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William Tregarthen Douglass




William Tregarthen Douglass (23rd March 1857 - 10 August 1913) was born at Solva, Pembrokeshire, being the son of the late Sir James Nicholas Douglass, who was for many years Engineer-in-Chief to the Trinity House. His uncle William and his grandfather Nicholas were also famous in lighthouse construction

He was educated at Dulwich Collegeand King's College, London, in the Applied Science Department

Having served his pupilage at the Trinity House for three years, from 1875 to 1878, under his father, and at the engineering workshops at Blackwall, he studied optics and the manufacture of optical apparatus at Messrs. Chance Brothers' lighthouse works, Birmingham, under the late Dr. John Hopkinson, F.R.S.

From June 1878 to August 1882 he was resident engineer at the erection of the new Eddystone Lighthouse, and had sole charge of the works in connection with the removal of Smeaton's tower.

From 1882 to 1887 he was resident engineer in sole charge of the difficult work of strengthening and improving the Bishop Rock lighthouse, Scilly Isles, and he erected a lighthouse on Round Island, in the same locality.

He also carried out a large amount of engineering work of the same nature, and at the time of his death was consulting engineer to the Governments of Western Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria, and inspecting engineer to the Royal National Life-Boat Institution, for which he designed their life-boat stations and slipways, etc. At Cromer he constructed the sea wall, and at Lowestoft his system of groynes was adopted by the local authority.

In 1899 he was selected by the Secretary of State for India to inspect and report on the whole of the lighthouses of India and Burma, comprising ninety stations and covering an immense stretch of coast and river line. He was the author of several books on lighthouses, and on the lighting of estuaries and rivers.

He was elected a Member of this Institution in 1887; he was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and a Fellow of King's College, London.

Examples of Douglass's designsr>
Fastnet Rock Lighthouse, County Cork (1897–1904)
Blackhead Lighthouse Complex, McCrea’s Brae, built by William Campbell & Sons contractors between 1899 and 1902 to aid shipping in Belfast Lough, complementing a lighthouse at Mew Island (Copeland Islands), opened in 1884. Blackhead opened 1 April 1902 and was automated in 1975.
Blackhead Lighthouse, Whitehead, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Blackhead Lighthouse Superintendent House, which since automation is rented out to the general public.

William Tregarthen Douglass's death took place by drowning on 10th August 1913, at the age of fifty-six while visiting his mother. While out with his son, Edward, in a sailing-boat, the latter capsized when off Start Point, near Dartmouth, and sank. The son(1), who was picked up by a pleasure steamer, swam with his father for about three-quarters of a mile, when the latter became exhausted and was drowned, in spite of efforts made by his son to keep him afloat.


Grave stone for Edward DouglassNotes:
1. While working on the Eddystone he married Ada James of Plymouth and had two daughters and two sons. Both his sons were killed in action. Percy Cuthbert D. Douglass in 1917 (WW1), unmarried, and Edward James Douglass (See below) who married Frances Muriel Kroenig Ryan in 1924 and they have one living daughter.


147475 Lieutenant Edward James Douglass was the son of William Tregarthen Douglass and Ada Douglass and husband of Francis Muriel Douglass of Paddington, London. He was a Freeman of the City of London. He was awarded the Military Medal.

He served with 16 Bomb Disposal Company, Royal Engineers and died on the 17th February 1943, aged 46, apparently 'in an incident at Brackenhurst, Higher Lane, Mumbles, Wales'. He was probably killed clearing bombs after an air raid on Swansea.

He was buried at Saint Perox Churchyard, Dartmouth.

See also:

  • Douglass Brothers Limited, Globe Iron Works, Blaydon


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