The Helwick Lightvessel

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By the 1840s, the South Gower coast developing a dreadful reputation for shipwrecks. The problem was made all the worse because of the large numbers of coal and copper ore ships making for Swansea Bay. A nasty gale in August 1844 yielded an unusually large number of shipwrecks and tragedies between Oxwich and Mumbles Head. The loss of life and vessels prompted local councils and concerned citizens to campaign for a lighthouse to be placed on Worms Head. 
After  consideration of the costs and the technical difficulties, Trinity House decided to place a lightship off the western end of the Helwick Sandbank. Helwick is a very dangerous six mile stretch of sand lying to the west of Port Eynon Head. The task was completed in September 1846 and the vessel was lit on the 1 October 1846. A manned lightvessel remained on the Helwick station until 1989. 

It is ironic that the loss of the barque Brechin Castle in February 1847 was blamed on the presence of the Helwick light as the master had probably mistaken the Helwick light for the Mumbles lighthouse. 

In September 1908, the Helwick lightship was the scene of a dramatic rescue by the Tenby lifeboat William and Mary Devey. In one of the classic tales of lifeboat gallantry, the Tenby lifeboat crew had rowed over 30 miles in dreadful weather and rescued the crew of the stricken lightship and brought them in safely to Swansea.




The View for Sunday 4 December 2000

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