Lighthouse & Lightship books

(in chronological order) – last updated 12/8/2014

Lighthouses and Lightships a descriptive and Historical Account of their mode of construction and organisation by Adams, W. H. Davenport (1870) Charles Scribner & Co.,

Our Seamarks; A plain account of the Lighthouses, Lightships, beacons, Buoysn and Fog-Signals maintained on our coasts for the Guidance of Mariners by E. Price Edwards (1884) Longmans, Green and Co. (London)

Our Seamarks

The Floating Light of the Goodwin Sands by R M Ballantyne (1870) James Nisbet & Co.London. 404 pages. Insights into the condition, value and vicissitudes of the light-vessels, or floating lighthouses which guard the shores of the United Kingdom; with 5 full page illustrations.


The Story of our Lighthouses and Lightships: Descriptive and Historical by Adams W.H. Davenport (1891) Thomas Nelson. 380 pages, illustrated with coloured folding map and b/w engravings.


British Lighthouses. Their History and Romance by Hardy, W.J. (1895) The Religious Tract Society, London. 224 pages with 25 plates and illustrations from engravings.  A history of lighthouses, lightships and methods of lighting. With much on the Dungeness, Eddystone, Lizard, Spurn Head, Lands End, Holyhead, Wolf Rock, St. Agnes and Longships lighthouses in Britain.


Lightships and Lighthouses by Frederick A. Talbot (1913) William Heinemann, London. 325 pages with numerous illustrations. This volume is not a history of lightships and lighthouses; neither is it a technical treatise. Rather the author’s object has been to relate how the difficulties, peculiar and prodigious, have been overcome by the builders in their efforts to mark some terrible danger-spots, both on the mainland and isolated sea-rocks.


British Lighthouses: Their History and Romance by J. Saxby Wryde (1913) T. Fisher Unwin Ltd, London.

380 pages and 73 illustrations.


Life on a Lightship by Arthur Owens Cooke (1915) Henry Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton, London. 117 pages.

Extremely rare – only two copies online.


The Lightship Pirates: A Thrilling tale of Peril and Adventure on the Texas Coast  by Rowe, John G. (1928) Cupples & Leon Company, New York. 300 pages.

Modern Pirates with the ferocity of Beasts, attack a lightship Crew.


Lightship by Archie Binns (1934) Reynal and Hitchcock, NY

Nautical adventure novel of a battered old lightship in the Pacific and the nine man crew that operate her. The tale of Lightship 167, a portable marine lighthouse. 345 pages.


The Modern Book of Lighthouses Life-Boats & Lightships by WH McCormick (1936) A. & C. Black Ltd.

142 pages including  36 sepia illustrations.


Humber Conservancy Board; Report on the Lighthouses, Lightships, Light Floats, Buoys and Vessels

By Butterfield A. E. (1939) Wright & Haggard


Lighthouse and Lightship, and the Men Who Man the Trinity House Service by Phillips, Godfrey W. (1943) – Robert Ross & Co., Ltd., London. 134 pages. The History and workings of Trinity House are the subjects of the book.


Looming Lights by Carter, George Goldsmith (1945) Constable, London. 167 pages.

With an introduction by Sir Geoffrey Callender. The lightships served as a more than adequate substitute for lighthouses, when there was no firm surface on which to build lighthouses. Serving the same purpose as their land borne brethren, the lightships helped to keep mercantile, naval, and personal vessels away from dangerous coastline. This volume contains many stories involving the lightships.


The Goodwin Sands by George Goldsmith Carter (1953) Constable, London. 148 pages. The story of the Goodwin Sands at the northern end of the English Channel, scene of many wrecks and rescues. Beacons, buoys, lightships, wrecks, rescues, WWII.


Keeper of the Lights. the Saga of Our Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Men Who Guide Those Who Sail the Seas by Adamson Hans Christian (1955) Greenberg Publishing Co., New York.  430 pages.

This book blends the fascinating account of the evolution of devices that guide maritime traffic along our shores, on our rivers and the Great Lakes, into one fast-moving, colorful and informative story. It constitutes a heroic record of men and women who, until 1938, tended the lights afloat and ashore, and since then, of the U.S. Coast Guard meeting the perils faced in the shallow and reef-filled waters on storm-blown shores.


Sentinels of the North Pacific: The Story of Pacific Coast Lighthouses and Lightships by Gibbs, Jr, James A. (1955) Binfords & Mort, Portland, Oregon. 236 pages, copiously illustrated with b/w photographs of Pacific Coast Lighthouses.


Disasters at Sea: The Story of the World’s Great Maritime Tragedies by Mielke, Otto. (1958)  Fleet Publishing, New York – includes wreck of the Lightships Elbe, South Goodwin and Nantucket. 255 pages with 15 b/w photographs. Translated from the German “Katastrophe auf See”.


The True Book About Lighthouses And Lightships by Warren Armstrong (1958) – Frederick Muller, London. Describes the great lighthouses of the past and the present (1950s), telling stories of how difficulties and dangers were overcome in order to provide the lights that contributed to the safety of ships at sea.


The Lightship by Siegfried Lenz (1962) Fiction. 1st British edition. Heinemann, London. First published in Germany 1960 under the title  “Das Feuerschiff”.


White for Danger: True Dramas of Lightships and Lighthouses by Warren Armstrong (1963) John Day & Co., New York. 157 pages. 14 true stories of drama at sea concerning lighthouses and lightships – Eddystone, Flannan, Longstone, Sydney Harbour, Boston etc.


Lighthouses, Lightships & Buoys by Jerrome, Edward G. (1966) . Blackwell Publishers. Children’s book.

64 pages, 4 colour pictures and b/w line drawings.


The Story of Lighthouses Lightships and Lifeboats by Reed, Olwen (1968) Ladybird children’s book. 52 pages.


The Lightship Mystery by Adrian, Mary (1969) Hastings House, New York. 126 pages.

Twelve-year-old Dick, helping aboard his father’s fishing trawler for the summer, agrees to do what he can to aid the government in uncovering a diamond smuggling operation.


Sentinels of Our Shores The Story of Lighthouses, Lightships and Buoys by Shannon, Terry (1969) Golden Gate Junior Books, San Carlos, CA. Children’s book. 80 pages.

Describes the various types and locations of lighthouses, lightships, and buoys from the first Egyptian tower to the first atomic-powered light. Also relates several true incidents involving lighthouses.


Lighthouses & Lightships by Lee Chadwick (1971) – Dobson Books Ltd., London.

165 pages, hardback.

The story of warning lights at sea and those who built and operated them. Includes lighthouses in the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and much more.


Behind the Light by Bette Meyrick (1975) – Hutchinson, London.  215 pages. The story of the Morgans during the first two decades of the twentieth century, as lighthouse keepers and in this volume on the lightships. We follow Pa Morgan as a young tattooed mariner on the great transatlantic sailing ships of the 1890’s to his eventual life’s work ‘behind the light’ of Trinity House Lightships. Written by his granddaughter, presents a most informative insight into a way of life.


Lighthouses of Ireland by Kevin M. McCarthy (1997) – Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida, U.S.A.

141 pages. Eighty navigational aids under the authority of the Commissioners of Irish Lights dot 2000 miles of Irish coastline. Each is addressed here, and thirty of the most interesting ones are featured with detailed histories and full-color paintings by noted maritime artist William Trotter.”


No Port in a Storm by Bob MacAlindin (1998) Whittles Publishing, Caithness, Scotland.

Paperback. 146 pages with b/w illustrations, maps, engravings, sketches and photos.

This volume describes 18 factual adventures of lightships, and ranges over a variety of countries, including America, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, England, Holland, Scotland, Australia and Belgium. It gives accounts of life aboard lightships, and the many hazards and disasters that occurred. Lightships were invariably painted a gaudy red and spent more time at sea than any other ship, their crews compelled to scan the same water and stretch of coastline for the bulk of their working lives. Unlike lighthouse keepers comfortable within their towers, the life of the lightshipman in a hurricane was a sleepless nightmare of holding on, body braced against every combination of rolling and pitching, with tons of water burying the ship. Even under normal conditions, a lightship at anchor is like a cork in the water with the mooring cable checking her motion with a shudder that shook the whole ship.


Prisoners of the Sea by Bob MacAlindin (1999) Peter Williams Associates.

Paperback. 176 pages. The crews and the lightships that they manned were the prisoners of an alien environment. For the men it was, in the main, a voluntary exile, that was marginally better for a seaman than voyaging the seven seas and being away from their families for years. For the ships, anchored in one place at the mercy of the buffeting sea, it was a trial between their builder and nature. In spite of this the prisoners enjoyed sunny afternoons fishing and yarning, but were always ready, whatever the weather, to risk their lives to rescue less fortunate seamen whose ships had tried to impale themselves on the very mark that the light vessel was guarding them against.

The author traces the development of these “prisons” from the early almost unseaworthy wooden hulks to the modern wellfounded, all steel, high-tech light vessel, and includes stories from the crews´ point of view.


Philip & Son Ltd., Shipbuilders and Engineers byDerek Blackhurst (2001) Ships in Focus, England

Philip and Son Ltd., with their yard situated on the River Dart almost opposite the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, were one of Britain’s most prolific shipbuilders, completing almost 1,500 vessels. Their output ranged from sailing ships for fishing, trading and pleasure through ferries and coastal passenger ships; light ships and coasters to military craft which varied from harbour pinnaces and air-sea rescue launches to corvettes and minesweepers. All known completions are listed, including full career details for all but the minor craft. 160 pages, profusely illustrated.


Guiding Lights: The Design and Development of the British Lightship from 1732 by Anthony Lane (2001) The History Press Ltd. 208 pages.

From time immemorial the coasts of Britain have caused many a shipwreck, but it was to be the sixteenth century before attempts began to be made to arrest this needless loss of both ships and men by the construction of the first lighthouses.

It was soon realised that these new seamarks were not enough, for ships were still lost on sandbanks, often far offshore, where lighthouses could not be built. As a result, lightships were introduced to warn of many such hazards around the coast. At first these were primitive wooden craft which used tallow candles for light. Sperm whale and later Colza oil soon provided an alternative illuminant and a mechanised means of rotating the light was installed during the Victorian Era. During the last century, oil gave way to electricity and brighter lamps became possible. Technology advanced in parallel to replace the bell and gong with air foghorns of tremendous power. All these improvements gradually made the conditions of work more comfortable for the crews that spent their long sojourns aboard until automation removed the need for lightsmen on the vessels in the 1980s.

Guiding Lights is the story of the lightvessels that have protected our coasts since 1732 and the great variety of innovative engineering that has gone into their development. Largely unknown to the general public and taken for granted by the seafarer, they still remain important to the safe navigation of our inshore waters.


Spurn Lightship 1927-1987 by Steve Sands and David Richardson (2004). Hull City Museums & Art Galleries.

54 pages


Light Vessels of the United Kingdom and Ireland compiled by Philip Simons (2006) W.S.S Small Craft Group, England.

This volume is in the form of a fleet list of all manned light vessels that have been operated by – Trinity House – The Commissioners of Irish Lights – The Northern Lighthouse Board – The Humber Conservancy Board – The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, in the period from the early nineteenth Century to 2006. It is laid out in sections, one for each authority, comprising all the vessels that have been operated by that authority, a list of the stations operated by each authority, a list of all the surviving vessels and their current status, and representative photographs and drawings. I have given basic details for each of the vessels, but have taken the decision not to include details on the optics, or fog apparatus as I could not find enough accurate detail on this for each authority. Although the first recorded light vessel was placed at the Nore in 1732 with others following at Dudgeon in 1736, Owers in 1748, Newarp in 1790, Goodwin in 1795, Sunk in 1802, with an Irish light vessel being positioned in Dublin Bay in 1735. I have started the listings at 1806 for Irish Lights, 1823 for Trinity House, 1820 for the River Humber and 1813 for the River Mersey.


Life Aboard a Coast Guard Lightship byGeorge E. Rongner (2007) Infinity Publishing. Print on Demand – but a recent self-published ( ?) work rather than a reprint…


Lightships: Floating Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic by Wayne Kirklin (2007) History Press, USA

Paperback. 128 pages. Moored near shifting shoals and treacherous reefs, lightships remained on station during all weather conditions and played a vital role in keeping America’s waterways safe for navigation. From 1820 to 1985, light vessels warned of treacherous seas and pointed the way to safe harbors. In Lightships, author Wayne Kirklin chronicles the eighty-five ships that protected the mid-Atlantic coast and the heyday of these special craft. From New York Harbor to the southernmost edge of North Carolina’s notorious Cape Fear, Kirklin details the unsung role this fleet played in keeping America’s merchant marines safe.


Lightships off the Essex Coast and the story of LV18 by David Cleveland

48-page booklet which looks briefly at the history of lightships off the Essex and Suffolk coast, and tells the story of LV18, the restored light vessel moored at Ha’penny Pier, Harwich, and now open for visitors.


Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: