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Home <> Lifestory Library <> Explore By Location <> <> <> Nab Tower Lighthouse – Part 1

  Contributor: Harold TaylorView/Add comments

Soon after my father died in February 1966, I got news of my transfer to Nab Tower Lighthouse, which is off the east side of the Isle of Wight, or Chichester Harbour, whichever you prefer. As the result of this I had a minor battle with authority, recalled Harold Taylor.

Our bedding was a personal issue, and was supposed to be taken with you where ever you went, although one very often found it was not done, and I know of no reason why. When I was going ashore I had a message passed to me that I was to leave my bedding at the Depot. To which I said I would not, as it was personal issue.

Moving around one got hold of very inferior and over laundered bedding, shrunken sheets and blankets which would barely cover an infant's bed. Being tall it had taken me some time to accumulate a decent set of bedding. As it was, when I landed the office telephonist; the only member of staff still on duty as it was mid-evening, told me that the Superintendent wanted to see me.

It was unusual to find him on the premises. His purpose was to tell me to leave my bedding. This produced problems when I eventually, got to East Cowes on the I.O.W. I saw my new Superintendent, one of the first things he asked me was whether I had my bedding. He was not very pleased when I told him 'No', and went on to say that it was personal issue and had to be taken everywhere.

I told him to take it up with the other Super. who had come on the quay to make sure I left mine behind.

When I reported the first day I took my family over to the island as they had not been. There were some places of interest nearby such as Osborne House. Joining the Nab was a bit of an eye opener, in regard to landing techniques. All goods were done up in small parcels. A nuisance for handling, but there turned out to be a reason for it. As one approached this huge metal structure, like a gasometer, one was met with concrete sheer sides with iron ladders at one or two points.

There was crane for hoisting things up, but we did not land under that, because the concrete mass is so large it nearly always gave the boat a good lee to land the men, therefore it sailed around until it found the most satisfactory ladder to be mounted then lay off at the most quiet point and the crew tossed the small parcels to the waiting keepers.

I do not remember who went ashore, or whether the P.K. was aboard for the first trip, but I re-made my acquaintance with Dave Mapp who was senior hand. Naffer Nunn was the P.K. an ex fisherman from the East Coast. Not a very bright individual, who was shortly to leave to take up a posting to Lowestoft from which he retired.

A man who had a very broad accent and had originally joined as a lightship man and transferred later. I think this was somewhere near the ceasing of hostilities. He had a renowned habit of always wearing his hat, only removing it to eat his food, and as soon as he had finished chomping, put his cap back on, and as he talked he spit splattered all, over you. Nobody's stay there was long, including myself, but before I go into that I'll describe the place.

It was a substantially hollow metal tower about 6o feet in diameter and about the same in height. It was built at Shoreham by the Royal Engineers, under Major Reith, (who later became head of the B.B.C.) It was intended to be part of an anti-submarine net spread across the Channel for the 1914-18 war, but the first section was not completed till 1922.

It was eventually purchased by Trinity for conversion into a lighthouse to replace a light vessel and positioned in 1929.

The premises were maintained by the Admiralty, and the dockyard personnel came out for about a month each year and carried out restoration work. This staff of about 15 lived in the lower tower where there were sleeping quarters, but their cooking and eating quarters were on the top floor where we lived and took up about a quarter of the space. On the top floor where our quarters were, was split into an inner ring and outer ring of rooms.

There was a spiral staircase that came up one side of the centre section, which led from and area known as the 45 to the keeper's quarters. Over this central section were the keeper's bedrooms, kitchen and radio room. Running up the immediate centre of the building was a lift shaft which was not used. In fact the lift section was at the top and it acted as the station stores room.

The outer ring was split roughly in three, one section was the dockyard kitchen and mess room, one the was our engine room, in which there were three 1 L2 Gardner lighting sets, each one coupled by a belt to a small Reavel pump for the compressed air Fog Signal , one tank of which were in the same room, but the horn was housed in a room on the top of the tower, and the other two in the dockyard quarters.

In the engine room was also placed the Emergency Batteries and an elaborate contraption known as an Austinlite Charging Board. There was also a small rotary transformer for use with the T.V. because the station power supply was 100 volts D.C.

Outside the Engine room was the other third leading to the keeper's quarters. Here was an electric crane, this was just off the passage way around the outer third of the top section. Next to the crane was a small room that led outside and also contained a sink for our use although it was a long way from our kitchen.

Next there was the Radio Beacon, and behind this was a room set aside for visiting mechanics. Next to this a shower room, then a toilet, opposite which was the entrance door to the kitchen. Outside at this level was a wide deck which enabled us to walk around and also fish. There was also a small hut on the outside of the rail known as a tide hut.

On the roof of the building as I have said was the horn in a small housing and on two sides of the top were two pill boxes which housed the navigation lights, being blank on the inside, one light showed red and the other white. In the centre of the roof was a structure that held the controlling solenoid for the fog signal. Above this was a bell that was also rung during fog.

Above this, was a structure which one can only describe as being a summer house, the original use of which I do not know. It came in handy to get out of the way, have a good look all round and do a bit of sunbathing.

Continued in part 2.
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