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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Not Listed

Date of Construction:
1820 - 1839

Address :
Former light house buildings Copeland Island Bird Observatory Light House Island (off) Co Down

Light House Island

Survey 2:
Record Only

Date of Listing:

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use
Light House/ Navigation Mark

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J5971 8589

Owner Category


Exterior Description And Setting

Largely ruined remains of a (largely) early 19th century lighthouse and lighthouse keepers dwellings, abandoned c.1888 with two of the former dwellings later converted to a hostel for birdwatchers. The complex is located on the northeast of the small Light House Island, one of the Copeland Islands, roughly 6km off the northeast coast of County Down. The island, an important site for breeding seabirds and waders, is now a Designated Area of Special Scientific Interest. The whole complex is set within a walled enclosure which is entered via a vehicle gateway to the W side, which has tall square pyramidal-capped pillars and a flat arch, but no gates. The pillars are harled as are the tall walls of the enclosure. To the S side of the enclosure is a single-storey U-shaped building, originally two dwellings, but considerably altered and extended in relatively recent times and now a hostel for birdwatchers visiting the island. The building has a shallow pitched gabled roof of corrugated metal and the walls are rendered. The window openings (most of which appear to be of recent insertion) have modern timber frames. Set to the immediate N side of the hostel (enclosed within the 'U' as it were) is a large single-storey with harled walls, and a shallow-pitched roof similar to the main building. To the N side of the hostel, on higher ground, is the circular stump of the former lighthouse, which is constructed in dressed granite. A number of the blocks which made up the rest of the lighthouse shaft are piled up around the stump. On the N side of the enclosure is a ruined rectangular one and a half-storey gabled building with a shallow projection to the SE corner. This building, said by visitors to have orginially contained a pair of semi-detached dwellings, but possibly later used as a store, has harled walls with small flat-arched windows and flat-arched doorways. A large part of the roof, which was stone-built, has collapsed, including the northeast corner, where there used to be a platform which held a large brazier- the original 18th century 'lighthouse'. To the immediate W and NW of the there is a large, roughly rectangular, area surrounded by a low rubble wall, believed to have been a garden. There is a gateway to the SE corner of this area. A short distance to the NE of the main enclosure is the remains of a concrete foundations which belonged to a now dismantled WWII radar mast. Close to the S coast of the island are the ruins of a small rectangular rubble-built dwelling, which is said to have once acted as a 'public house' of sorts.


Not Known

Historical Information

According to a history of Light House Island written by Reggie Hamilton in 1996, [see secondary sources], the first lighthouse on the island, was erected in 1711 and consisted of a coal beacon in an iron brazier (or 'chauffer') set on top of a three-storey tower. In 1796 this was replaced with a six foot diameter glass-paned lantern fitted at the top of the tower with six Argand (circular wick) lamps burning sperm oil. Each of the six lamps was magnified by a parabolic reflector. This revamped lighthouse, fourty four feet high on an elevation of almost seventy feet, came into operation in 1796. In 1810 control of the lighthouses of Ireland passed from the Revenue Board to the Corporation for Improving the Port of Dublin, the Ballast Office. One of its first decisions was to build a new fifty two foot lighthouse on Light House Island, close to the original light. The work was commenced in 1813, and the new light, equipped with twenty seven oil burning lamps set in silvered reflectors, 131 feet above high water and visible for sixteen miles, came into operation on 24th January 1815. On the OS map of 1834 the present enclosure, large walled garden and the so-called 'public house' to the south are all shown. The building to the south side of the enclosure was slightly larger at this point, having a projection to the north-western corner, whilst the shed to its immediate north had not yet been built. The circular plan of the lighthouse itself is shown (and marked 'Light house'), with the legend 'Base of Light' next to the building to the north end. This collection within the enclosure is recorded in the valuation of 1835. It included a 'house' for the two keepers and their families measuring 69ft x 20 x 7½, a 'house return' of 15½ x 21½ x 7½ , three 'offices' (i.e. outbuildings) of 21x 12½ x 6, 15 x 8 x 4½ and 15 x 8 x 4½ , another 'house return' of 15½ x 21½ x 7, two 'oil stores' of 63 x 23½ x 8 and 27 x 12 x 6, and the lighthouse itself, 6oft in circumference. Almost all of these buildings are classed by the valuers as 'newly built' at that point, suggesting most were erected along with the new lighthouse in 1813-15, however, the presence of the 'Base of Light' on the OS map appears to indicate that the old 1700s towere, at least, survived in some form. On the revised OS map of 1858-60 the buildings are shown as present, but with an extra freestanding structure just to the northwest of the enclosure (within the walled 'garden'). Unfortunately the second valuation of 1861 provides no details on any of the buildings. The lighthouse continued in operation until the mid 1880s when its functions were superseded by a new light house on the neighbouring Mew Island. The complex appears to have been abandoned by 1888, as it is not referred to in the valuation books after this date, and the lighthouse itself was largely dismantled (to avoid confusion with the new one). In the 20th -century the now uninhabited Light House Island became a haven for breeding seabirds and waders and consequently a favourite haunts for ornithologists. In the later 1900s the old keepers' dwellings were converted for use as a 'hostel' for birdwatchers and in 2004 the island was designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest. References- Primary Sources 1 PRONI VAL/1A/3/3 OS map, County Down sheet 3, with valuation
references (1834-c. 1838) 2 PRONI VAL/1B/31 First valuation, Bangor parish (c. 1835-c. 1838) 3 PRONI VAL/2A/3/3 OS map, County Down sheet 3, with valuation references (1858-c. 1861) 4 PRONI VAL/2B/3/7B Second valuation, Bangor parish (1861) 5 PRONI VAL/12B/23/7A-K Annual valuation revision books, Bangor parish etc. (c.1864-1929) Secondary sources 1 Hamilton, Reggie "Mew Island" in 'The Copeland Bird Report' (1996)

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

Historic Interest


Largely ruined remains of a (largely) early 19th century lighthouse and lighthouse keepers dwellings, abandoned c.1888 with two of the former dwellings later converted to a 'hostel' for birdwatchers. Whilst of significant interest from an industrial and maritime heritage perspective, as (the remains of) one of the series of light houses that served the waters around the Irish coast, there remains insufficient historic fabric to merit listing.

General Comments

Date of Survey

09 July 2004