Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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May 2014

On the week end of May17/18th 2014, Astley Hall took part in the nationally recognised 'Museums at Night' event. The aim of the event was to attract people who wouldn't normally get chance to visit museums due to work committments etc. Astley Hall looked magnificently eerie with the aid of over 40 LED spotlights, focusing on furniture, paintings and tapestries, plus the rooms were lit with over 200 LED candles. Music was played in different parts of the hall. The Friends of Astley Hall kindly suported the event, with the hire of lights and puchase of candles. Approximately 495 people attended on the Saturday with around 450 on the Sunday. It was a great event and supported by a number of our members. Well done Chorley Council.

Fri 16 May 2014
The Tockholes Hoard- Blackburn Museum.

For many years the Tockholes Hoard of pennies has been in store at the museum. A few weeks ago they were eventually put on permanent display.

Before high street banks many people would collect their savings as coins and would be left with only one solution to keep it safe. Burying it.
The hoard was found in 1973 by Stuart Whalley and Richard Forkasiewicz. There were originally 60 coins but the museum now only has 59. They were burried around the year 1220 AD. Even though local mints existed and made currency the majority of the coins in this hoard were made in London.

These coins are about the size of a 5p piece


The coins are displayed in a sheet of perspex.


Tue 13 May 2014
Gordon Meddlicott - The Last Lighthouse Keeper.


Gordon asserted from the outset that he was the last lighthouse keeper and then began to tell the story about his career.
He explained it was never his first choice of career as he, having been brought up within sight of the Mersey, joined the Merchant Navy in the 1950’s as a navigator. Unfortunately, after 6 years in the merchant marine he didn’t pass his final test and no shipping line would take him on.
Consequently, he undertook the 5 year training programme to become a lighthouse keeper. He served on all 3 categories of lighthouse; those on the mainland, those on islands and those on rocky outcrops out at sea.
Trinity House, a 500 year old private corporation, owns and operates the lighthouses around England and Wales and, as a legacy of Empire, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands and Anguila in the West Indies. Scotland and Ireland have their own authority.
All its income comes from a levy on ship owners and always has been.
Gordon vividly described life on a lighthouse out at sea that was manned by 3 men, 2 months on duty with 1 month ashore. A Spartan lifestyle best described the living conditions and each man was reliant on the others. There were just 6 rooms in a lighthouse, bedroom, kitchen, storage room, fuel storage, duty room and the lamp room. There was no bathroom just a bucket. A ‘bucket and chuck it’ regime was in place but care had to be taken when ‘chucking it’ out in strong winds.

Gordon Meddlicott before retiring.

Gordon compares an old style bulb of 3,500 Watts and a modern LED replacement

Changes of duty and, of course, supplies of food and fuel went ahead only when weather permitted. This could delay a departure at the end of duty, which would directly shorten time spent ashore.
Paraffin oil fired the lamps until the 1980’s and in addition to this, stocks of coal, rockets and explosive charges were kept in a lighthouse. A dangerous place indeed!
Life spent in a confined space had to be well organised and whatever your rank; head keeper, deputy keeper or junior keeper, you took your turns with chores like cooking.
Developments in the 1980’s, particularly with electronics, led to a programme of automation of lighthouses. Initially on the mainland, then those on islands and finally out at sea. It was only the addition of a helipad atop lighthouses did repairs, etc cease being supplied by ship and, therefore, less weather dependent.
Gordon showed interesting examples of bulbs past and present that illustrated the significant technological developments that have been made.

North Foreland lighthouse in Kent was the last to be automated on 26 November 1998. Gordon was the third man that left the lighthouse after finishing their final shift that day. So, making him the, ‘last lighthouse keeper’.
Gordon’s fascinating talk cast a bright light the now extinct role of a lighthouse keeper and the conditions they experienced to ensure the safety of shipping around the British Isles.

Peter Robinson
May 2014

Lighthouses have to withstand some
incredibly bad weather.