The Trinity House two pound coin appropriately features a lighthouse, so we’ve taken that to its logical conclusion by photographing it very near one! This coin is, in fact, resting on a rock at the site of the Beachy Head lighthouse, off the Sussex Downs coast.
We thought you’d enjoy some facts, figures and swashbuckling tales about Trinity House and the new £2 coin – so here’s our Top 10:
- A lighthouse is painted depending on its surroundings. For example, a lighthouse with a white background such as cliffs or rocks would be painted red and white – such as the one at Beachy Head in the photo, or the one at Lowestoft that features on the coin’s packaging.
- ‘Trinity’ is reflected (see what I did there) in the coin design by the three facets of the lighthouse lens.
- A trinity of words makes up the coin’s edge inscription ‘Serving the Mariner’.
- The work of three designers appears on the £2 coin – Joe Whitlock Blundell and David Eccles collaborated on the lighthouse reverse design, with Ian Rank- Broadley’s royal effigy of Her Majesty The Queen on the obverse.
- Three lighthouse keepers manned each Trinity House lighthouse from 1801 until automation in 1998. Before 1801 only two would be on duty, but this changed following the Smalls Lighthouse tragedy in 1801 – one keeper died and the other went mad waiting for four months, alone in the lighthouse with the corpse, until the relief ship arrived.
- Winston Churchill was an esteemed Elder Brother of Trinity House but, despite that, he was fined a shilling for smoking there. Not having one to hand, the First Lord of the Admiralty kindly handed over the shilling for him. Churchill honourably repaid him and the shilling was later sent to Trinity House as a keepsake.
- The masts of ships were used in the past to decide how much a ship on the River Thames should pay to Trinity House for using its beacons and buoys – a two-masted ship paid six pence, a one-masted paid four pence and others paid two pence. I wonder exactly how and where the coins were paid over and who collected them?
- There are no Trinity House lighthouses in Scottish waters.
- In 1998 The Royal Mint made the Eddystone Lighthouse Tercentenary Medal, recalling the three centuries since a similar medal was made for lighthouse labourers. They could produce the medal to prove they were engaged in important work to avoid being press-ganged into naval service.
- The 2014 commemorative £2 coin is available now in three versions – gold, silver and Brilliant Uncirculated. You’ll find the circulation £2 in your change later in 2014.
When researching the 10 facts above, I’ve discovered so many more intriguing facts about lighthouses and their importance in our daily lives that I just had to continue – so here’s another TOP 10 – I really hope you agree with me!
- All British Trinity House lighthouses have been automated since November 1998. North Foreland was the last one to make the change, marking the end of the role of lighthouse keeper. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh oversaw the last switchover.
- Remains of the oldest example of a lighthouse in the UK are still visible in the grounds of Dover castle, believed to have been built by the Romans around 183AD.
- Skerryvore off the coast of Scotland is the tallest lighthouse in the UK at 49 metres. Built in 1844 by Scottish civil engineer Robert Stevenson, it’s situated 56 kilometres from the Argyll coast in Scotland.
- The author Robert Louis Stevenson was the grandson of Robert Stevenson, who constructed 15 Scottish lighthouses.
- Eddystone lighthouse was the world’s first stone tower at sea, built in 1756-9.
- Britain’s oldest, complete example of a lighthouse, is a chalk-built structure positioned on the Yorkshire/North Sea coast at Flamborough Head, built in 1674.
- Berry Head lighthouse in Devon is believed to be the shortest lighthouse in the UK at just 5 feet tall.
- The waters of the British Isles are surrounded by 31 shipping areas that offer protection to shipping by way of 69 fully functioning lighthouses.
- Souter Lighthouse in South Tyneside, Tyne and Wear, is the first lighthouse in the world built for electric power.
- 90% of world trade is transported by sea. 95% of British economic activity depends on the oceans, amounting to imported goods worth £524 billion every year.