Visit London’s Last Lighthouse

If you find yourself in Leamouth in the East End’s Tower Hamlets area, you will be able to see the last remaining lighthouse still standing in London. Also known as Bow Creek lighthouse, the wharf buildings around the lighthouse are now used as an arts centre and creative work space, which is open to visitors.

The lighthouse itself is no longer in use, but gives visitors a slice of London’s history in an unusual setting.

The early days of Trinity Buoy Wharf

The wharf was originally set up by the Corporation of Trinity House. This was a membership group of mariners and shipmen, dating back to Tudor times. In 1514, Henry VIII gave the group an official charter, and the corporation earned its own coat of arms in 1573. At this point it had the right to install and look after “beacons, marks and signs of the sea”.  Its primary business was making navigation on the Thames and in local sea and waterways safer and easier.

The corporation was based in the City of London, but started using this wharf area as its waterside workshop in the early 1800s. It made and maintained buoys and sea marks in its workshops, and the site was also used for storage and as a base for the corporation’s boat. This was used to set out its buoys and to access them when they needed dockside repair or maintenance.  The wharf was also used by lightships when they needed repairs or somewhere to dock.

Trinity Buoy Wharf – Visit London’s Last Lighthouse

During the nineteenth century, the corporation developed this site further and you can still see some of the original structures and building at the wharf. The river wall itself around the wharf dates back to 1822 and the Electrician’s Building to 1836. The Chief Engineer of the corporation, James Walker, also started to build the wharf’s lighthouses. The last remaining one that still stands today was built after his time, however, by the then Chief Engineer, James Douglass.

Douglass’s lighthouse was constructed in 1864. Known as the “Experimental Lighthouse”, this was used to train lighthouse keepers and to test lighting equipment and devices before they would be used in working lighthouses around the country.  The roof area next to the lighthouse is an odd area of interest, but it was in this spot that the scientist Michael Faraday had a workshop. Faraday had a long-standing interest in lighthouses and in avoiding corrosion on ships. It was on this spot that he started experimenting in how to use electric lighting in lighthouses.

Trinity Buoy Wharf’s heyday

By the 1860s, wooden buoys were being replaced by iron ones, and the corporation started an engineering department where it could test and repair these new models. At this point, space became a real issue, and the corporation took over a neighbouring shipyard to give its works more space. This allowed it to employ around 150 employers by the early 1900s, including engineers, carpenters, testers, blacksmiths and labourers.

At this time, the corporation primarily looked after buoys and lightships between Suffolk and Kent, but its best days were behind it. Despite modernisation projects that ran right up to the 1960s, it closed in 1988. The site was taken over by the London Docklands Development Corporation, but it took almost another ten years before Trinity Wharf started its new life under the management of Urban Space Management.

Trinity Buoy Wharf today

Trinity Buoy Wharf is now an arts centre and creative community hub, described as the most exciting arts quarter in the Docklands area of London. You can still see some of the original wharf buildings, and two old lightships are still docked at the wharf, giving visitors a sense of the wharf’s history. The wharf is also home to Container City. This is a collection of old shipping containers, which have been put together to create innovative, colourful and environmentally friendly work units and space.

The venue is popular with visitors. From a creative perspective, it houses studios, galleries and rehearsal rooms, and has various eating options and entertainment venues on site. You can enjoy lunch in an authentic American diner, or in a converted shipping container if you prefer! The centre has a range of permanent exhibits and installations, many of which are in keeping with the area’s maritime history, and runs regular temporary exhibits and events.

Permanent installations include a Street Art Train and Sculpture Park. You can also visit an installation dedicated to Michael Faraday who conducted many of his experiments on the site. This installation covers his life and times and has some interesting interactive features to keep the kids happy. If you have any potential freerunning enthusiasts in your family, you can also visit the wharf’s Parkour Academy and get some expert tips and advice.

One comment on “Visit London’s Last Lighthouse
  1. Paola Epifani says:

    Good afdternoon,
    I read the information about this area of London; I ‘ d like to spend a short time there; more precisely, I’d really like to get to the lighthouse. I even tried last year, but it was very difficult and finally I surrendered. cCan you please tell me the best way to get from Marble Arch area? I would rather use buses and overground instead of underground trains.
    Thank you very much and regards.
    Paola Epifani

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Comments

  • A.J.Spencer on London East End Street NamesI am looking for any information on Rosher Row ? It was still there in the 1960's as I remember taking my G/Friend of the time to meet my aunt Ett
  • JM Tubbs on Manchester Hotel | Aldersgate Street | WW2 PhotosMy great great grandfather Henry Thomas Tubbs and his business partner Joseph Lewis built this hotel and owned it for a time after it was opened. The initial cost in 1879 was around £70,000. It originally had 240 bedrooms but was expanded. There was a second main entrance on Long
  • JM Tubbs on Manchester Hotel | Aldersgate Street | WW2 PhotosYou could check the 1911 census. Either a subscription or a local studies library should have one you can use.
  • Charles Sage on History of Canning Town East LondonI was born in 1939 and lived in Beckton rd , I can rememember after the war going to the Queens theatre in poplar to see the variety shows , I think the compare was called Buttons,does anyone else remember the theatre.
  • Margaret Knight ( nee Key ) on The History of Beckton Gas WorksMy father was a stoker at the gas works and we lived in one of the company houses , 46 WinsorTerrace until I married in 1957,
  • Charles Sage on History of Canning Town East LondonPatlrick , We lived very close to Hermit rd after moving from Beckton rd in fact we drove along there this very day , we went to the cemetery to take flowers to put on my parents grave. To put it bluntly Canning Town is like a foreign country now
  • Naz on Alf Garnett East London’s Famous Resident.Barnet is not rhyming slang for Alf Garnett, it is rhyming slang for Barnett Fair, that piece of slang was in use well before Johnny Speight wrote TDUDP
  • Patrick Blake-Kerry on History of Canning Town East LondonMakes me laugh, the talk of hop picking as I ended up living in Hampshire as my mum and brother were bombed out and evacuated in 1940. They ended up in Bentley because it was the only place the driver knew outside London. Conversly having stayed and live in Bentley
  • Charlie sage on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Alfie Brown ! I remember the hop picking very well they were great times down China farm , the old huts lightig the fires going so mum could get dinner going , that long walk to the shop opposite the green hill, Bert doing the toilets , scrumping in
  • Carol Featherstone on Second World War Bombing Raid South Hallsville SchoolMy nan and grandad Pat and Emily Murphy were killed in the school leaving my mum an orphan at six she was brought up by her nan Lou McKay
  • Tim Conlan on History of Poplar East LondonGrindley and Co of 21 to 23 Broomfield Street, Poplar, London, E 1868 Company established. 1914 Tar and rosin distillers. Specialities: insulating and transformer oils, black varnishes, soluble drier preparations, motor and other greases.
  • Jane on History of Canning Town East LondonThank you, Ray, that's such a helpful reply - much appreciated.,
  • A.J.Spencer on London’s East End and The BlitzMy grand parents lived in Canning Town during the Blitz and I cannot find any trace of them on any records. I am looking especially pertaining to John William Spencer who lived at 66 Bidder St, Canning town in 1913
  • Ken Shelton on History of Canning Town East LondonHi there, I went to both of the Stratford Grammar Schools - the first one next to West Ham Park was just around the corner from where we lived, on Shirley Rd. I remember there was a tuck shop on the corner. Lots of memories from there - thanks for
  • Elaine Ford on History of Poplar East LondonDoes anyone know of a company called 'Grindleys' ? or similar, was based in Poplar in the 1940's (I believe) and was eventually pulled down. I'm writing a tribute for a gentleman who worked there, he was 99 years old. The family are not sure of the spelling of the

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 175 other subscribers.