Godrevy Lighthouse

Godrevy Island

Godrevy Lighthouse stands on an island at the entrance to St Ives Bay. The lighthouse marks a reef called the Stones which extends towards St Ives and has claimed many vessels over the years.  Each of the rocks that make up the Stones has a name, and the reef is sometimes referred to as the Nine Maidens.  

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Godrevy means little hut in Cornish, and the island is a haven for sea birds. The island slopes down steeply on one side, and there are actually two islands which are very close together.  

Godrevy rocks
Photo: Patrick Tubby

By the first half of the 19th century, coastal traffic was increasing along the Cornish coast. St Ives was a thriving fishing port, but many vessels were wrecked on the Stones, and often plundered by wreckers.

On 30th November 1854, the steamer Nile foundered on the reef, losing all passengers and crew. Following this disaster, petitions were presented to Trinity House for the erection of a lighthouse.

Godrevy Lighthouse was first lit on 1st March 1859 and was built under the supervision of Trinity House Chief Engineer James Walker. The white octagonal lighthouse is 120ft high and its lantern is typical of Walker’s distinctive design.

Photo: Patrick Tubby

Two lights were exhibited; one flashing and the other a fixed red light, marked the Stones.   The lighthouse had a bell which was used as a fog signal, sounding once every five seconds.

Two lighthouse keepers were originally appointed to work two months on duty, and one month off.

Godrevy Lighthouse was automated in 1934, and a new second-order optic was installed.  The fog bell was removed at the same time.

In 1995 the lighthouse was converted to solar power and in 2012 the light was moved to an adjacent steel structure.

New light tower
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Godrevy Lighthouse has inspired many artists and writers over the years.  Probably the most well-known is To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.  She visited the lighthouse on 12th September 1892 and signed the visitors’ book. Her novel, written in 1927, is actually set around the Isle of Skye, but the lighthouse at Godrevy is said to have been the inspiration.

Godrevy Lighthouse

It also featured in episode 1 of the 9th series of Doc Martin, featuring Martin Clunes, entitled To the Lighthouse.

Boat trips can be taken around the island from St Ives, where there are two pier lighthouses and a Maritime Museum containing lighthouse-related artefacts.

Established: 1859
Engineer: James Walker
Tower Height: 26 metres
Light Character: Fl W R 10 s
Light Range: 8 miles
Elevation: 28 metres
Automated: 1939