Tour of Trinity House

It was a Summer-like Spring morning, in the shadow of the Tower of London, when twenty-one Old Loughtonians gathered to start a tour of Trinity House.

Our guide was Geoff Boydd, who led us through both the building and the history of Trinity House.

Trinity House is really three entities: the Corporation, the Charity and the Headquarters building.

The Corporation of Trinity House was granted the Royal Charter by King Henry 8th in 1514. Responsibilities include being a General Lighthouse Authority and serving the mariner and a Deep Sea Pilotage Authority.

The Charity looks after the welfare and pensions of seamen and their dependants.

The present HQ building was built in the years 1794-96 by Samuel Wyatt, Surveyor to the Corporation, although the original headquarters dates back to 1514. Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger laid the foundation stone 12 September 1793.

It was bombed and gutted in 1940 leaving nothing of the original building save the Trinity Square façade.

Professor Sir Albert E Richardson undertook the reconstruction of the house by using a number of photographs of the rooms, taken by Country Life Magazine in 1919, to reconstitute almost exactly the interior in its original form.

Trinity House, which is Grade I listed, was refurbished and redecorated in March 1990; the redecoration is, where possible, in keeping with the 1790s period when the house was originally built.

The Artwork includes magnificent paintings, lead statues, an extensive library, early stained glass windows, an original collection of early silver and the second largest carpet in Europe which was so heavy it had to be craned in through a large upper window.

Although the paintings were spectacular, it was sad to be told that many very old paintings had been destroyed in the London Blitz. Even the headquarters building had had a disastrous history; the original wooden building was destroyed in the Fire of London, it’s replacement later also being destroyed by fire a few years later.

We were told of the history of lighthouses, and light ships, and the development of the various lighting techniques used through the centuries. The need for off-shore Lighthouses led to pioneering building techniques never used before.

Through the ages, many Kings, Queens and Prime Ministers have used Trinity House for Meetings of State and other important meetings. One notable meeting in recent times was Winston Churchill discussing America’s entry into the second world war with Franklin D Roosevelt and illustrated by a large oil painting from that time.

This certainly was a fascinating and enjoyable trip through the history of the organisation, but all too soon the tour was over and the group followed the guiding Old Lought’s tie held aloft by Malcolm, past Canary Wharf and Katherine’s Dock, passing the Tower and the Shard (the very old and the very new – see photo), to Smith’s fine restaurant at Wapping, where a sumptuous meal awaited.

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