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Black Nore Lighthouse, Portishead

Description: Black Nore Lighthouse

Grade: II
Date Listed: 24 June 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1400195

OS Grid Reference: ST4450376499
OS Grid Coordinates: 344503, 176499
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4847, -2.8006

Locality: Portishead
County: North Somerset
Country: England
Postcode: BS20 8GB

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Listing Text


The lighthouse at Black Nore Point was erected by Trinity House in 1894; it was subsequently altered in the mid-C20 when it was automated, and further modernised in circa 2000.

Reason for Listing

Black Nore Lighthouse, constructed in 1894 for Trinity House, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
Architectural and historic interest: as a late-C19 pre-fabricated lighthouse and a rare example nationally that was originally fuelled by gas
Degree of intactness: the lighthouse has been little altered externally, although navigational equipment within the interior has been replaced over the years including the winding and drive mechanisms
Group value: it groups visually with the Grade II listed former National Nautical School to the south-east
Setting: as an iconic structure and a significant reminder of Britain's maritime history.


The Severn Estuary off Black Nore Point, Portishead has the second highest tide fall in the world. In 1838 the SS Great Western ran aground off Nore Point, highlighting the need for a lighthouse. Black Nore Lighthouse was erected in 1894 by Trinity House as a navigation aid for shipping moving into and out of Avonmouth Docks and the River Avon. It was constructed of cast iron with an open framework of vertical ribs and struts supporting the tower itself and was sited on an outcrop that was built up with masonry to form a platform. In the mid- to late C19 there was some enthusiasm for building cast-iron lighthouses, which were cheaper than masonry towers. Maplin Sands (a screw-pile lighthouse), on the Essex coast, was the first sited offshore in 1838-41; but the instability of Fastnet Lighthouse, a cast-iron tower with an inner lining of brick erected in 1854, confirmed the view that this kind of structure was better suited to less exposed situations: the relative shelter of the Severn Estuary was considered a suitable location.

Black Nore Lighthouse originally had a gas-powered lamp, with gas supplied via a pipeline from the mains to a storage tank. The mechanisms, which used weights to keep the optical system rotating, were hand operated and had to be wound daily. Members of the Ashford family living at nearby Black Nore Farm were responsible for operating the lamp until it was automated in the mid-C20. The lighthouse was converted to automatic electric operation in 1941 and could be switched off during air raids. It was further modernised in circa 2000 when the winding and drive mechanisms were replaced by an electric motor. It was taken out of service in the autumn of 2010.


MATERIALS: Riveted cast-iron frame, painted white.

PLAN: A tapering, round tower of three stages that stands about 11 metres high.

EXTERIOR: The tall, first stage has openwork canted stanchions with x-frame ties or tension rods; the latticework construction was employed to reduce wind resistance. An external iron ladder leads to an entrance hatch underneath the second stage. This stage has porthole openings and a gallery with metal railings which is supported by angled brackets. Above the gallery, the lantern stage has a fixed rectangular window of storm panes with V-profile metal glazing bars. The tower has a domed cupola cap surmounted by a ventilator.

INTERIOR: Not inspected.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.