Llandudno lighthouse, Great Orme
The lane leaving Marine Drive here leads to Llandudno lighthouse, now a guesthouse. You’re welcome to walk down the lane to view the building.
The lighthouse is 99 metres (325 feet) above sea level. It was erected in 1862 for the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board to the plans of its chief engineer, George Fosbery Lyster. It was taken over by Trinity House in 1873. Throughout its working life it used the original lantern that was made specially for it.
The keeper, his deputy and their families lived in the building, which was split with a central hallway so that each family had its own privacy. The wood-clad hallway still exists. The photo on the right shows the lantern in 1967 with keeper Percy Vaughan.
After the light was switched off in 1985, the lantern was taken to Liverpool for display in the harbour board’s office. As the lighthouse is a listed building, it was pointed out that the lantern had been removed illegally. In 1993 the lantern returned to Llandudno. It’s now on display in the visitor centre near the Great Orme summit.
The long list of ships wrecked nearby indicates why a lighthouse was placed here. Just 400 metres west of the lighthouse is the Hornby Cave, named after the 280-ton Liverpool brig Hornby which hit the cliff below in a storm on New Year’s Day 1824. On board were a crew of 13, two passengers and cargo valued at £60,000, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Liverpool.
The only survivor, John Williams, had been ordered by the captain to loosen the jib (the sail at the front). On reaching the jib, he saw a rock below him and jumped onto it. When he came to, he could see no sign of the ship. Next morning he climbed the cliff and told his story to copper miners on the Orme. They were unconvinced until they saw remains of the vessel. Nineteen local people were later jailed for plundering the wreck. Williams spent the rest of his working life as a Llandudno copper miner.
Below the lighthouse, a few hundred metres to the west near sea level, is a well-appointed cave shown on maps as Yr Ogo Llech (“hiding cave”). It was popularly known as “smugglers’ cave”. It was said that monks from Gogarth Abbey (near West Shore) would go there for retreat or to hide from the anti-Catholic authorities. Since there was only a Bishop’s Palace at Gogarth, this could not have been true. The real answer was discovered recently: it had been fitted out as a summer house in the 17th century for the Mostyn family, who lived at nearby Gloddaeth.
With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society
Postcode: LL30 2XD
Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
Paddle steamer wreck – passengers waiting on Rhos pier saw their ship sink as it approached
Flying Foam wreck 1936 – remains still visible at low tide at West Shore
Footnotes: The lighthouse’s equipment