Worldwide Lighthouses

South Foreland High Lighthouse

South Foreland High

General Information

Established: 1793

Current Lighthouse Built: 1843

Electrified: 1858

Operator: National Trust

Designer: James Walker

Light Information

White: 26 Nautical Miles

The 'High lighthouse', sometimes referred to as the 'North Lighthouse' was built at South Foreland in 1843 to replace an older upper range light dating to 1793.

The new tower was built to the design of James Walker, in his destinctive castle-like style, which was to be the last light built by him before his retirement as the chief engineer to Trinity House and later death in 1862.

It was apparently said by Adolf Hitler that upon invading England he wanted to live in this lighthouse because of its castle-like appearance and great views over the English Channel.

The 21 metre high octagonal tower is painted white and has a castellated wall around the gallery, which is an unusual feature on English lighthouses, almost only used on some of Walkers Lights. The white light was at first provided by a fixed lens in both the high and low light, the purpose of which is not completely understood, and it is not known if they were to be aligned to mark a sand bank or safe-water channel or whether the two lights were built to simply distinguish the station from other lighthouses in the area, such as North Foreland; in the same way that the Casquets originally had 3 towers to distinguish it from lights on the French and English coasts.

In 1904, 6 years before the low lighthouse went out of service, a new rotating optic powered by a large clockwork mechanism was installed, giving a steady continuous flashing pattern. We do not know the character of the light of the high light, but we believe the lower tower continued using a fixed light till it was decomissioned in 1910. Many of the revolving glass lenses were damaged and chipped several times throughout the second world war, supposedly by the shock waves of bullets passing nearby to the lighthouse, so the 6 worst damaged panels were covered up, with sheets of metal, leaving 6 usable ones (3 in a group on opposite sides of the optic) - the light was visible for 26 nautical miles and could apparently be seen on the opposite side of the English channel, in Calais.

The station was also home to the first electrically-powered lighthouse in the world upon its conversion in 1858 and was used by Michael Faraday on 24th December 1898 to send the first ship to shore radio message to the South Goodwin Lightship.

The Light was finally found to be of little to no use and was Discontinued with permanent affect in 1985 and was soon sold to the National Trust who open it to the public, showing how the lighthouse worked.