North Foreland comes from the Old English ‘fore’ and ‘land’. The affix ‘north’ distinguishes
it from South Foreland near Dover.
Until 1636, North Foreland had only a beacon – in existence since 1499 – as a warning
to shipping. In 1636, Sir John Meldrum built a two storey octagonal tower in wood,
with a burning grate on top. Unfortunately, it burnt down in 1683.
A new brick 12 metre tower built in 1691 burnt 100 tons of coal per year. In 1719,
the ownership of the North Foreland lighthouse transferred to the Trustees of Greenwich
Hospital, who used the surplus from the ‘light dues’ to maintain the hospital. In
1793, they raised the tower by another two storeys, and 18 oil lamps replaced the
coal light. In 1832, Trinity House purchased the lighthouse and added a ‘lantern
house’ on top of the tower in 1890. Various improvements in lighting took place over
the next thirty years until in 1923 they installed a ‘Hood’ 100mm petroleum vapour
burner. In 1998, they automated the North Foreland lighthouse.