Lawd is far better known as South Stack and is in fact the name of the island hosting this most marvellous of sea beacons.

Situated near the north west tip of Anglesey,  Lawd lies separated from Holyhead Island by some pretty dangerous rocks and turbulent sea. The coastline from the breakwater and around the south western shore is made of large granite cliffs rising sheer from the sea to 60 metres in height.

South Stack Lighthouse was first envisaged in 1665 when a petition for a patent to erect the lighthouse was presented to Charles II. The patent was not granted and it was not until 9th February 1809 that the first light appeared to mark the rock. The lighthouse, erected at a cost of £12,000, was designed by Daniel Alexander and originally fitted with oil lamps and reflectors. Around 1840, a railway was installed by means of which a lantern with a subsidiary light could be lowered down the cliff to sea level, when fog obscured the main light.

In October 1859 it is said that the most severe storm of the century occurred. It became known as the 'Royal Charter' gale and on that and the following day over 200 vessels were either driven ashore or totally wrecked with the loss of 800 lives. The steamship Royal Charter was among these and she sank within yards of help with the loss of almost 500 passengers and crew.

In the mid 1870s the lantern and lighting apparatus was replaced by a new lantern. No records are available of the light source at this time but it was probably a pressurised multiwick oil lamp. In 1909, an early form of incandescent light was installed and in 1927 this was replaced by a more modern form of incandescent mantle burner. The station was electrified in 1938.

In September 1984, the lighthouse was automated and the keepers withdrawn. The light and fog signal are now remotely controlled and monitored from the Trinity House Operational Control Centre in Harwich, Essex.

The chasm between the mainland and the rock was originally crossed by a hempen cable 21 metres above sea level, along which a sliding basket was drawn carrying a passenger or stores. This system was replaced in 1828 by an iron suspension bridge 1.5 metres wide and again in 1964 by an aluminium bridge. The present footbridge was completed in 1997. Grants totalling £182,000 were received from the Welsh Development Agency to fund the structure which was designed and built by Laings/Mott Macdonald. The landward approach to the bridge is by descending 400 steps cut into the cliff face which feel like four times that number when climbing up again!

With the completion of the footbridge the island and the lighthouse were reopened to visitors.


Image credits (clockwise from top):

Kris Williams, jixxer,

Llanfair Hall

John Tokarz

Tim Yeates