North Foreland Lighthouse stands on top of a chalk headland to warn ships of the treacherous Goodwin Sands seven miles off the coast to the east, and the less infamous Margate Sands to the north. For navigators, it also marks the junction of the Dover Strait and the Thames Estuary.
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A light was first exhibited on the North Foreland in 1499, a swape light consisting of a long pivoted beam with a basket containing an open fire.
The first real lighthouse built on the Foreland was erected in 1636. Built by Sir John Meldrum, the two storey octagonal tower was made of timber, lath and plaster, but in 1683 it caught fire and burnt down.
A new lighthouse, 34ft tall, made of brick, stone and flint was built in 1691 carrying a fire basket and exhibiting a fixed white light. In 1793 it was heightened by adding two more storeys and the coal-fired beacon was replaced by eighteen Argand oil lamps, with circular wicks.
Trinity House purchased North and South Foreland Lighthouses. In 1872 electric power was introduced to the North and South Forelands on the instruction of Michael Faraday, then Scientific Adviser to Trinity House. These became the first lighthouses in the world to be electrically powered.
The lighthouse was further heightened in 1890 when a lantern was built on the top of the tower to house the light itself. It now stood 85ft high.
On 26th November 1998 North Foreland became the last lighthouse in the British Isles to be automated in a ceremony attended by the Deputy Master of Trinity House, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. This brought to an end almost 400 years of lighthouse keeping around the British coast