1995.

A Tyfon compressed air fog signal was initially installed. This was changed to electric emitters in 1994. The fog signal was discontinued on 12th august 2005.

Following the upgrading of Chicken Rock Lighthouse, the Calf of Man Lighthouse was discontinued on 21st June 2007. Its optic was later removed.

Calf of Man
Calf of Man Sound

Thousla Rock

Separating the Calf of Man and the mainland is the Calf of Man Sound. In the middle of this channel can clearly be seen the Thousla Rock Beacon, an eight-sided pillar with an LED lantern on top.

Thousla Beacon
Thousla Rock Beacon
Photo: Patrick Tubby

From the Sound is a cross dedicated to the rescue of the crew of a French vessel en route to Londonderry. 

Thousla Cross
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The Thousla Cross, built in 1907 replaces the original wooden cross and plaque, erected in 1859, which was destroyed in 1905.

The inscription reads: The Thousla Cross to commemorate an act of heroism by men of this parish in their rescue of the crew of the French Schooner Jeane St Charles in 1858.

Calf of Man High LighthouseEstablished: 1819 Discontinued: 1875 Engineer: Robert Stevenson Tower Height: 18 metres Light Character: Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: Automated:
Calf of Man Low LighthouseEstablished: 1819 Discontinued: 1875 Engineer: Robert Stevenson Tower Height: 15 metres Light Character: Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: Automated:
Calf of Man LighthouseEstablished: 1968 Discontinued: 21 June 2007 Engineer: Peter H Hyslop Tower Height: 11 metres Light Character: Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: Automated: 22 March 1995