Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust
The historic heart of Stanley
This picture was found inside the lighthouse and we love it! If you recognise it please let us know
In the 1840s the first navigational aid was erected on Cape Pembroke in the form of a wooden marker post painted red and white. This was replaced in 1854 by a cast-iron lighthouse, pre-fabricated in London by William Wilkins of Long Acre. The tower was 60 feet high, painted in red and white bands. The light was produced by 18 lamps burning rape-seed oil, which were lit for the first time in December 1855. The illuminating apparatus was first order catoptric (reflecting) and the fixed light showed in every direction seaward, visible for 14 miles in clear conditions. It came under the jurisdiction of Trinity House in London.
In 1889 the tower was painted white overall as the strong sunlight had caused the red bands to fade. Then in 1904 Governor Allardyce reported to the Colonial Office that he had inspected the foundations of the lighthouse and found the original wooden piles to have become quite rotten through damp. He said that the brick and cement base had cracked and that he considered the structure to be unsafe. In view of this, a decision was taken in 1905 to re-build the lighthouse on new foundations.
Work began on this project in 1906. It was a major undertaking, involving some 700 tons of new materials, a Trinity House supervisor and four contractors from Britain and a team of local men. A lightship light was placed on the peninsula while work was in progress. The re-erected tower was positioned about 200 yards to the west of the original site and a new lantern was placed on top, making the lighthouse 70 feet high from base to weather vane.
The re-built light was finally illuminated again in June 1907. The original system had been replaced by a dioptric (refracting) 3rd order apparatus, lit by paraffin lamps. Mounted on a stand which revolved by clockwork, it showed a flashing light instead of a fixed one and was visible for 16 miles in clear weather. The tower was painted black with a broad white band.
The lighthouse was put out of operation after the Argentine invasion in April 1982. Today, a ground-mounted solar-powered unit erected by the Fisheries Department in 1987 serves as a navigational aid on Cape Pembroke.
In 1990 proposals were put forward for the restoration of the lighthouse and work has been in progress ever since. The main tasks have included stabilisation of the tower and the repair of damage sustained in the 1980s, including the replacement of damaged lantern glass. Regular maintenance is now carried out. The work is supported by various bodies, including the Government's Historic Buildings Fund and local charities, but its care was largely down to the efforts of the late Jane Cameron, Government Archivist and a great advocate for the protection of Falklands heritage.
The lighthouse key is available from the Museum at a charge of £10 a day. The money raised from this charge goes to the Cape Pembroke Lighthouse Fund which is used for the restoration work currently in progress.
Cape Pembroke is the most easterly point of the Falkland Islands and lies just over 7 miles due east of Stanley. It is thought to have been named in the eighteenth century after Thomas, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, Lord High Admiral from 1690 to 1709.