Corbiere Lighthouse on the South West tip of Jersey, is possibly the best known landmark on the Island as well as being a superb sea kayaking venue. Although it is automatic it is still immaculate with the interior brass polished every week and the paintwork maintained regularly.
It is no surprise that there is a lighthouse at this spot, the jagged rocks pierce the sea and the currents are strong during both the ebb and flood, before it was built there were many wrecks and also many stories of wreckers luring boats in to shore by hanging lamps on the horns of their cows to simulate lights on fishing boats.
The lighthouse was built in 1874 at a cost of £8000 which also included the causeway and lighthouse keepers cottages on the mainland. It is made from reinforced concrete blocks made on site with local sand and pebbles brought to the bottom of the lighthouse by a small railway built for the purpose. It is the earliest reinforced concrete lighthouse to be built in the world. It was designed by the consulting engineer to the States of Jersey Harbours and Piers Committee Sir John Coode and it was built by the States engineer Imrie Bell.
The original light was lit by paraffin and it can still be seen there today along with the brass ventilation panels around the light. With reflectors this lamp could be seen up to 17 miles away. Now this has been replaced by a 1000 watt electric bulb.
Before the fog horn was built ships were warned by a bell which still hangs from the top of the light. The original fog horn was run from an engine room where compressed air was piped to the horns. This was started manually by the lighthouse keepers. This is now done automatically by light sensors and electricity.
The lighthouse was last manned in 1973, before this two keepers would do 2 days on and 2 days off walking back to the mainland during the low tide to the lighthouse cottages across the causeway. This was not a job which would suit every one but for those who were lighthouse keepers it was probably the best job in the world and it was a sad day when they all became automatic.
On the slipway there is a granite plaque commemorating the tragic drowning of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, an assistant lighthouse keeper, on the 28th May 1946, as he tried to rescue a visitor cut off by the tide. It is a clear warning to those who pass by.
During the Second World War the lighthouse was switched off for the majority of the time and it was re-lit on the 19th May 1945 and to this day it has remained an essential part of marine safety in Channel Island waters.