St Anthony’s Lighthouse, Cornwall, was the setting for the children’s TV series Fraggle Rock, and you can stay there!
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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, and also of 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.
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 primarily due to the adverse weather conditions which continually hampered the contractors, and on several occasions removed their cranes.
The light was originally provided by eight Argand oil lamps placed in front of polished reflectors, which were later replaced by a paraffin vapour burner and a Chance Brothers fixed optic.
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 2 tons. It 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’s Lighthouse was automated in 1987. Today the light character is isophase (equal periods of light and darkness) every 15 seconds, with a red sector covering the Manacles Rocks. The lighthouse is monitored from the Trinity House Operations Control Centre at Harwich in Essex.
Puppeteer Jim Henson is best known for creating children’s series The Muppets. Following on from this, in the early 1980s, Henson produced another similar series called Fraggle Rock. This featured another collection of strange characters that lived in a subterranean colony below the Fraggle Rock Lighthouse.
The only human star of this show was the late Fulton Mackay, playing the lighthouse keeper, who along with his puppet dog Sprocket, had his life plagued by Fraggles. The fictional lighthouse shown in the opening credits is, in reality, St Anthony’s Lighthouse.
Height of Tower: 19 metres
Elevation: 22 metres
Character: Iso WR 15s
Range of light: 16 miles
Engineer: James Walker
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