1838: The Start of Construction on a Gibraltarian Lighthouse

April 26, 1838

On Europa Point — the southernmost tip of the British crown colony (now overseas territory) of Gibraltar — efforts officially began on the construction of a lighthouse at the Atlantic Ocean’s entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. Sir Alexander George Woodford, the colony’s governor and commander-in-chief, laid the foundation stone for the lighthouse with the assistance of the Masonic Order of Gibraltar. The inscription on the stone indicated that the lighthouse was to be built “for the protection of Mediterranean commerce, the saving of human life, and the honour of the British name.” Approximately 10,000 people were on hand for the ceremony. 

Europa Point Lighthouse was completed and first illuminated in 1841. Prior to the debut of the lighthouse, sailors who navigated their way through local waters had to rely on the lights emanating from a Roman Catholic shrine built on Europa Point during the 15th century. Many of those sailors, as a matter of fact, customarily visited the shrine to leave supplies of oil there so that the lights could continue burning. As the directional replacement for the shrine, Europa Point Lighthouse is one of only two Gibraltarian lighthouses not located within Gibraltar Harbour; the other exception is a high-intensity flashing beacon on the Rock of Gibraltar. 

Over the years, Europa Point Lighthouse has undergone a few major changes in terms of how it is illuminated. These changes have ranged from the replacement of the lighthouse’s original single-wick lamp with a four-wick burner in 1864 to the full automation that has been in effect since 1994. This cylindrical structure is operated by the England-based lighthouse agency Trinity House and has the distinction of being the only lighthouse outside the United Kingdom for which that agency is responsible.  

Photo Credit: Allie Caulfield (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

For more information on Europa Point Lighthouse, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_Point_Lighthouse

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