St Anthony Lighthouse

St Anthony Lighthouse

St Anthony Lighthouse warns vessels of Black Rock in the centre of Falmouth Harbour and the offshore Manacle Rocks. 

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Early beacon

A coal beacon originally burned at St Anthony’s Head to warn ships of Black Rock in the centre of the channel into Falmouth Harbour.  It also warned the Manacles Rocks offshore. This beacon burned for centuries until the present lighthouse replaced it in 1835.

Prior to the lighthouse, the local Killigrew family flew a large red flag from an elm tree to show the direction of the wind. However, this was eventually removed in 1779 to avoid being used by invading fleets.

Work started in May 1834, built by the Olver Company of Falmouth.  It was first lit in April 1835 on the headland at the eastern entrance to Falmouth harbour.

St Anthony Lighthouse
Photo: John Frost Collection

As part of the works, Trinity House also decided to erect a beacon on the Black Rock. However, this was not finally completed until 1864.  This large delay was mainly due to adverse weather conditions. This continually hampered the contractors and on several occasions, it even removed their cranes.

The light was originally provided by eight Argand oil lamps placed in front of polished reflectors.  These were later replaced by a paraffin vapour burner and a Chance Brothers fixed optic.

Falmouth

Fog Bell

Following an inspection by the Lighthouse Commissioners in 1881, a decision was made for a fog bell to be erected at the lighthouse.  This huge bell was said to be the heaviest in Cornwall and weighed over two tons. It was suspended from a beam projecting from the gallery and sounded four times every minute in poor visibility. 

In 1954 a nautophone fog signal replaced the fog bell when the lighthouse was connected to the mains electricity supply. The old bell was destined for Penwerris Church, however, insufficient funds were available to erect a new bell tower to house it.  After several years of lying in the churchyard, the bell was eventually sent to be melted down.

St Anthony

Automation

St Anthony Lighthouse was automated in 1987. In 2000 the light character changed to isophase (equal periods of light and darkness) every 15 seconds.  A red sector covers the Manacles Rocks.

Further modernisation in August 2022 reduced the range of the white sector to 12 miles and the red sector to 9 miles.

The lighthouse is accessible along a footpath from the nearby National Trust Car Park, and the South West Coast Path crosses the headland.  It is not possible to access the lighthouse compound.

The National Maritime Museum of Cornwall is just across the harbour in Falmouth.

Fraggle Rock Lighthouse

St Anthony Lighthouse is featured in the children’s TV series Fraggle Rock.

Read more – Fraggle Rock Lighthouse and Other Adventures

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Established: 1835
Engineer: James Walker
Tower Height: 19 metres
Light Character: Iso W R 15 s
Light Range: W 12 miles, R 9 miles
Elevation: 22 metres
Automated: 1988