London’s Only Lighthouse
Established in 1803 to house the Corporation of Trinity House, the wharf was used to store wooden buoys and sea marks as well as act as a mooring spot for the Trinity House Yacht.
The iconic lighthouse (London’s only remaining one) was built in 1836 by James Douglas. It was used to train lighthouse keepers and, more famously, was used for scientific experiments by Michael Faraday.
Now it serves a very different purpose.
Since 2000 the lighthouse has housed ‘Longplayer’ an epic (in the real sense of the word) artwork. “From its inception, Longplayer is about long-term thinking” it’s essentially a piece of music, played on a computer that started in 2000 and will continue until 2999.
A Longplayer trust has been established to ensure there are people today, training people to work on the project tomorrow. In this sense it can be seen as a social organism depending on people across generations and relying on a community of listeners over the coming centuries.
The best place to hear Longplayer is at the very top of the lighthouse, overlooking North Greenwich and Canary Wharf;
Before you get up to the top though, you’re met by a spiral of shelves which hold golden bowls:
Not just for decoration, this is a vast custom-made orchestra, comprised of 234 singing bowls. The ones on display are only part of the 66 ft wide orchestral instrument used to perform Longplayer Live, which last occurred in the Camden Roundhouse in 2014.
Read more and find out how to visit (it’s free!) here.
Other London ‘Lighthouses’
I know of two other London landmarks that could dispute the ‘London’s only lighthouse’ claim. But neither are truly lighthouses (or even near water!)
The first is in Kings Cross, now a retail space above a Five Guys, it was originally a marketing ploy by an oyster restaurant on this site in the 19th century. It’s been refurbished in the last few years and gloriously restored as a landmark in the area.
The second is in Walthamstow and is part of the Lighthouse Methodist Church on Markhouse Road. The idea of a lighthouse came from Captain King who had purchased the land in 1889. Sadly he died that year but the lighthouse was completed and instead of church bells, the light would be illuminated!
Photo from a postcard c.1910 from Walthamstowhistory.com
Have you spotted any others?