The first lighthouse at Howth head was built in about 1667 by Sir Robert Reading, and was one of six that Reading had received letters of patent to build from Charles II.
The original compound was higher up on the hill and consisted of a small cottage and a square tower on its eastern side, which supported a coal-fired beacon. This lighthouse was known as the “Green Bayly” and in 1912 archaeologists uncovered parts of the original building. As technology advanced, the Port Authority of Dublin were interested in improving the light and hired Thomas Rogers, who had invented a new catadioptric light which used six argand lamps, each with a silvered copper parabolic reflector that focused the light through six bull’s eye lenses to give a vastly improved light beam towards the sea. The new mechanism was erected on the same site but it soon became obvious that the site was too high. Constantly lost in mist, the light was further compromised by the fact that Rogers, now under the employ of the revenue commissioners and in complete control of the lighthouse, hired too few keepers and paid them too little. Forced to supplement their meagre wages, the keepers resorted to a plethora of odd jobs including the building of an illegal distillery. Eventually the management of lighthouses was taken back from the Revenue Commissioners and awarded to the Port Authority, who issued a recommendation that the lighthouse be moved south along the headland to Little Baily, or Duncriffin. A new tower and house for the keeper, designed by George Halpin Senior, the corporation’s Inspector of Works, was completed in 1814.
In late 1996, the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation, and the last of the Keepers left on March 24, 1997, making the Baily the last Irish lighthouse to be automated.
Location: 53°21.691′ North, 06°03.158′ West.
Character: Fl W 15s. Exhibited by day in poor visibility
There are great views of the lighthouse along the cliff walk from all directions. I chose the view coming south towards the lighthouse as the headland and the keeper’s cottages are more visible from that direction.
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