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Northern Lighthouse Board Headquarters

Situated in a deceptively modest building on the south side of George Street, in Edinburgh's New Town, the Headquarters of the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) has been located here since 1832. Originally occupying No. 84, which was built as a family home in 1786, the adjacent No. 82 was bought in the late 1960's and both buildings were renovated, extended significantly to the rear and developed into a single office complex in 1973 by the architectural practice of Rowand Anderson, Kininmonth and Paul. There is a model of a lighthouse above the entrance, which is illuminated at night.

From this building the network of lighthouses and other navigational beacons that allow the safe passage of shipping around the coast of Scotland and the Isle of Man is managed. The NLB operates and maintains 206 lighthouses, 170 light buoys and provides radio services for navigation. They also operate two ships NLV Pharos and NLV Pole Star from the Northern Lighthouse Board Operational Base in Oban. The ships carry out buoy work, deliver stores and supplies to lighthouses, and inspect navigation aids on oil and gas rigs in the Scottish sector of the North Sea.

The NLB is run by a group of Commissioners, who meet in the Board Room. Lights are remotely monitored by staff here although, outside working hours, monitoring passes to Trinity House in London.

There was once a workshop and engineering facility in the basement of the building, backing onto Rose Street North Lane, but these functions were transferred to Oban in 2018. The basement was redeveloped and now comprise meeting rooms and an exhibition. These are named the Stevenson Rooms, after the remarkable dynasty of lighthouse engineers which included Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850), his sons, grandsons and great-grandson. The exhibition tells of the history of the NLB and showcases some of the equipment used.

The costs of NLB services are met from the General Lighthouse Fund, which also pays for lighthouses in other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Income comes solely from Light Dues which are charged on commercial shipping entering British and Irish ports, without any tax-payer funding.


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