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Godrevy Island- 'To The Lighthouse'


Godrevy Island is a small, rocky isle situated off the northern Cornish coast, near St. Ives. Godrevy Island is part of the Portreath Heritage Coast. The picturesque little island is dominated by a famous lighthouse, which was immortalised in the classic Virginia Woolf novel To the Lighthouse (the novelist got her inspiration for the story from a visit to Godrevy Island). Virginia Woolf is not the first person or indeed the first writer to be influenced and inspired by the peaceful beauty of Godrevy.

Preperation for the building of the lighthouse began in 1857. For many years cargo ships had been wrecked on the treacherous rocks and reefs along the Godrevy coast area. When a massive steamer called 'The Nile' was wrecked with the loss of all hands in 1854, the public began crying out for a lighthouse to be built at Godrevy. The permit for the lighthouse construction was passed in 1857, and local workmen worked throughout 1858 to complete the vital lighthouse.

The Godrevy light shone for the first time on March 1st 1859. Three keepers were assigned to the lighthouse- two would stay on the island, and one would stay on the mainland. The lighthouse proved its worth, functioning well for many years. Shortly before 1900 a telephone link was installed between Godrevy Island and the mainland.

However, by 1934 shipping traffic had decreased and it was becoming harder and harder to financially justfy the presence of the keepers on the island. On Thursday 9th August 1934 the lighthouse became officially unmanned, and would be automatically lit at night and cut off during the day.

The lighthouse is still operational to this day, but now uses solar power. During the day, the lighthouse stores energy from the sun, and releases it at night by illuminating and warding off ships.

Godrevy Island is, like most offshore islands, a natural haven for wildlife. In particular, the common grey seal can easily be spotted near to the island, and cormorants, gulls, oyster-catchers and pipits make their homes on the rocky isle, which is partly covered by grass.

There is no history on Godrevy Island apart from the lighthouse (however on the Godrevy Headland on the mainland you can find a prominent burial mound which is highly believed to contain the remains of a very important bronze age chieftain), and unfortunately the island is not open to outside visitors. The lighthouse is operated with solar power by the Trinity House Operations Control Centre in Harwich, Essex.

The lighthouse is maintained by the Trinity House Operations Control, who make helicopter visits. Inspectors from the National Trust have also been known to check on the island via helicopter, as access from the sea is unsafe.

Godrevy Island is under the jurisdiction and care of the National Trust.


Go Back to Islands of Britain


Dave Hill's Sailing Homepage
Cornwall Panoramic Photos
Godrevy Coast Official Site