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Hook Lighthouse: The oldest operating lighthouse in Ireland

Marija Georgievska

The Hook Lighthouse is situated at the tip of the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford in Ireland. What’s special about this lighthouse is that it is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world and the oldest operating in Ireland.

The commissioners of Irish Lights are the ones operating this lighthouse. It marks the eastern entrance to Waterford Harbour.

Hook Head Lighthouse. Photo Credit

Hook Head Lighthouse. 

Hook Lighthouse stands on its grounds for nearly 800 years. Today’s tower dates back to the 12th century, even though tradition says that St. Dubhan first placed a light beacon on these grounds. This headland is also known by the name of Rinn Dubháin or St. Dubhán’s Head.

But there is also a similar word that means fish hook in Irish (duán) and the locals call it “The tower of the hook”.

The tower was built by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, who also made a port some 30km up the river in the town of New Ross. In order for the ships to reach this newly built port, Marshall also built a 36m high tower. The year when this magnificent tower was built remains unknown, but some written evidence suggests that William came to this region in 1201.

The map of this region that shows the operating lighthouse is from 1240, so by mere logic the period when this tower was erected must have been between 1201 and 1240.

The current structure has stood for almost 800 years. Photo Credit

The current structure has stood for almost 800 years. Photo Credit

 

The Hook Lighthouse appears on the coat of arms of County Wexford. Photo Credit

The Hook Lighthouse appears on the coat of arms of County Wexford. 

 

 

Hook Lighthouse and the houses dating from the same period. Photo Credit

Hook Lighthouse and the houses dating from the same period. Photo Credit

A small group of monks were the first custodians of the light, situated in a small monastery on the peninsula. Even before the lighthouse, the monks would light fires and beacons to warn the sailors of the razor sharp rocks that would easily cut through the hull of the ship.

They are the first light-keepers who lived at the monastery in the 13th century. It is also believed that they helped in the construction of the tower.

The tower is constructed with 4m thick walls on fours levels. Today, it displays some of the most extraordinary medieval architecture in Ireland. Inside the tower, there are 115 steps that lead up to the beacon. The first 3 floors still keep the original 13th century fireplace.

The top floor is 6m in diameter and originally held the beacon fire that was later substituted with a lantern.

The map that shows the location of the lighthouse. Photo Credit

The map that shows the location of the lighthouse. Photo Credit

 

 

Hook Lighthouse is one of the most fascinating examples of medieval architecture in Ireland. Photo Credit

Hook Lighthouse is a fascinating example of medieval architecture in Ireland. Photo Credit

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In 1791, the coal burning lantern was replaced with a whale oil lantern that burned up to 1871 when a gas light was installed. Finally, in 1972, electricity became the main driving force behind this lighthouse. It was converted to automatic operation and to this day the lighthouse is controlled from Dun Laoghaire by the Commissioners of Irish Light.