Mumbles Lighthouse is located on the outer of two small tidal islands off Mumbles Head. Access to the island is cut off at high water.
The headland marks Swansea Bay’s entrance and presents a hazard to vessels seeking shelter in the bay. The lighthouse warns vessels of the Mixon Shoal, half a mile to the south of Mumbles Head.
Mumbles Lighthouse was the last coal-fired lighthouse to be built in Britain, and its design remains mostly original.
In December 1791 the Swansea Harbour Trustees were granted permission to build and levy dues on passing vessels.
Construction began on Mumbles Lighthouse in July 1792. However, the building was so poor that it had collapsed and work had to start again by October of the same year.
The following year, in 1793, local Swansea architect William Jernegan submitted new plans. Work began again from scratch, and the lighthouse was completed by 1794.
Mumbles Lighthouse is an unusual design, with two octagonal towers, one set within the other to form tiers, so that coal fires could be lit on each level. An inner doorway leads to the central octagon from where coal was hoisted up to both fires.
Running two coal lights proved expensive to run. Low clouds often obscured the fires. So an oil light was installed, enclosed in a cast-iron lantern in 1798. Three Argand lamps with reflectors were mounted on a revolving base.
Under an Act of 1834, the lighthouse came under the management of Trinity House. Further alterations were made in 1880 and 1905 when a new occulting light was installed, replacing the previous fixed light. This may have been when a ten-sided lantern was fitted.
The lighthouse was solarised in 1995. In 2017 the lighthouse received LED lanterns and upgraded solar panels.
The War Department built the Battery surrounding the lighthouse in 1860. Mumbles Battery is one of many Palmerston Forts built to defend against a French invasion along the coast.
In 1970 the old 1798 lamp support was removed and presented to the Royal institution in South Wales, and a new optic from Chance Brothers was installed.
The optic was removed in the 1970s when a new optic was fitted with new railings. A new, smaller lantern was added in 1987. The former optic is on display at Swansea Museum.