Northern Light

Lighthouses of the Shetlands

In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
Northern Light - Shetland
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© Composted by:
Bob Schrage
updated: 12-01-2019

Bressay



Under construction

Description David and Thomas Stevenson, 1858, with additional buildings of circa 1905. Lighthouse complex including original 3-stage tower and keepers accommodation to S, later engine house and offices to N, and fog horn house to W. Harled walls with droved ashlar margins, all painted. TOWER: 3-stage tower comprising battered circular shaft on base course and circular concrete plinth; 2-leaf vertically-boarded timber entrance door with 2-pane fanlight centred to N and narrow 3-pane fixed lights centred to S at each lower stage. Droved sandstone string course at upper stage, bold corbels above, supporting balcony with cast-iron handrail around cylindrical murette surmounted by lantern comprised of triangular-paned glazing with arrow weathervane vent to dome above. KEEPER'S ACCOMMODATION: single storey, 5 x 2-bay building of double- pile plan with M-gables. Base and eaves courses, margined corners and windows with projecting cills. Irregularly fenestrated S elevation with later concrete-roofed porches projecting at centre and left. Irregularly fenestrated E gable; regularly fenestrated N elevation except blank in bay at outer left. Small flat-roofed stugged ashlar toilet block with base course and vertically-boarded timber door adjacent to NE corner of keeper's accommodation. ENGINE HOUSE AND OIL TANKS: single storey, with asymmetrical 7-bay elevations to N and S and blank end elevations. Base course, blocking course at eaves; long and short quoins to corners and windows. Rivetted cast-iron tanks on concrete bases adjoining SW corner. Glazed brick walls, tiled floors and 4-panel doors to interior. STORE: single storey, 3-bay symmetrical store building with base course; vertically-boarded timber door in each bay of S elevation, regular fenestration in N elevation. FOG HORN HOUSE: single tier tower comprising battered semi-circular plan shuttered concrete plinth with vertically-boarded timber door; exterior wall enclosing stair and works, surmounted by cogged track (horn now replaced by modern radar). 3-pane fixed-lights to tower; modern glazing to keeper's accommodation, some timber sash and case windows comprising 6-pane upper sashes over 2-pane lower sashes surviving at engine house. Green slate M-roof to keeper's accommodation with cast-iron gutters and downpipes with decorative hoppers; formal arrangement of coped, stugged sandstone and cement-rendered stacks with circular cans to apexes of W gables, ridges, and valley; cement-rendered skew copes. Flat roof to engine house; cast-iron downpipes with hoppers; 2 flue cement-rendered stack with circular cans, at centre of roof. Purple-grey slate roof to store with cast-iron gutters and downpipe with decorative hopper. BOUNDARY WALLS AND GATEPIERS: flagstone rubble boundary walls, harl- pointed and whitewashed on inner face. Stugged sandstone gatepiers with pyramidal caps at entrance gate to NE. Statement of Special Interest A landmark on Bressay that is particularly prominent when approaching Lerwick by Sea. The modern glazing of the keeper's accommodation is out of character, the original glazing perhaps matched the 12-pane pattern of the earlier buildings at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse (see separately listing). It is unfortunate that the horn of the famous "Bressay Coo" has been removed from its plinth, but the interior and oil tanks of the generator house remain as an interesting survivors from the early 20th century improvements.

Bressay Lighthouse is still an active lighthouse in the Shetland Islands, Scotland, 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) south-east of Lerwick. It is located on the island of Bressay at Kirkabister Ness overlooking Bressay Sound.

The Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses wrote to the Board of Trade on 10 November 1854 requesting sanction to build a Lighthouse on Kirkabisterness (Bressa Sound) - a site at the South entrance to Lerwick Harbour. The Board of Trade conveyed sanction in a letter to the Commissioners dated 14 November 1854.

It was one of four lighthouses built in Shetland between 1854 and 1858 which were designed by brothers David Stevenson and Thomas Stevenson. David Stevenson initially maintained that building a lighthouse in Shetland waters was impossible, too dangerous and too expensive, and that any vessel's captain who took this route was mad.

Following lengthy correspondence with the Board of Trade and the Elder Brethren of Trinity House, regarding the cost of building the lighthouse and obtaining approval to plans and specifications, work was eventually commenced on the stonework etc in February 1856. The light was first lit on the night of 31 August 1858.

Bressay was electrified on 17 July 1967 and the fog siren was discontinued in 1987. The light automated in 1989 and is now remotely monitored from the Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh.

In November 1995 the outbuildings and former Keepers cottages buildings were purchased by the Shetland Amenity Trust, a charitable organisation set up to conserve and enhance Shetland’s heritage. The two Assistant Keepers cottages have been refurbished and are available on short-term lease. The Principal keeper’s cottage will be a self-catering complex and the Engine Room adjacent will be a camping bod or bothy with bunks. The Engine and Radar room are due to be turned into a Heritage Centre.

On the 12 September 2012 there was a change at Bressay lighthouse when the light, which has been operational for over 150 years, was permanently discontinued by the Northern Lighthouse Board. However, there was a seamless transfer of the provision of an aid to navigation for Bressay Sound. Instead of the 23 mile light shining from the original Stevenson lighthouse a new 10 mile light is now provided by Lerwick Port Authority.

This switchover followed years of discussion between the NLB and Lerwick Port Authority. From the conclusions of the Northern Lighthouse Board's 2005 Review of its aids to navigation requirements it was considered that as the Bressay light was within Lerwick Harbour limits it qualified for transfer to the Authority under the terms of the Merchant vesselping Act 1995. The Board and the Port Authority considered the best possible solution to ensure the continued safety of the mariner in these waters.

Rather than the Port Authority taking over the existing Stevenson structure they opted to erect a new light structure, which exhibits a 10 mile LED light showing the same character of flashing (2) every 20 seconds. The new structure was placed on the site of the former radar station and fog signal adjacent to the existing light.

A Notice to Mariners was issued by the Northern Lighthouse Board on 21 August 2012 advising the mariner of the change in status of the light.

Following the discontinuation of the light on 12 September 2012 the Board no longer required the lighthouse tower at Bressay. The former lighthouse tower was transferred into the ownervessel of the Shetland Amenity Trust in June 2013 and the Board no longer have an involvement with the property at Bressay.

The shore station was purchased by the Shetland Amenity Trust in 1995 and has been converted into a Marine Heritage Centre. The fog signal was discontinued in the 1980s. The notable red horn was removed, however, the building that housed the siren is still in place and now houses a radar mast, and the five pressurised air tanks are still in place.

Bressay Lighthouse is situated on the Island of Bressay off the East Mainland of Shetland. The Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses wrote to the Board of Trade on 10 November 1854 requesting sanction to build a Lighthouse on Kirkabisterness (Bressa Sound) - a site at the South entrance to Lerwick Harbour. The Board of Trade conveyed sanction in a letter to the Commissioners dated 14 November 1854. Following lengthy correspondence with the Board of Trade and the Elder Brethren of Trinity House, regarding the cost of building the lighthouse and obtaining approval to plans and specifications, work was eventually commenced on the stonework etc in February 1856. The light was first lit on the night of 31 August 1858. Bressay was electrified on 17 July 1967 and the fog siren was discontinued in 1987. The light automated in 1989 and is now remotely monitored from the Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh. In November 1995 the outbuildings and former Keepers cottages buildings were purchased by the Shetland Amenity Trust, a charitable organisation set up to conserve and enhance Shetland’s heritage. The two Assistant Keepers cottages have been refurbished and are available on short-term lease. The Principal keeper’s cottage will be a self-catering complex and the Engine Room adjacent will be a camping bod or bothy with bunks. The Engine and Radar room are due to be turned into a Heritage Centre. On the 12 September 2012 there was a change at Bressay lighthouse when the light, which has been operational for over 150 years, was permanently discontinued by the Northern Lighthouse Board. However, there was a seamless transfer of the provision of an aid to navigation for Bressay Sound. Instead of the 23 mile light shining from the original Stevenson lighthouse a new 10 mile light is now provided by Lerwick Port Authority. This switchover followed years of discussion between the NLB and Lerwick Port Authority. From the conclusions of the Northern Lighthouse Board's 2005 Review of its aids to navigation requirements it was considered that as the Bressay light was within Lerwick Harbour limits it qualified for transfer to the Authority under the terms of the Merchant vesselping Act 1995. The Board and the Port Authority considered the best possible solution to ensure the continued safety of the mariner in these waters. Rather than the Port Authority taking over the existing Stevenson structure they opted to erect a new light structure, which exhibits a 10 mile LED light showing the same character of flashing (2) every 20 seconds. The new structure was placed on the site of the former radar station and fog signal adjacent to the existing light. A Notice to Mariners was issued by the Northern Lighthouse Board on 21 August 2012 advising the mariner of the change in status of the light. Following the discontinuation of the light on 12 September 2012 the Board no longer required the lighthouse tower at Bressay. The former lighthouse tower was transferred into the ownervessel of the Shetland Amenity Trust in June 2013 and the Board no longer have an involvement with the property at Bressay.

A3776

Character: Fl(2) W 20s 18m 10M
(fl. 0.5s - ec. 2.0s)

EngineerDavid Lillie Stevenson (1815-1886)
Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887)

Lat, Lon60°07.197' N, 01°07.283' W

Established1858
Automated1989
Character Flashing(2) White every 20 sec.
Range18.5 km / 10 nM
Tower16 meters
Elevation18 meters above sealevel
Fog hornDiscontinued 1980

StatusOperationel
AuthorityLerwick Port Authority
RemarksCat.B listed - nr: 5882 - 18/10/1977

Bressay lighthouse
Bressay lighthouse
Bressay sea map
Bressay map
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