Din l-Art Helwa is an NGO founded in 1965 to safeguard the historic, artistic and natural heritage of Malta. Here, Victor Rizzo, the treasurer of the organisation, talks about their latest restoration project, the Delimara Lighthouse. The property marks a first for Din l-Art Helwa as it hopes to offer simple, visitor accommodation in the heritage building once its restoration is complete. A wonderful idea which we hope will see trend for more such innovative holiday homes in heritage buildings.
In March 2006, the Malta Maritime Authority entered into an agreement for the Delimara Lighthouse to be restored and administered by Din l-Art Ħelwa, Malta’s national trust. The Authority also contributed generously towards its restoration.
The Authority’s continued teamwork with Din l-Art Ħelwa also demonstrates its long-standing commitment to the safeguarding of Malta’s historical heritage, especially monuments that are part of the Islands’ maritime legacy.
This 19th century landmark was constructed by the British Authorities shortly after the building of the Ta’ Giordan lighthouse in Gozo. The need for a new lighthouse at Delimara point was felt around 1850 and actual construction works started in 1854 under Governor O’Ferrall as indicated in the first plans of the lighthouse.
The Delimara Lighthouse, completed a year later, has long been a beacon to all merchant shipping. It also served as a landmark of British architecture in the southernmost tip of Malta. The lighthouse guardian reported all maritime traffic approaching Malta.
Until 1896, the lighthouse had a static, red lantern but this was then replaced by a more powerful gasoline lamp, operated by a hand-wound mechanism which produced beams of alternating red and white light flashing at intervals of 30 seconds. Its arc of visibility ranged from a bearing of 19 to 295 degrees and up to a range of 19 nautical miles.
The restoration of the lighthouse was a challenge owing to the high elevation of the lantern and frequent strong winds on the exposed peninsula. It also involved the removal of later structures which detracted from the architecture of the building. Further studies were required to determine which parts should be retained, and what needed to be replaced.
The restoration is being carried out in two phases. Firstly, the entire fabric of the lighthouse is being restored, including damage to the walls, timber apertures, roof and the lantern tower. All are in a moderate state of conservation but needed general maintenance and restoration work for the preservation of this historic monument and to make it accessible to the general public. The first phase has recently been completed.
Action is now being taken to make the rooms suitable for living space to provide income through low cost, simple accommodation for visitors. The idea is to offer the accommodation along similar lines to that of properties run by the UK’s Landmark Trust and National Trust.
Works to be incorporated in phase two will be dependent on extensive research regarding the lantern machinery and the difficult restoration of the light mechanism most of which is still intact and in place.
Mr Rizzo is the Hon. Treasurer of Din l-Art Helwa.
Visit the Din l-Art Helwa site.