A good photograph is knowing where to stand - Ansel Adams

St Mary's Lighthouse
Sunday, 28 February 2010 19:05

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St Mary's Lighthouse

St Mary's lighthouse has a long and often violent history. Perhaps even for a lighthouse, which amongst all coastal buildings stand apart as having uniquely fascinating histories, St Mary's has been at centre stage for quite a number of grisly events.

Chief amongst the tales to frighten younger visitors with, is the tale of Micheal Curry, who on the 4th of September 1739, was executed for the murder of the landlord of the Three Horseshoes Inn at Old Hartley. As was the custom at the time, his body was hung in chains from a gibbet within sight of the scene of his crime. Since these events, the spot near the mainland end of the causeway has been known as Curry's Point. What is believed to be the exact location of the gibbeting is now commemorated with a plaque.

Also of note were the unfortunate events of New Years Day in 1861, when the "Lovely Nelly" a brig from nearby Seaham struck a submerged reef in heavy weather and began to sink. The Cullercoats coastguardsmen were called, who were able to rescue all but one of the crew, a young cabin-boy named Thomas Thompson.

"Did any remain on the ship? Yes: how overlooked, how so left to die, we know not - but the little cabin-boy remained." - Richard Lewis.

With history such as this, it's no surprise that this location is an atmospheric one, and can show many different sides to it's character dependant on the conditions. My first visit was on a heavily clouded and windy day, and as such was able to catch some very moody shots. A visit during a summer sunset on the other hand, will obviously yeild very different results.

St Mary's Lighthouse

The location also has a very different feel dependant on the height of the tide. Photographically speaking, the best time of day to visit would obviously be near sunset or sunrise, however you should try and time your visit to coincide with a rising tide, and arrive at least a couple of hours before high tide. At low tide, the rocky shore is left exposed, and offers relatively little in the way of easily accessible foreground interest. Higher waters on the other hand, will bring the crashing waves within easy reach of the island and lightouse, and both can be squeezed into a relatively tight frame.

The island and lighthouse itself are of source accessible via a short causeway at low tide, so if you arrive early, exploring it can be well worthwhile. The lighthouse is open to the public, and opening times are available at the The Friends of St. Mary's Island website.

You won't require anything special in terms of equipment, and a standard 35mm equivalent lens should cover most eventualities. I'd consider a tripod to be absolutely essential however, given that you'll likely want to take at least a couple of longer exposure shots as the light begins to fade. Also take note that this location can get a little wild in bad weather, so you may want to consider protecting both yourself and your equipment from the elements.

In terms of nearby accomodation, the nearby town of Whitley Bay has a whole array of places to stay, however I can't make any recommendations, as on this occation I only made a flying visit.

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0 # Iain 2010-03-20 17:34

I've now added the ability to comment on articles on the Location Guide. Please feel free to leave any feedback you may have, or any additional information you feel might be relevant to this location.

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