Located on one of the most exposed peninsulas on the English Coast, Start Point runs sharply almost a mile into the sea on the south side of Start Bay near Dartmouth. Start Point Lighthouse, which can be found at the end of the headland, has guided vessels along the English Channel for over 180 years.
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Trinity House Engineer James Walker designed start Point Lighthouse in 1836. Two white lights were originally exhibited, one revolving and one fixed to mark the hazardous Skerries Bank. A fixed red subsidiary light is still in place below the main light.
The optic used was the first of its kind for Trinity House, being a dioptric apparatus designed by Northern Lighthouse Board Engineer Alan Stevenson.
Even so, the light was found to be inadequate in fog, and a bell was installed in 1865. The machinery was housed in a small building on the cliff face and operated by a weight which fell in a tube running down the sheer cliff. After only fifteen years it was replaced by a siren.
Initially, the keepers at Start Point lived in the lighthouse tower; but in 1844 a three-storey dwelling was built on the north side of the building, this was followed by a similar residence on the south of the tower in 1873 (these were both replaced in 1957). A third dwelling, of a more grandiose design, was built in 1882 for the Principal Keeper and his family.
In the 1980s cracks began to appear in the ground below the fog signal house. After a new electric signal was established, the old engine room was abandoned. The fog horn reverberations over a 60-year period are believed to have contributed to the weakening of the cliff strata.
The fog signal eventually collapsed in 1990; and to further protect the lighthouse tower, the south dwelling was demolished in 1998.
Work began on the automation of Start Point Lighthouse in August 1992 and was completed in early 1993.
The drive is bisected by the South West Coast Path, and walkers can detour along the drive to view the lighthouse. Guided tours can be arranged at Start Point Lighthouse.