Beacons on the Goodwin Sands

Captain Bullock's first beacon, 1840

The first steps towards erecting any kind of warning beacon on the sands were taken towards the end of the 17th century, when Trinity House commissioned a survey which, after doing some test borings, concluded that it was impossible to erect any form of permanent structure because there was no solid foundation on which to build.

It was not until 10th September 1840 that the first "beacon" was erected to the design of Captain Bullock, R.N., a design adapted from an original suggested by Mr William Bush, C.E., of Deptford, in 1836.  This structure, made of oak and guyed up by chains, survived 2 winters before, according to Trinity House, it "disappeared".

The picture (above) shows the ladder leading up to the "top", or gallery, with a flagpole surmounting the main mast.  The idea was that shipwrecked mariners could climb the ladder (if they could get to the beacon) and take refuge in the "top" and raise a blue flag to signal the Deal "hovellers" (boatmen) to put to sea and, hopefully, effect a rescue.  The gallery was stocked with bread, fresh water and a small supply of spirits, "properly protected from the weather."  In addition to the flag, the beacon was equipped with a large basket chair, which could be lowered by ropes and blocks, to "succour the exhausted."  The sides of the gallery were fitted with sailcloth, reefed all round it, which could be unrolled and made fast to the flagstaff to make a temporary shelter from the weather.

Pictures and quotations on this section of the site are taken from:

Memorials of the Goodwin Sands and their surroundings, legendary and historical.  With maps, charts, and illustrations

by George Byng Gattie, late H.M.'s Civil Service

The "Kelkel" Edition

published by J. J. Keliher & Co., Ltd., London, 1904

Storm Warriors; or, Lifeboat Work on the Goodwin Sands

by Rev. John Gilmore, late Vicar of Holy Trinity, Ramsgate

published in London, 1874

The Goodwins

Deal Index

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