History in Structure

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The Smalls Lighthouse

A Grade II Listed Building in Marloes and St. Brides (Marloes a Sain Ffrêd), Pembrokeshire

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Latitude: 51.7212 / 51°43'16"N

Longitude: -5.6698 / 5°40'11"W

OS Eastings: 146630

OS Northings: 208876

OS Grid: SM466088

Mapcode National: GBR DSC4.KPJ

Mapcode Global: VGZXH.NZYW

Entry Name: The Smalls Lighthouse

Listing Date: 23 February 1998

Last Amended: 23 February 1998

Grade: II

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 19407

Building Class: Miscellaneous

Location: Situated on the Smalls reef, some 27km off the Pembrokeshire coast.

County: Pembrokeshire

Community: Marloes and St. Brides (Marloes a Sain Ffrêd)

Community: Marloes and St. Brides

Locality: The Smalls

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Following pressure from merchants, ship-owners and seamen, a lease of the Smalls Rock was taken in 1773 by the Master of Saint George's Dock, Liverpool, John Philips, with the intention of establishing a light. Philips wanted a light that would be 'so singular in construction as to be known from all others in the world', and commissioned a musical instrument maker, Henry Whiteside, to construct it. Whiteside designed a piled structure and as originally erected, it has 3 cast-iron stanchions surrounded by timber pillars. Set up at Solva, it was erected on the Smalls Rock in 1775, but was structurally unstable, and never used. Whiteside modified his design to make exclusive use of timber, and a series of posts carried the octagonal keepers' accommodation which was surmounted by the lantern. With some modification (the structure was strengthened in 1777, and extensively repaired following severe storm damage in 1813 and 1833), this lighthouse continued in use until 1861, when it was superceeded by a new tower, and demolished. The new tower was designed by James Walker, consultant engineer to Trinity House (which had taken over the light in 1836), and built 1858-61: it was also pre-erected at Solva. Automation in1978 brought some changes to its internal arrangement, and at the same time, a helicopter landing deck was fitted on top of the lantern.


42m high tower, of interlocking granite ashlar. Circular, the tower tapers from a stepped base. Entrance above the base (reached by a bronze ladder set into the wall). Paired gun-metal doors and gun-metal shutters to windows. Moulded cornice to projecting lantern gallery, with facetted octagonal lantern. Helipad on roof, supported by a new framework replacing the original gallery railings.


Sloping passage through the thickness of the wall leads from the entrance. Fine granite spiral stair leads up from the entrance level to the winch room. Similar stair in the next stage was removed when generators were installed in 1978. The upper stages of the tower are accessed by a stone mural stair, and the accommodation comprises a single room on each of three floors, each with curved panelled doors (other internal joinery and fittings all replaced). Sector light in upper storey, then cast-iron staircase leading to lantern floor. Optic carried on cast-iron base with circular piers and moulded brackets: revolving catadioptric lens may be late C19: the original light here was fixed, according to a publication of 1871, and the truncation of the cast-iron brackets of the inner gallery was probably a modification made when a secondary optic was inserted.

Reasons for Listing

Listed as a fine example of a rock lighthouse, and an excellently engineered structure by James Walker.

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