From the beginning of time, “more light” has been humankind’s unifying cry. Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Electric light. Light is a metaphor. Light is knowledge, hope, inspiration and life itself. And, as a source of light, lighthouses are symbols of guidance, permanence and security. That’s part of the romance of living close to a lighthouse.
In 2012, the red and white lighthouse whose presence dominates this small neighbourhood will officially become a centenarian. But the reason for this lighthouse’s existence occurred 50 years prior to it being built. On the night of February 26, 1862, the Anna Barnard, bound from San Francisco to Sooke for a load of lumber, approached Vancouver Island. The captain could hear the pounding surf, but thick, soupy fog prevented him from seeing exactly how close to shore the ship was. His luck ran out when the ship struck rocks a few miles from Sheringham Point. As the ship began to break apart, the captain and two crewmen launched a lifeboat but almost immediately the small vessel overturned in the surf. The captain managed to swim to shore, but the cook and seaman who were with him in the lifeboat drowned. The five remaining men aboard the ship climbed up the mast, where they passed a white-knuckled night clinging to the rigging until the tide went out and they were able to wade ashore. Unlike so many other shipwrecks along the west coast of Vancouver Island, the story of the wreck of the Anna Barnard is known because members of its crew survived and, after being assisted by First Nation people, were taken to Victoria to tell their tale.
The dark void along this coastline, the black- ness that had disoriented the captain of the Anna Barnard, disappeared in 1912 with the construction of the Sheringham Point lighthouse. The site for the lighthouse was purchased from the Clark family for $226.02, andconstruction began that same year. The Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries for 1913 lists the following expenses associated with the work:
|Tower, wooden dwelling, boathouse, and oil shedSeven-foot lantern room,||$8,457.00|
|third-order tripleflashing optic and freight||$7,609.50|
|Installation of apparatus, inspection, travelingand other expenses by day’s labor underL. Cullison||$4,898.49|
The hexagonal reinforced concrete lighthouse stands 20 metres (64 feet) high and was designed by William Anderson. Also at the sta- tion at one time were a small boathouse, a square, white fog alarm building with a gable roof, located between the tower and the shore, and a substantial lighthouse keeper’s home, situated up the slope, well back from the tower. The original fog alarm building has since been replaced by a square, concrete building with a flat roof and the keeper’s house was torn down.
Eustace Travanion Arden lit the light for the first time on September 30, 1912. Sheringham Point with its close proximity to town has had just three keepers. Mr.Arden remained at the station almost 34 years, retiring on February 18, 1946. His position was taken by Alfred Dickenson, the former keeper of the West Vancouver Capilano lighthouse. On June 13, 1946, the lighthouse tender Berens arrived to transport Alfred, his wife Annie, and their few crated belongings to Victoria. From Victoria, the Dickensons traveled by truck to their new home at Sheringham Point. During his first night of service at Sheringham, Alfred’s jour- nal revealed the light stopped at 12:30 AM and again at 1:10 AM.
John W. Burton became keeper in 1968. He and his family loved the spot and one of his daughters was married in the lantern room in 1976 with 16 people, including the minister, all crowded in the small space. Burton reluctant- ly left the station in August 1989 when the light station was de-staffed.
The third-order Fresnel lens originally used in the lighthouse was removed in 1976 and is now located at the Sooke Region Museum, where a panel of the lens can be viewed by appointment.The lighthouse itself is still used for navigation, although the foghorn was removed many years ago and the beacon no longer rotates. Instead, a flashing light pointing out to sea plus a radio locating system silent- ly steer passing ships away from the shoreline.