Nash Point Lighthouse is an iconic 19th century, grade 2 listed, historic building. It is a major part of our social and maritime history and was the last manned lighthouse in Wales, being de-manned in August 1998, just a month, or so, before the last manned lighthouse in the U.K. (North Foreland in Kent) was switched over to automatic operation.
The Lighthouse’s operation is monitored by Trinity House’s Operation & Planning Control Centre at Harwich, Essex, by telemetry and maintained by their engineers there and at the West Coast Division at Swansea and also by myself, on a day to day basis, as the local Attendant.
The station was built between 1831 -1832 using “Blue Lias” stone quarried from the beach below the station which was then winched up the cliff and dressed on site by very skilled masons and with the assistance of what must have been many, many labourers.
The foundations for both the low (west) tower and the high (east tower) were laid in the week before 1st October 1831 and the whole station was completed and exhibited its light for the first time on 1st September 1832., just 11 months after work commenced, what an achievement! (Source; archives of the Cambrian Newspaper and Notices to Mariners).
It is sometimes said that the Lighthouse was built due to the loss of a ship called “The Frolic” which was wrecked on the Nash Sands in March 1831 with the loss of about 78 lives including at least one high-ranking military gentleman. This incident may well have been the reason that construction took place so soon and was completed so quickly though Trinity House had purchased the land and designed the towers and the rest of the station sometime prior to this tragic loss.
It is also sometimes stated that Trinity House’s Engineer-in-Chief, James Walker built the station though he did not join Trinity House until 1832. It was Joseph Nelson who designed and built the station together with his nephew, James Walker may have been present about the time the lighthouse was fully commissioned.
Both towers were built at the same time and a light was exhibited (shone) from each. This gave a clear set of “leading Lights” for any vessels sailing eastwards up the Bristol Channel and guided them south of the dangerous Nash Sands. During the early 1920’s the use of the low tower was discontinued and a sector was placed in the lantern of the east tower, shining a red beam over the area of the sandbanks.
Since 1832 the Lighthouse has served the mariner well with very few incidents or maritime losses being recorded on the Nash Sands, to the present time. As good as that is for the mariner and it is very good indeed, it does mean that the Lighthouse is not as well-known as many others where there have been famous losses or heroic stories of Keepers or even their daughters! (See, for example, the Grace Darling story of Longships Lighthouse).
The station was not quite as it is now as there were some additional walls, separating different areas of horticulture for the keepers to grow vegetables, keep chickens and pigs and also the two “inner” cottages, Pathfinder and Aerial, were not added until the late 1890’s when all four cottages were then also extended to the rear, to give additional accommodation, as they are now.
Though there are four keeper’s cottages, only three of them would be for keepers based here, the fourth would be for a keeper and his family who may be based at an offshore lighthouse, where no family accommodation was possible or practical.