500 years of Trinity House and safety at sea exhibition at the NMM from April

Grace Darling and her father going to the rescue; Grace Darling statuette; Watercolour sketch of the Nore light-vessel, by William Lionel Wyllie, early 20th century; Watercolour sketch of Maplin lighthouse, by William Lionel Wyllie; oil painting of the Eddystone lighthouse, by Isaac Sailmaker, about 1709 at sea; George Herbert’s patent buoy model of 1845. All images © National Maritime Museum, London

An exhibition of 70 objects showcasing the work the Corporation of Trinity House over five centuries titled Guiding Lights opens at the National Maritime Museum in April.

In 1514, Henry VIII granted a charter to a fraternity of London mariners charging them with improving the safety of navigation on the River Thames. Later in the 16th-century their remit expanded to setting up beacons and seamarks to help ships avoid dangers.

This group became the Corporation of Trinity House, and since that time Trinity House had a range of roles, including General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar; providing aids to navigation to assist the safe passage of a huge variety of vessels through some of the busiest sea-lanes in the world; and of course deep sea pilotage.

What you may be more surprised to learn is that Trinity House is also a charitable organisation dedicated to the safety, welfare and training of mariners.

There’s no doubt that the work of Trinity House has prevented countless shipwrecks and immense loss of life, and its employees have often shown great skill and bravery and endurance.

The history of Britain’s lighthouses will be told through models, film and lighthouse keepers’ personal effects. Light vessels, buoys and yachts will illustrated through a selection of rarely-seen watercolour sketches by marine artist William Lionel Wyllie.

Tales of personal bravery include that of lighthouse keeper’s daughter Grace Darling, who became famous in the 1830s for her role in a daring rescue mission to rescue a group of survivors after she spotted the shipwrecked Forfarshire on nearby rocks.

The story is told with the aid of prints depicting the dramatic rescue.

The show runs from the 16th April 2014 to the 4th January 2016, so there should be plenty of time to see it!

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