2016 sees the one hundredth year of operation for the lighthouse situated at the south western corner of Skokholm Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire.
The lighthouse is now owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, who bought the property from Trinity House in 2012. This was the last piece of the jigsaw for the Wildlife Trust, who following a public appeal, purchased the rest of the island in 2006 to secure its globally important seabird populations.
The lighthouse building itself is Grade II listed, and comprises a tower rising to 18 metres (a total of 54 metres above sea level), with the tower set within the square stone accommodation block and a whitewashed, walled enclosure. It was designed by Sir Thomas Matthews, who was engineer-in-chief to Trinity House between 1892 and 1915. It is notable because it is the last traditional stone-built lighthouse erected in Britain by Trinity House.
The lighthouse was built using materials landed on the island on a purpose-built jetty, and initially hauled to the construction site on donkey-pulled trucks running on a narrow gauge railway, some of which can still be seen on the island’s tracks today. For many years the lighthouse was permanently manned by its keepers.
The wildlife interest of the island has also long been recognised. Eminent naturalist Ronald Lockley moved to the island in 1927 and since that date, increasing awareness of and interest in the significant seabird colonies of Skokholm has led to its legal protection and management as a nature reserve. For many decades wardens working for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and its predecessors have worked to study and protect the island’s wildlife interest.
Nowadays the island wardens, Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, live in the lighthouse itself, alongside volunteers and researchers. The light itself is still managed by Trinity House but is fully automated. Along with South Bishop and the Smalls, it forms a triangle of lights guiding shipping around Milford Haven and the Bristol Channel.
Nowadays the old farm buildings on Skokholm are also managed as visitor accommodation by the Wildlife Trust to allow visitors to come and experience the amazing seabird colonies, and contribute to conservation work and research on the island. The management and use of both the land and the lighthouse building may have changed to recognise the international importance of this wildlife haven, but one hundred years on, the lighthouse building continues its essential role in keeping our ships and their crews safe in our treacherous waters.
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