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Chapman lighthouse was situated on the Chapman mud flats of the River Thames estuary near Canvey Island, Essex to warn passing boats of the off shore mud flats.
It was constructed in 1849 as a screw pile lighthouse designed by James Walker, Trinity House's consultant lighthouse engineer and based on the invention of an Irish man called Alexander Mitchell.
The submerged end of each pile has a broad bladed screw on it. The screw is twisted into a sand or coral bottom in the same manner that a screw is twisted into wood. A platform is then constructed upon the embedded screw piles and the living accommodation and lighthouse erected on top.
A lighthouse of this kind is easily adapted for any area where the light does not require to been seen at a great distance. The piles offer no resistance to the waves which pass through the open spaces without rising any higher than out at sea.
Chapman lighthouse was an iron lattice structure built on seven screw piles driven approximately 40 feet into the river mud. Six formed an outer hexagon and the seventh a centre support on which was placed a wooden hexagonal shaped living accommodation consisting of a living room, bedroom, kitchen/washroom and storeroom. The bedroom contained 3 bunks, one each for the principal keeper and his two assistants.
A light tower was fixed on top of the living quarters. The whole structure was painted red and stood 74 feet high. It first showed a fixed light visible for 11 miles in August 1851 but later became an occulting one using a synchronised clockwork mechanism. The tower had a fog-warning bell suspended and attached to it on the seaward side of the lantern gallery. The fog bell gave 3 strokes in quick succession every 15 seconds during foggy conditions. On the other side was fixed a flagpole.
The lighthouse keeper and his assistants had just a single rowing boat suspended on davits from the side of the lighthouse to get to shore. At low water spring tides it was possible to walk or wade across the half mile of mud to reach the main land at Canvey Island. Eventually the lighthouse was in danger of collapsing as a result of corroding submerged ironwork piles and was evacuated and decommissioned on 14th August 1956. Demolition of it started in 1957 with the final pieces of ironwork being removed in December 1958.
During both World War I and II the light was not camouflaged and remained painted red. It was an important meeting point for many convoys whilst waiting for their armed escorts before leaving the Thames estuary.
Today a single black bell buoy can be found 800 yards off shore
These old archive photos show the workings of the fog signal clock.
These old archive photos show the occulting clock.
The archive pictures are by permission of Mr.J.Swinn and are taken from a collection of postcards maintained by the late G.E.Danes,a Trinity House Lighthouse keeper.