At the beginning of the 19th century, the decision was made to construct a new harbour at Howth to handle the steam packet mail from Holyhead, thus replacing the old landing point at Pigeonhouse.
Prior to this, the makeshift quays had been used mainly by local fishermen and as a fuel offloading depot for the lighthouse further up on the headland.
The harbour’s shortcomings however, quickly became apparent as the channels rapidly silted up and it was only with tremendous effort that sufficient depth could be maintained for the new traffic. Within a few short years, construction had started on a more suitable alternative at the other side of Dublin Bay in Dún Laoghaire.
The construction of the Harbour Lighthouse got underway in 1817, while the building of the adjoining Georgian styled residence had to wait for a further four years. We can only assume that the keeper must have lived during the interval in the cramped confines of the tower as he would have been required to be on duty at all times. The buildings were also intended for defensive purposes as the strong circular wall defended a gun position.
It was here at Howth that Erskine Childers, famously landed arms for the Irish Volunteers from his yacht, the Asgard in July 1914. He was later executed by the authorities of the Irish Free State during the Irish Civil War. His son, Erskine Hamilton Childers, went on to become the fourth President of Ireland in 1973.
The old tower light was decommissioned in 1982 when the harbour was modernized and new replacement light on the east pier was established.
Inactive since 1982
Location: 53°23.643′ North, 06°04.020′ West.
Elevation: 17 m
The decommissioned lighthouse is just a short stroll down the pier from Beshoff Bros on the Harbour road and the perfect spot to scoff down some of the best fish and chips this side of Cornwall as the sun sets over the harbour.
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