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North Foreland - a Brief History

Researched and written by Bob.
All photographs - Bob.

North Foreland Lighthouse

North Foreland Lighthouse in the distance

A beacon of sorts has shone from this location since 1499.

1636 - Sir John Meldrum built a tower with a coal fire on top, constructed from wood and plaster - it burnt down in 1683.

The current structure dates from 1732 although its foundations go back to 1690.

1793 - two more storeys were added to the tower and oil lamps replaced the coal fire.
1832 - the lighthouse was taken over by Trinity House.
1860 - two keepers' cottages were built.
1890 - the Lantern House was added to the top of the tower.
1920 - converted to electricity.
1998 - last lighthouse in the country to become fully automated.
The "switch-over" was ceremoniously performed by HRH Prince Philip in his capacity as Master of Trinity House.
North Foreland Lighthouse

Height - approximately 26 Metres.
Max. range of light - approximately 19-20 miles.
Light Sequence - 5 consecutive red/white flashes repeated every 20 seconds:
Light Sequence

North Foreland Radio Station
In 1903 the GPO set up the North Foreland Radio Station in a hut next to the Lighthouse.
In 1910 the station helped make history when it relayed a message which led to the arrest of Dr. Crippen - the first criminal to be captured as a result of a radio transmission.

"The Thirty-Nine Steps" - the novel
Whilst staying at North Foreland during 1914, the author John Buchan wrote "The Thirty-Nine Steps".

One of the key factors that may have contributed to his book was a German spy having been captured on the cliff-top not far from where he was lodging. But Buchan's main inspiration came from these private steps (pictured below) leading from the cliff-top to the beach.
Today there are stone steps but during Buchan's time they were wooden and numbered 78 - it is thought that he halved the number to 39 which also coincided with his age at the time of writing the book.
In the novel, his fictitious town of "Bradgate" is believed to have derived from a combination of the "Brad" taken from Bradstowe (the former Anglo-Saxon name of Broadstairs) and "gate" taken from the neighbouring towns of either Margate or Ramsgate.
The Thirty-Nine Steps - top entrance
The Thirty-Nine Steps - top entrance

The Thirty-Nine Steps - looking down over the gate
The Thirty-Nine Steps - over the gate      
The Thirty-Nine Steps - Beach entrance
The Thirty-Nine Steps - Beach entrance

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