The first real lighthouse on chalk headland of North Foreland on the Isle of Thanet was built by Sir John Meldrum in 1636, consisting of a two-storey octagonal tower made of timber, lath and plaster with an iron coal-burning grate on top; this tower was destroyed by fire in 1683.
The present lighthouse was built in 1691; originally the tower was 12 metres tall, constructed of brick, stone and flint. In 1698 the lighthouse is recorded as using 100 tons of coal a year.
Trinity House purchased the lighthouse in 1832. An improved light source was installed in 1894, a pair of eight-wick Trinity House-pattern burners for heavy mineral oil, replaced in 1904 by a triple mantle burner, and again replaced in 1923 with a ‘Hood’ 100mm petroleum vapour burner.
North Foreland was the last Trinity House lighthouse to be automated; the occasion was formally marked at a ceremony presided over by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1998 in his capacity at the time as Master of Trinity House.
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