History in Structure

Telford Light, Dundee

A Category C Listed Building in Dundee, Dundee

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Latitude: 56.4589 / 56°27'32"N

Longitude: -2.963 / 2°57'46"W

OS Eastings: 340751

OS Northings: 730054

OS Grid: NO407300

Mapcode National: GBR ZBP.ZP

Mapcode Global: WH7RB.GX8D

Plus Code: 9C8VF25P+HR

Entry Name: Telford Light, Dundee

Listing Name: Telford Beacon, Dundee waterfront near Tay Bridge

Listing Date: 2 November 1989

Last Amended: 23 February 2021

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 361084

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB24966

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200361084

Location: Dundee

County: Dundee

Town: Dundee

Electoral Ward: Maryfield

Traditional County: Angus

Tagged with: Beacon

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Telford Beacon, a former harbour light located on Dundee Waterfront, dates to around 1834. Built by James Leslie in consultation with Thomas Telford, it formerly acted as the leading light on the wharf which stood between the King William IV dock and the tidal harbour.

Telford Beacon is a cylindrical sandstone tower with a sandstone ashlar shaft, and long narrow courses. There is a stepped base course, a dog-toothed band course and a cornice above. On the top of the sandstone tower is a castellated parapet and a cast iron lantern with a domed cap. The light is no longer in use and the lantern glass is no longer present.

Historical development

Telford Beacon was built around 1834 as part of a complex of four large docks in this area of Dundee along with related shipbuilding facilities. Thomas Telford began designing improvements for Dundee harbour in 1815. In 1825 he consulted with James Leslie on the construction of the King William Dock and its associated tidal harbour. This was followed in 1834 by the adjacent Earl Grey Dock, with the Camperdown and Victoria Docks to the east being added in 1865 and 1875 respectively.

Telford Beacon is shown as a fixed red harbour light on the Ordnance Survey First Edition map (surveyed 1860-62, published 1865) and Second Edition map (surveyed 1901, published 1903). It formerly stood on the west side of the entrance to the King William IV dock. The lantern for the light appears to have been replaced in the 1880s.

The former harbour light remained in use until the King William IV dock was infilled in the 1960s, as part of the construction of the Tay Road Bridge, specifically the roads connecting to the north end of the bridge. The light itself remained in situ, although inactive, despite the infilling of the dock.

In 2011, Telford Beacon was moved from its location to a new site a short distance away on the shoreline to the east (see listed building consent:10/00322/LBC), as the Dundee Waterfront regeneration project realigned roadways connecting to the Tay Road Bridge. The project involved lifting the entire beacon in one piece and whilst keeping it upright transporting it to its new location overlooking the River Tay.

Statement of Interest

The former harbour light at Dundee Waterfront continues to meet the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

Architectural interest


Telford Beacon is a simply designed building built to a high quality in dressed sandstone. It has some decorative architectural details by the respected 19th century harbour engineer James Leslie, such as the castellated parapet, but is primarily functional in its form.

The works undertaken to relocate the beacon in one piece in 2011 were planned in a manner designed to avoid detracting from the integrity, character and appearance of the structure. This has been successfully achieved and the beacon retains a good degree of authenticity and completeness.


The location for any lighthouse is critical to understanding its function.

Telford Beacon was originally located within a heavily industrialised area of docks, shipyards, railways and other industries and acted as a guiding light for vessels passing between the King William IV dock and the tidal harbour. With the closure of these industries, the infilling of former docks, the construction of the Tay Road Bridge and the regeneration of Dundee Waterfront, the setting of the former harbour light was significantly altered as it became landlocked. This adversely affected our understanding of its function as a harbour light during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The decision to relocate the Telford Beacon in 2011 to a new waterside around 130m east of its original site means that it is not possible to understand the function of the beacon as a former harbour light in its historical context. This has impacted the level of interest under this heading to a certain degree, although some interest remains. This new waterside location was chosen carefully as it was the former site of a second fixed red light that stood on the north-eastern harbour wall at the entrance to the tidal harbour (see also Ordnance Survey First Edition and Second Edition maps). As such, the relocated light continues to contribute to our understanding of how the harbour of Dundee functioned. By moving the beacon to a new site at the water's edge from one that had become landlocked, the critical connection with the River Tay has been re-established. The beacon contributes to its current setting as a feature on the Black Watch Parade - a walk and cycleway connecting the City Quay, Tay Road Bridge and the V&A Dundee alongside the River Tay.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

Leading lights are a specific type of navigational aid, usually consisting of two lighted towers located one behind the other to the rear of a harbour entrance. When the two lights are visually aligned in front of an approaching vessel, it can be sure it is entering the harbour on the safest bearing or navigating the deepest part of the channel. The Telford Beacon is not a particularly early example of a harbour light, and it is also part of a common building type. Leading light towers, built of stone, are known to have existed in Britain from at least as early as the 16th century. While few early towers survive, these navigational aids are relatively common components of both large and small harbours.

Some of the oldest harbour lights within Scotland date to around 1810, with early surviving examples at Dunure Harbour (LB19683), South Queensferry (LB40353) and North Queensferry (LB9998). Many of the surviving harbour lights within Scotland were constructed much later in the 19th century. Of these, at least 20 are designated, either on their own or as part of the harbours and canals they serve.

Social historical interest

Telford Beacon provides a reminder of the major harbour developments that took place in Dundee during the 19th century, much of which no longer survives.

The significance of Scotland's lighthouse network to the country's history is high. As an island nation with over 18,000 kilometres of coastline and over 900 islands, maritime industries such as fishing, coastal trade and transportation have long been significant social and economic factors. Harbour lights played an important role in guiding vessels safely in and out of harbours at night.

Dundee's harbour is believed to have existed since the 11th century, although much of the visible surviving harbour elements date to the 19th century. The harbour light was part of the King William Dock, the first of a series of new harbour and dock facilities built to meet the increasing demands of Dundee's industry, particularly with the growth of the jute industry from the 1830s onwards. As ships became larger, further facilities were built, including wharves to accommodate ships that could not fit within the harbours, By the 1930s the King William Dock was largely unused. During the 1940s the dock was partially infilled, with this process completed, along with the infilling of the Earl Grey Dock and the tidal harbour, as part of the construction works for the Tay Road bridge in the 1960s.

Association with people or events of national importance

The former harbour light at Dundee Waterfront has an association with Thomas Telford, who acted as a consultant on the Dundee Harbour works, and with James Leslie as the Resident Engineer responsible for the construction.

Thomas Telford is recognised as one of Scotland's most prominent architects and engineers, and he was selected as the first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1820. Among the most notable works Telford was involved with are the Caledonian Canal, the Dean Bridge in Edinburgh (LB27941) and the Dunkeld Bridge over the River Tay (LB5620), along with consulting on the new docks for Dundee, of which the harbour light was a part.

James Leslie was the Resident Engineer in charge of the Dundee Harbour works in the 1830s, including the former harbour light. Although initially he trained as an architect, he chose to become a civil engineer early in his career and grew to prominence as a specialist in harbour and water works particularly on the east coast of Scotland, The Dundee harbour project was among his earliest works.

Statutory address, category of listing changed from B to C and listed building record revised in 2021. Previously listed as 'Telford Light, Dundee Waterfront Near Tay Bridge'.

External Links

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