History of the Panmure Head Lighthouse

The Panmure Head Lighthouse has been a symbol of the local fishing and farming community of Panmure Island for over 150 years. With its classic design, and visual prominence in relationship to the land and water, it has often represented Prince Edward Island in provincial tourist material and continues to be a major tourist attraction in this area.

Located on the Points East Coastal Drive near red sandstone cliffs overlooking the entrance to Cardigan Bay, and the Georgetown Harbour, the four-storey Panmure Head Lighthouse provides a spectacular view when driving unto Panmure Island. As the tallest built structure visible from the water, it still serves its original purpose as a navigational aid for both recreational and fishing vessels.

The lighthouse was built by Peter Stewart, completed in 1853 by Henry Williams on a site chosen by Captain Henry Bayfield, and sits on land purchased from Archibald MacDonald for 20 Pounds. The lighthouse was built on a peninsula bounded by the Cardigan, Brudenell and Montague Rivers to warn ships of dangerous shoals, known as Bear Reef and Panmure Ledge, which are just to the south.

In 1908, a new structure was constructed near the lighthouse to house a fog alarm; a separate dwelling for the keeper is also on the property.  The original cottage was later used for oil storage and as a garage when a new, 1-1/2 story cottage was built.  That cottage was moved in 1957 to another location on Panmure Island and is still used as a summer home.  The final two-storey keeper’s house, built in 1957, is located beside the Lighthouse.  When the last lightkeeper, William J. MacDonald, retired in 1985 and the light automated, the Federal Government sold this property which is now a private home.   There were other outbuildings and a barn on the property, as former lightkeepers usually kept animals.

In 1984 the Panmure Head lighthouse was recognized as a heritage site and in 2013 received Official Designation as a Heritage Site.

In 2015, the Panmure Head Lighthouse was divested to the Panmure Island Lighthouse Association, a community volunteer group formed to save and restore this historic structure.


The Panmure Head Lighthouse is exceptionally well built.  Over the years, it has required little in the way of major repairs, a tribute to its good craftsmanship and durable materials.  The excellent functional design is reflected in its heavy timber-frame construction on a stone foundation.  The lighthouse was built by local craftsmen who were experienced in ship building techniques.  No nails were used in the original construction of this lighthouse.  Heavy wooden beams were notched together and held in place with wooden pegs or trunnels (literally tree nails).

The Panmure Island Lighthouse is a particularly attractive example of a pre-confederation lighthouse (pre 1867) known as the colonial period.

The major architectural features of this iconic lighthouse include:

  • A rare octagonal (8 sided), four storey white wood shingled tower, tapered at the top;
  • Total height of 58 feet from the base to the vane. (17.7 metres);
  • Bracketted observation deck with corbelled cornices;
  • An Iron railing circling the observation deck;
  • A round, iron lantern anchored to the observation deck with metal rods;
  • Vertically aligned series of six over six windows with pedimented caps;
  • Windows are of varying sizes, becoming smaller as they reach the lantern, which adds to the good proportions of the entire structure.
  • The entrance door also has a pedimented cap.
  • Before 1977 the structure was all white, with a red lantern.  After 1977, the window trim, pediments and door were painted red, the colours of the Canadian Coast Guard.
  • The interior layout is simple, with wooden ladder-type stairs leading to the lantern room.