Shining a light on Arbroath’s rich maritime history

Published: Monday 10 April 2017

Arbroath's Signal Tower Museum is an illuminating place to be with the re-opening of the Bell Rock Lens Room after several years in the shade.

Closed since 2010, the lens room is open to the public once more having undergone an extensive refurbishment, thanks to funding from the Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust.

The building's keepers, ANGUSalive, can now show the stunning lens in a new and contemporary display that highlights its structure and beauty.

Museum Officer Kirsten Couper said: “We are all delighted to open the doors to the lens room once again. We are often asked by visitors about the lens and having this space re-opened is a wonderful addition to the telling of the story of the Bell Rock Lighthouse. We are sure the public will share our pleasure at seeing the new lens room.�

Originally the shore station for Robert Stevenson's Bell Rock Lighthouse, which lies 11½ miles off the Angus coastline, the Signal Tower Museum now acts as a beacon of local heritage, promoting education and learning, as well as understanding of lighthouses and lighthouse keeping.

The world's oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse, the Bell Rock has protected the Angus coastline and its people using a number of different lighting and lens mechanisms since its completion in 1811. Its electrification in 1964 saw it fitted with a new powerful light surrounded by eight panels of lenses, which was originally used by the Isle of Man's Chicken Rock Lighthouse.

This lens was gifted to the Signal Tower Museum by Northern Lighthouse Board in 1988 during the automation of the lighthouse.

ANGUSalive's Museums, Galleries & Archives team carried out the refurbishment work that included some restoration of the lens and its mechanism. The lens room itself has been rejuvenated to make it a safe and welcoming environment for visitors and it now includes interpretation panels explaining the history of lighthouse lenses and lighting mechanisms and graphics that give a photographic panorama of the view from the Bell Rock itself.

Children from Timmergreens Primary School and local band Slipway combined at the re-opening ceremony on Thursday to perform the Bell Rock Light and The Smokie Song for invited guests that included Peter Mackay, Chairman, Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust.

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