Hook Lighthouse: one of the oldest operating lighthouse in the world
We are on Hook Head at the tip of the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, in Ireland.
Hook Lighthouse is an astonishing still-intact medieval lighthouse.
Built 800 years ago, it continues to serve its original function and now boasts the award of the second oldest operating lighthouse in the world, after the Tower of Hercules in Spain.
The lighthouse marks to entrance to Waterford harbour where the Barrow, Nore and Suir rivers meet. It operates with Tuskar Rock and Mine Head lights to provide coverage on the Ireland’s South East Coast. It is one of 70 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, the Irish Lighthouse Authority, around the coast of Ireland and continues to provide a vital role in maritime safety still today.
The existing tower dates from the 12th century, though tradition states that Dubhán, a missionary to the Wexford area, established here a sort of beacon as early as the 5th century. Not by chance, the headland is known in Irish as Rinn Dubháin, or St. Dubhán’s Head.
The tower was built by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, a Knights Templar, known as the Greatest Knight. He had established a port in the town of New Ross, about 30 km up river and, in order for his new port to be successful and for ships to safely reach their destination, he had a 36m high tower built at the mouth of Waterford Harbour. The exact year of construction is not known, but the knight first came to the region in 1201 and the first map that shows the lighthouse is dated 1240, so construction must have taken place between these dates.
The first lighthousekeepers were a small group of monks whose little monastery was situated on the peninsula. They would have lit warning fires and beacons all through the years to warn sailors of the dangerous rocks on the peninsulam and they are also thought to have helped in the construction of the tower itself. In any case, the monks looked after the lighthouse tower until 1641.
Lightkeepers and their families lived at the lighthouse until 1977.
When in 1972 electricity became the power source, light-sensitive switches were installed to control the lantern and eventually, in March 1996, when the Hook Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation, the last light-keepers who had climbed the stairs and tended the light were permanently withdrawn from the station.
In 2001 the light was opened to the public as a tourist attraction after the old keepers houses were turned into a visitor centre.
Hook Lighthouse is one of the most fascinating examples of medieval architecture in Ireland. The tower stands four stories high with walls up to 4m thick.
Did you know?
Humpback and fin whales often visit the waters around Hook Peninsula for feeding during the winter months and the phrase “by hook or by crook” is said to have originated here….
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