Douglas Head Lighthouse, Isle of Man

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Douglas Head Lighthouse, Isle of Man

Douglas Head Lighthouse is a lighthouse at Douglas Head on the Isle of Man between England and Ireland.

The light was established in 1857 although the vicinity was in the control of the Isle of Man Harbour Board from 1832.

The lighthouse was built by the engineering brothers David and Thomas Stevenson who built it with a total elevation of 32 metres. The white tower is 20 metres in height and the light itself at a height of 12 metres.

The lighthouse staircase has 71 steps and the light has a nominal range of 24 miles. The lantern is composed of 8 brilliant reflectors made of pure silver and which are dated back to 1831. The light flashes white every 10 seconds.


In 1855 the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty requested that the lighthouse be installed other than the Harbour Light at Douglas Harbour. A parliamentary report at the time revealed that the light already existing in Douglas had been out of operation since 1850. There were originally two lighthouses, one on the pier which had to remain a harbour light and this one. The Douglas Head Lighthouse is the only sea light between the Calf of Man and the Point of Ayre - some 40 miles away.

Structural problems meant the lighthouse was restructured in 1892.

The foghorn, known locally as 'Moaning Minnie', was added in 1908. It caused many complaints in Douglas but it was later moved around the head to reduce the upset to local people.

The lighthouse was automated in 1986.

Recently, a new public footpath was constructed by the Commissioners from the top of Port Skillion down to the Light for the benefit of tourists and sightseers.


After the establishment of the new lighthouse in 1857, the light changed jurisdiction form the Commissioners of Douglas Harbour to the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouse who took over the Douglas Head operation. The lighthouse is still run to this day by the northern commissioners who dually operate Douglas Head and the Northern lighthouse on the Isle of Man.


The name Douglas Head means Blackstream (Dubh -black and Glais-stream. Some Manx people believe the name was derived from two rivers, the Dubh and the Glas, the black and green streams of the Greu river.

Specifics of the light

The 12 metre high light has two double banked units of 12 lamps mounted facing in opposite directions, operated by an AGA PRB21 Gearless Drive Unit rotating at 3 rpm, giving a flash every 10 seconds.

Only 8 out of the 12 lamps (30 volts 200 watts) run at 25 volts 150 watts to give increased service life which are used in normal operation. The other 4 lamps are 6 volts 28.5 watts used only as emergency lamps. Such emergencies may be during loss of mains electric power or the unlikelihood of a complete failure of the main lamp banks.

The corresponding 4 emergency lamps are connected in series, if one lamp fails all four go out, which gives each unit the same intensity, similarly with the 6 volt lamps of power. Power is provided by emergency batteries. The emergency light is a 200 mm lantern mounted on the balcony rail.

Monitoring and general conditioning

Fully automated since 1986, the light is monitored by the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners at their Northern Lighthouse Board Monitoring Centre. An attendant from the northern board visited the lighthouse on a fortnightly basis to test system procedures and the general physical condition of the building.

However, since September 2004, the Retained Lighthouse Keeper of the Isle of Man]] has replaced the attendant and visits now on a monthly basis.

In addition, lighthouse technicians visit the Douglas Head Light once or twice annually to modify and update the system equipment if necessary.

References and external links