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The London Lighthouse Trail: A Quick Guide

Trinity Buoy Wharf, London

Did you know there is a lighthouse in London?  Actually, there are a few lighthouses and lightvessels in and around London and along the River Thames. 

Most of them are not operational, and some are models or replicas, but you might be surprised how many lighthouse connections you will find in the capital city.

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What has Trinity House, Sherlock Holmes and an Oyster Bar in common?  Lighthouses, of course!

I’ve made many trips to London in the past, but I wasn’t aware that I’d find lighthouses walking down a street in the middle of London.  

Someone once told me to look up when visiting a town or city.  It’s true; it’s incredible what you can find above your eye line!  In London, there are several lighthouse monuments on buildings.  Lighthouses are symbolic of dependability and solidity, and it’s probably no surprise that they often appear on logos, for example, insurance companies and similar types of organisations.

If you fancy following the Thames for a longer journey, then there are some beacons along the route for the more intrepid lighthouse explorer.

So if you’re planning a visit to London, check out the following places to visit, all with a lighthouse or lightvessel theme.  You may need longer than you think!  There are also some great places to see if the weather isn’t so great.

London Lighthouse Guide

National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum is well worth a visit.  The former optic from Tarbat Ness Lighthouse is on display.

One of the former lamps from LV16 lightvessel is also within the Museum collection.

Greenwich Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum, Romney Rd, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF

International Maritime Organisation

Although you can’t visit inside the building, the former optic from Orfordness Lighthouse is housed within the government office building. It’s easy to spot, as it has an unusual frontage!

IMO Building

International Maritime Organisation, 4 Albert Embankment, Prince’s, London SE1 7SR

Science Museum

The Science Museum has a range of lighthouse related exhibits, including lighthouse optics from Eilean Glas and Anvil Point Lighthouses.

The collection also includes the Holmes Arc Lamp from South Foreland Lighthouse and various lighthouse models and paintings.

You can search their collections on lighthouses.

Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD

Abbey House, Baker Street

Who knew there was a lighthouse in Baker Street?  Number 219 Baker Street may be the fictional location for Sherlock Holmes’s 221B Baker Street.

The former site of the Abbey National Building Society has a lighthouse on its frontage.  The former Abbey National Headquarters was built in 1932 and designed by J J Joass, a Scottish architect.

At the base of the sculpture is inscribed the word Security.

Abbey House, 219 Baker St, Marylebone, London NW1 6XE

The Lighthouse building

This “lighthouse” is easy to spot if you’re coming out of London Kings Cross St Pancras Station. It is located between Pentonville Road and Gray’s Inn Road.

The building dates back to 1875 and was originally an Oyster Bar.  The building was restored in 2013, during which time the decaying replica lighthouse was also repaired.

Lighthouse Building London
The London Lighthouse Building
Photo © Bob Harvey (cc-by-sa/2.0)

42 Moorgate

Another lighthouse in the middle of London – and easily missed!

The building, previously owned by the Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation Ltd, incorporated a 15ft high lighthouse sculpture.  The company was established in 1871 as the Ocean Railway and General Travellers’ Assurance Company Ltd.  

In 1890, the company merged with the Ocean and General Guarantee Company Ltd and changed its name to the Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation Ltd.

In 1910 the Commercial Union Assurance Company Ltd took over the company.  At that time, the lighthouse was working, though it is now no longer operational.  

A private bank now owns the building, which has since been redesigned.  However, the lighthouse remains on its facade.

42 Moorgate, London EC2R 6EL

Trinity House

Whilst the operational headquarters is in Harwich, the ceremonial building for Trinity House is located in Tower Hill, London.  The General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, Channel Islands and Gibraltar was established in 1514.  

It is sometimes possible to arrange a visit, and events are often held here.  

Trinity House London

The library is impressive, and there are some beautiful paintings and collections, including model lighthouses, lightvessels and a lighthouse optic.

The tube is Tower Hill, which is a short walk away.

Trinity House, Trinity Square, Tower Hill, London EC3N 4DH

Trinity Buoy Wharf

Located at Blackwall, opposite the O2 Arena, is Trinity Buoy Wharf.  Originally the lighthouse was the working depot for Trinity House.  The depot, established in 1803, was used as a training facility for lighthouse keepers, where they would learn the basics of lighthouse keeping before going off on a tour of duty.

Although the lighthouse wasn’t a working navigational aid, the lighting apparatus was used to train lighthouse keepers.  The current tower is the second to be built on-site.  It was built in 1862, replacing the original building of 1854.

Trinity Buoy Wharf

Trinity Buoy Wharf housed the chain store and was the maintenance depot for lighthouses in the region.  Trinity House had several depots around the country, servicing regional lighthouses, lightvessels and other aids to navigation.

The depot in Orchard Place closed in 1988.  Taken over by Urban Space Management, the site is now an arts and culture venue.  

You can climb the lighthouse tower and hear Longplayer; a thousand-year-long musical compilation programmed never to play the same tune. 

The Docklands Light Railway is only a short walk away.  There is also a Boat Clipper landing here.

Another great way to see the site is via the Emirates Air Line, which you can catch from ExCeL, and goes over the river next to the 02 Arena.

It’s only a few minutes over the river, but you get some great views across the water from the O2.

Trinity Buoy Wharf, 64 Orchard Place, London E14 0JW

LV95 Recording Studio

Whilst visiting Trinity Buoy Wharf, you’ll get a two for one special, as there is also a lightvessel at the same location!  LV95 is a recording studio onboard LV95 lightvessel.  

LV95 London
LV95

The lightship was built in 1939 and sold in 2004. She moved to Hoo Marina before relocating to Trinity Buoy Wharf in 2009.

Although you can’t go on board, the vessel is alongside Trinity Buoy Wharf, and there is a lovely cafe nearby!

LV93 Lightvessel

If you’re going to cross the Thames on the aerial cable car, then just across the dock from ExCeL is LV93.  

LV93

Built in 1938, LV93 was sold at auction by Trinity House in 2004 and moved to London the following year as a photographic studio.

She is not open to the public but is worth a visit.  At the time of writing, she is currently up for sale.

River Thames lights

If you fancy exploring further along the banks of the River Thames, there are several beacons to look out for along the way.

Footpath sign

There are other navigation aids along the river, but I’ve listed some of the main highlights (excuse the pun!)

Check out the Google Map at the top of this post for locations.

Trip Cock Lighthouse

On the south side of the river at the end of Gallions Reach, the red lattice steel tower with light was built in 1902.  Trip Cock Lighthouse is on the Thames coast path.

Trip Cock Lighthouse
Trip Cock Lighthouse

Coldharbour Point

Another red lattice steel tower, Coldharbour Point, is located near RSPB Rainham Marshes, adjacent to the landfill site.  The beacon was built in 1885.

Stoneness, West Thurrock

Not far from the M25 Dartford Crossing and Queen Elizabeth Bridge, on the northern side of the river, the original Stoneness light was built in 1885 but has since been replaced with a pile light. 

LV38 Gull Lightvessel

There is very little left of LV38 Gull Lightvessel. She was one of the few wooden lightvessels, built in 1860.

In 1946 she was sold to the Thurrock Yacht Club. She has since decayed badly, and her lantern and mast were removed in 2012, still visible at the Yacht club.

Northfleet Lower, South Bank

On the south bank, a light was established in 1859.  The red tower, which used acetylene gas, later was converted to town gas before electrification in 1975.  This was Northfleet Lower Light.

The Upper light was built in 1926 on the jetty for the Associated Portland Cement company.  This tower was demolished in 1972 and replaced by a light on the top of an office block.

Northfleet Lower Lighthouse was discontinued in 2001, and the Upper Lighthouse remains.

LV21 Gravesend

Ending in Gravesend, LV21 is moored alongside the quay and is sometimes open to the public.

LV21

LV21 St Andrews Quay, West Street, Gravesend DA11 0BG

Accommodation

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Check out the Lighthouse Directory for more inspiration.

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In A Lighthouse

Throughout the world, lighthouses are available.