Dungeness Experimental Station

Old Lighthouse and Round Tower, with the Experimental Station site to the left, leading down to the shoreline.

Dungeness Experimental Station

Heading down to the shoreline in front of the Old Lighthouse, a cluster of buildings formed the Experimental Station at Dungeness.

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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.  All the early work for lighthouse automation was carried out at the Experimental Station.

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.

Dungeness Experimental Station, 1969
Photo: John Frost Collection

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.

Fog signal testing

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.

Dungeness Experimental Station
The experimental site in 1994

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.

Fog tannoys

Light testing

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.

Dungeness 1969
Dungeness Experimental Station 1969
Photo: John Frost Collection

Engine tests

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.

Dungeness Experimental Station
The Entrance to the Experimental Station, 1994
Photo: Patrick Tubby

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.

Along with engine testing, round 1979 Trinity House also set up some UHF monitoring equipment using Varne Lightvessel and South Foreland Lighthouse.

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

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