Skagen Lighthouses

The Fyrbakken or Vipefyr

The first light we saw at Skagen in Denmark was actually a replica. But none the less it is a fascinating thing to see this traditional type of light known as a vippefyr or swathe light.

The Danish Postal Authority issued a stamp with this Vipefyr for the 400th anniversary of the lighthouse service in 1960. 

This reconstruction stands on a little hill, just like the original and the locals think it looks just like the one from 1627. Originally the basket was filled with wood, which was lit and burned the whole night

 Often the wooden construction of the swape was cause for concern, as the wood fire shot up flames high in the air. Later coal was used, because the flames were not so high.

Of course these lights were a great help for shipping in   those days, but the range of lights required improvement, and many locations were tried out, until the White Lighthouse was built.

The Hvide Fyr or White Light

It is not a coincidence that this lighthouse looks so pretty. We have to thank a great Danish architect. Philip de Lange drew the design – he is, amongst others, responsible for the Castle Amalienburg. Today the tower is amongst the 10 Danish towers, which are historically listed buildings

In 1746 de Lange signed a contract with the then King Christian VI, for the building of a round tower with 6 levels. Originally the tower was red and only at the beginning of the 18th Century was, is whitewashed. The light was first lit on 14th October 1747. The original drawing of the tower is displayed in the Fire-Hall of the Orlog Museum in Copenhagen.

This new tower was not well liked by the local population, since they made a living from plundering stranded ships. In 1816 the upper level of the lighthouse was changed and raised. It became the first light station to have the coal fire under cover and so protected from the strong winds.

The tower, with its height of 19 meters, was the first lighthouse in Denmark. It was built for the sum of 5,000 Reichstaler, which was a princely sum in those days. The light was visible for 40 kilometres, but sadly it used about three times the amount of coal the old vipefyr, with its range of 10 km, consumed. 

Not until 1935 was the tower equipped with parabolic mirrors and now could compete with the big fires abroad. The fuel was changed from coal to rape oil, which was much more economical and saved a lot of time.  Trouble was, the range was reduced to 25 kilometres.

In November 1858 the light was replaced. But the tower was still used as a day mark by fixing round seamarks to it, for the ships to use as an orientation marker. In 1860 the original tower was raised to the ground and only 100 years later rebuilt in its current shape. The “headless” tower is used for local exhibitions and with its pleasing looks is an asset for the surrounding area.

Skagen Lighthouse C0002

Latitude: 57 Deg 43.3 Min N
Longitude: 10 Deg 36.5 Min E
Height of tower: 46 meters
Character: F W
Range: 23 M

The successor of the “White Lighthouse”, with a better location, is the “Grey Lighthouse” who’s official name was just Skagen Light. The architect Professor Niels Sigfred Nelbong (1806 – 1871) was responsible for the way this tower looks. He was a well-known builder of lighthouses, and we can thank him for some of the prettiest Danish lighthouses like Sejeroe, Vesborg, Roesnaes, Hjelm, Hirtshals und Hesseloe and also one of the most ugly, like Romsoe.

He started to design the tower in 1851. The building work itself started in 1854 and took 4 years, which was because the building materials had to be transported by land to Skagen, because there was no harbour yet. On the 1st of November 1858 the tower was first lit. It has the name of King Fredrik VII in the wall. The first years the tower had a fixed light, until a rotating lighting apparatus replaced it in 1905. With a height of 46 meters it was Denmark’s highest tower until 1962. On the bottom the diameter of the tower is 9 m and at the top 6 meters. There are 210 steps to the gallery. The tower is open to the public and you have a great view over the towns of Grenen and Skagen. Together with its predecessor, the white tower, the grey tower forms a nice scene.

The information for all three of these great lights largely comes from a book called “Danmarks Fyrtårne og fyrskibe” by Ove Hermansen and we are grateful to Iris for the help in translating the Danish text.

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