Guiding our ships to safety

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Robin Jones loves lighthouses and has just published a book called Lighthouses of the North East Coast.This area of coast has been described as one of the most dangerous in the British Isles.

The North Sea had, for centuries, provided a vital line of communication between Scotland and England, not only for trade but also for the conveyance of passengers, and shipwrecks had been by and large taken as par for the course.

However, with the upsurge in cargoes being carried from the ports of the North East, there was a corresponding rise in the number of wrecks, leading to demands for action to be taken, in the form of better navigational aids.

At one stage it was said that there were an average of 44 wrecks per mile on this coast.

The Newcastle Trinity House received its first royal charter in 1536 and it eventually took responsibility from Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north to Whitby in the south.

It established buoys and beacons, licensed shipmasters, mates and pilots, advised and carried out improvements to rivers and ports.

The modern era of lighthouse building began at the start of the 18th Century.

In the wake of the Industrial Revolution bigger ships carried payloads that mariners would at one time have barely dreamed possible.

Advances in structural engineering and new and efficient lighting equipment paved the way for bigger and more powerful lighthouses to be built, including ones that could stand everything the sea could throw at them.

Today, improvements in maritime navigation and GPS have all helped to make lighthouses redundant.

But the public love lighthouses.

They are popular with photographers, painters and even poets, and the whole of Britain and way beyond was inspired by keeper’s daughter Grace Darling who defied tempestuous seas to rescue survivors from an 1838 shipwreck in the Farne Islands.

Robin had documented lighthouses up the coast, including Whitby’s of course.

All are celebrated in this book by Robin, with a hugely informative text and a stunning collection of historic and contemporary images.

Robin Jones graduated in English from Birmingham City University and is a former news editor at the Birmingham Evening Mail who established Heritage Railway magazine in 1999.

He spends much of his time exploring and photographing the coast with his wife Jenny.

Lighthouses of the North East Coast is published by Halsgrove Publishing.