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Mumbles Lighthouse

Swansea, Glamorgan

Featured Location Guide

Aerial images above and below by  Marinas.com   (more images are available)

Mumbles Lighthouse has guided vessels along the coast and into Swansea Bay, for over 200 years, past the hazards of the Mixon Shoal 0.5 of a mile to the South.

This area has a 43ft tide, which some say is the second largest in the world, after the Bay of Fundy in Canada. The currents generated at the mouth of the Bay by the tide changes makes this a particularly dangerous spot when compounded by storms and it has seen numerous shipwrecks over the centuries.

The lighthouse is built on the outer of two islands, known as Mumbles Head, about 500 yards to the east southeast of the mainland projection known as Mumbles near Swansea. This island is accessible by foot at certain states of the tide or by boat at high water. It is clearly visible from any point along the five mile sweep of Swansea Bay.

In 1791 the Harbour Act gave the Swansea Harbour Trustees the power to provide a lighthouse for the outer Mumbles.

In July 1792 the Trustees contracted for the erection of the lighthouse and work began.

In October 1792 the half finished structure collapsed.

In 1793 the plans of the local architect, William Jernegan, were accepted and the lighthouse was finally completed and lit in 1794.

The Mumbles lighthouse originally displayed two open coal fire lights, one above the other, to distinguish it from St Ann's Head Lighthouse, which had two lights on separate towers and from Flat Holm Lighthouse  with one light.

The coal lights in braziers were expensive and difficult to maintain, so were quickly replaced with a single oil powered light consisting of argand lamps with reflectors within a cast iron lantern.

The original design for the two lights is still reflected in the two tier structure of the tower.

The fort or battery which surrounds the southern side of the lighthouse was built in 1860 by the War Department.

A dioptric light was fitted in 1860. The occulting mechanism in 1905 and in 1934 the station was automated.

From Postcard of around 1905  

In the 1930's the light was fuelled by kerosene, and there was superstructure containing the Fresnel lens and assorted light related apparatus. I came across an account of someone visiting at that time, explaining how he visited and was shown by the lighthouse keeper what it was he had to do.

First he filled the kerosene tanks for the night, then used a hand pump to pressurize them. The light used kerosene that was run at pressure through a series of heated tubes. Thus the kerosene was converted to a gas, which came out at pressure. The light had mantles, similar to the ones used in a gas or camping light, only much larger and heavier. He poured some alcohol into a tray which was lit to heat up the fuel tubes leading to the mantle. This vaporized the kerosene gas, so it could be ignited.

Once the light was lit, the tubes were kept heated by the light's flame.

Next he used a hand crank to wind up a series of weights similar to those used in a grandfather clock, only much larger. These were attached to a lever type mechanism, that raised and lowered a metal cylinder around the light, within the Fresnel lens. This is what caused the light to appear to flash. The flashes were of different times, actuated by a cam mechanism.

Until 1 November 1975, the lighthouse was owned and operated by the British Transport Docks Board, after that Trinity House took over the responsibility for this lighthouse.

In 1977 the lantern, which had badly deteriorated and was beyond repair, was removed.

In 1987 a lantern which had been removed from Light Vessel 25 (Abertay) was installed on top of the tower.

In 1995 the Lighthouse was converted to solar powered operation, with solar module arrays mounted in frames on the fort roof. A pair of biformed Tideland ML300 lanterns replaced the main light and a new emergency light, fog detector and control and monitoring equipment were installed. This is all linked to Trinity House at Harwich in Essex.

Photo from Wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia  

Above and below are Photochromes from around 1900, the one below is a section of the one above
If you compare this with the above images from now, you will see different buildings and
that the original lantern housing was larger.
See also the postcard view above.

Photochromes are from Camera Images GBPictures collection

Lighthouse information Grid


Mumbles Lighthouse, Glamorgan

Current status:

Currently in use

Geographic Position:

51 33'.99 N 03 58'.21 W

Grid Reference:


Ceremonial County:



Two stage octagonal cylindrical brick tower with lantern and double gallery, painted white, with 1860 military fort wrapped around it. Twin 2 storey keeper's houses are said to be there, presumably within the fort.

Map Link:


Aerial photo:

Marinas.com     Google satellite view

Other photos:

Geograph    Photo     Photo

Originally built:


Current lighthouse built:


Height of Tower:

17m    56ft

Height of light above mean sea level:

35m   114ft

Character of light:

4 White Flashes Every 20 Seconds

Character of fog signal:

3 Blasts Every 60 Seconds - range 2 nautical miles

Range of light:

16 nautical miles

Owned / run by:

Trinity House

Getting there:

The lighthouse is built on a small island which is accessible, with caution, at low tide. Located just off Mumbles Head, marking the entrance to Swansea Bay. Parking provided at the end of the A4067 about 12km (7.5 mi) south of Swansea.


Site open, tower closed.



Other Useful Websites:

Wiki     LD

Other Relevant pages:

For more articles, lists and other information see the Lighthouses Section

Lighthouse Map of England and Wales

Featured List of Lighthouses - England and Wales  

List of Minor Lighthouses and Lights - England and Wales


1st order Fresnel lens from this lighthouse is on display at the Swansea Museum,  may also contain some other parts.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Grid or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park   Section:  Lighthouses Section Key:
Page Ref: Mumbles_Lighthouse Topic: Lighthouses Last Updated: 06/2010


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