Old Trincomalee Lighthouse on Swami Rock (ත්‍රිකුණාමලය පැරණි ප්‍රදීපාගාරය)

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Once the coastal areas came under the control of colonial British rule, they established some navigation points to enter the natural harbour of Trincomalee known as Foul Point, Flagstaff Point, Eagle Point and Clappenberg Point. The British built their first lighthouse in Trincomalee in the year 1845 on the flagstaff post of the old Trincomalee Fort (Fort Frederick). The light was visible from Pigeons Island to the north, and Foul Point from the Southeast to the East. In clear weather, it could be seen for 15 miles (24 km).

The lighthouse had one single light with 2 reflectors with an elliptical focus of 6 ½ inches. The lantern was 206 feet (52.8 meters) above sea level and 10 feet (3 meters) from the foot of the lighthouse. The light was powered using coconut oil.

Joseph Higgs, Master Attendant in Trincomalee states in 1849 ;

I consider Foul Point a much more eligible site for a lighthouse than Flagstaff Point, as a vessel may be running from the S. E. so far in-shore as not to be able to see the light in its present situation, and if the lead be neglected may run ashore. When I was master of H. M. ship “Melville” in 1832, we were becalmed in 11 fathoms water to the S. E. of Foul Point, and had shut in the flag-staff considerably. If Trincomalee becomes a steam port, and a lighthouse be erected on Foul Point, it will be desirable, in order to prevent as much as possible a night’s detention, that a light similar to the one now in use (a single reflector will be sufficient) be fixed on the east point of Elephant Island low down, a given bearing of which light would lead a ship clear of the reef off Foul Point, and up to that island, which is steep too on the S. E. side. Another light of the same description on the extreme of Ostenbeugh Point, or the east point of Small Sober Island, would lead, by a given bearing, clear of Elephant shoal and into the harbour.

I do not know if any application has been made for a lighthouse on Foul Point, but I remember Vice-Admiral Sir John Gore, in 1832, showing me some plans for a lighthouse, and requiring my opinion as to the most eligible site, when I gave my opinion, and for the same reason.

An iron lighthouse will be much less expensive than any other, I imagine, as the materials for building one with stone or bricks would have to be conveyed by water, except lime, which can be burnt on the spot, from coral which abounds there.

The first lighthouse of Trincomalee in Flagstaff Point was commissioned in 1845 and it was to be decommissioned when the Foul Point lighthouse and the Round Island were decommissioned (Findlay, 1861). The Round Island lighthouse was commissioned in 1863 and the Foul Point in 1864. There is no record of the exact year which this lighthouse was decommissioned however it possibly was decommissioned in or after 1864. This lighthouse has been demolished without any trace and no photo or sketch is found.


  1. Bethune, Q., 1850. Lighthouses : Return to an Address of the Honourable The House of Commons. London, pp.41-42.bl.uk. n.d.
  2. Findlay, A., 1861. A description and list of the lighthouses of the world, 1861. London: Printed by and for R.H. Laurie, p.104.

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