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North Ronaldsay, Dennis Head Beacon, Including Remains of Keepers' Houses

A Category A Listed Building in North Isles, Orkney Islands

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Latitude: 59.3843 / 59°23'3"N

Longitude: -2.3712 / 2°22'16"W

OS Eastings: 379012

OS Northings: 1055392

OS Grid: HY790553

Mapcode National: GBR N3HX.Y61

Mapcode Global: XH9S2.GDD6

Plus Code: 9CFV9JMH+PG

Entry Name: North Ronaldsay, Dennis Head Beacon, Including Remains of Keepers' Houses

Listing Date: 8 December 1971

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 337390

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB5891

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Cross and Burness

County: Orkney Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Parish: Cross And Burness

Traditional County: Orkney

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North Ronaldsay


Thomas Smith and Ezekiel Walker, 1798. Tall, circular-plan 2-stage tower with bracketed cornice below flagstone ball finial. Harl-pointed rubble. Window (blocked) at 1st stage to E; window at 2nd stage above. Remains of rubble, single storey, rectangular-plan keepers' houses abutting base of tower to W. Abutting gable with doorway offset to right, affording entry to tower. Internal timber stair now gone.

Statement of Interest

Scheduled Ancient Monument, No 6596. One of the first four lighthouse to be built in Scotland. Thomas Smith was commissioned by the Northern Lighthouse Board together with the English lighthouse designer, Ezekiel Walker, to build a lighthouse to illuminate the dangerous waters at the northernmost tip of Orkney. The masons, John White and James Sinclair, constructed the 70ft tower from undressed local stone. The cost of the light was estimated at ?199 12s 6d and was first lit on 10th October, 1789. The lighting system was advanced, being the catrophic, or reflecting system, consisting of a number of oil-burning lamps surrounded by copper reflectors covered in facets of mirror glass to magnify the light. This fixed light survived until 1809 when the commissioners realised that the choice of position was somewhat unfortunate. The light proved to be too low to be seen by ships coming from the west and the south and was often mistaken for a ship's light. As a consequence, it was decided to transfer the lighthouse to a higher elevation at Start Point on the island of Sanday. The original cast-iron lantern with its copper-sheathed cupola was replaced by the huge ashlar ball finial which had previously topped the Sanday beacon.

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