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by John Elsbury & "Postcard Bill" Judnick
Copyright 2011 John Elsbury All Rights Reserved

Acknowledgments: Some of these images have been provided by other people who own postcards, and have been kind enough to to send the author coloured photocopies. In order to protect their interests, the images of the postcards are visibly watermarked. The text material is extracted from information provided by Brian Bonnard, of Alderney, both privately and also in his book "Wrecked around Alderney" ISBN 0-9520707-0-7. Grateful thanks go to everybody who has provided information, and to the good people of Alderney. The recent corrections of Gerry Douglas-Sherwood have proved especially useful.

Alderney, the third smallest of the (UK) Channel Islands, is the nearest island to the coast of France. This article shows you a sample of lighthouse postcards; the CD has over 40 different. Many more detailed images and further historic information are available on a CD-ROM (depicting all aspects of Alderney and Sark) from the author, John Elsbury of Auckland, New Zealand.


The Casquets Lighthouse, about 7 miles west of Alderney, was first lit on 30th October 1724 and at that time consisted of three towers of roughly equal height, set in a triangle. Each was equipped with a coal burning fire in an armourer's forge, enclosed in a glazed lantern. The fires were maintained by bellows, which in those days had to be worked more or less continuously by hand.

aycsq02f (3).jpg (17525 bytes) This "Tuck's" postcard is possibly an artist's impression of the wreck of the "Stella".
aycsq05f (3).jpg (18909 bytes) This postcard from the early 1900s shows the Casquets Lighthouse
aycsq06f (3).jpg (14040 bytes) This postcard dating from the 1930s shows a more modern view.

The armourer's forges were replaced in 1779 by oil lamps in a copper lantern, with reflectors, but when the lease reverted to Trinity House in 1785 they decided to improve it further and in 1790, replaced these with Argand lamps in metal reflectors. Later still, the revolving apparatus, powered by clockwork which needed winding every hour and a half, was fitted in 1818, giving one flash every 15 seconds. The lighthouses were badly damaged and the lanterns smashed in a great storm on 31st October 1823.

In 1834 the three revolving lights (which were not synchronized and rarely showed more than two lights at the same time), each contained eight of these burners revolving horizontally, whose total annual consumption of oil was over 1,000 gallons and had a range in clear weather of about twelve miles. A bell was used as a fog signal.   In 1854 the height of each tower was raised by another 30 feet, increasing the range. The lamps were then of 184,000 candle-power and gave three slow flashes every half minute.

In 1877 the light was converted to a single lamp in the N.E. tower, the height of which was increased again, with a quick flashing signal 5 times every 30 seconds.

In 1952 the lighthouse was converted to electricity and the power increased to 2,830,000 candle-power. The light was now at about 120 feet above sea level and it had a range of 14 miles. In contrast to most lighthouses the optics rotate in an anti-clockwise direction.  The other two towers were shortened and the east tower now contains the fog-horn, whilst the S.W. tower has a helicopter landing pad. There is a second landing pad on a flat section of rock not very far above high tide level. The lighthouse is now automatic.


On the 'mainland' of Alderney the Alderney Lighthouse, otherwise known as the Mannez Lighthouse or the Quesnard Lighthouse, was built in 1912, on the N.E. coast between Forts Quesnard and Les Hommeaux Florains after a remarkable succession of wrecks nearby.  The lighthouse, which was constructed by William Baron who almost bankrupted himself in the process, was first lit in 1912.   Later the same year the tower was painted in its present distinctive black and white bands. Until 1954 the Baron family had continued to maintain the structure since it was built.

aylth08f (3).jpg (16599 bytes) This postcard by C R Le Cocq shows the lighthouse construction work
aylth64f (3).jpg (13408 bytes) This postcard by Bramley of Guernsey shows the lighthouse completed, but unpainted.  Note the Hornsby oil engine compressor sets (sirens) installed 1912, which gave 4 blasts every 90 seconds. Later, in 1969, they were replaced by an electric stack.
aylth63f (3).jpg (13445 bytes) This postcard by Bramley of Guernsey is the same as before but has the black band painted onto the negative
aylth56f (3).jpg (15550 bytes) This postcard by Thomas Westness shows the lighthouse completed, but unpainted.
aylth03f (3).jpg (8510 bytes) This photograph is probably also from a Westness picture.

At first the 458,000 candle-power lamp was powered by paraffin using a Hood petrol vapour unit, (now preserved in the Alderney Museum) and the reflectors were turned by clockwork, wound by the keepers every hour until electrification in 1976 when the paraffin lamp was replaced by electric filament lampsOn 2nd June 1976 the whole light was converted to electricity.  It now has an output of 1,000,000 candle-power and a range of 17 miles. The tower is 109 feet high and the signal is 4 flashes every 15 seconds. The Diaphone Foghorn (the two tapered devices on the roof) gave four (gut-wrenching) 2-second blasts every 90 seconds.  These have now been replaced by a relatively unimpressive siren.

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