Worldwide Lighthouses

Beachy Head Lighthouse

Beachy Head

General Information


Established: 1828

Current Lighthouse Built: 1902

Height: 43 Metres (141.08 Feet)

Automated: 1983

Electrified: 1920

Operator: Trinity House

Designer: Sir Thomas Matthews

Light Information


White: 8 Nautical Miles

The iconic seven sister cliffs; forming part of the south downs are a group of 8 cliff peaks (An extra peak was formed by cliff erosion) - each of which has a name.

The two cliffs that are important in the history of lighthouses in the area are Belle Toute, which can be spelt several ways, deriving its name from the the name of an early pagan god called 'Bael' and 'Toot' for lookout as well as Beach Head, which is the heighest cliff in the group and is the best

known, both for its famous lighthouse, but probably better known for its regular suicides.

It wasn't until 1828 that that Trinity House decided to build a temporary wooden light on Belle Toute, to mark the headlands (which would be used until an actual lighthouse could be built) following a petition started after the wreck of an

'East Indiaman' sailing ship called 'The Thames', which ran aground on the rocks at Beachy Head. This is despite several other petitions and requests going back almost a further 100 years for such a light.

1834 saw the completion and lighting of this more permanent lighthouse, which was designed by James Walker.

Belle Toute is the second cliff to the west of Beachy Head and its cliff-top location is partly to blame for the reason it was not a very successful lighthouse.

With the light being so high up, it was not unusual for it to be shrouded in fog - up till then it was still thought that the higher the light was, the better it would perform.

One of the other major reasons that the lighthouse wasn't massively effective was that one of the ideas behind the lighthouse's location was that if ships that got too close to the cliffs, that they would not be able to see the light, as it would

be obscured by the cliff edge, but constant erosion made it so that ships could run aground and still see it!

These problems weren't quickly corrected, as the light continued to be used until 1902, when it was decided that Thomas Matthews should be appointed to construct Britains last wave-washed lighthouse, at Beachy Head, which was

the only offshore lighthouse he ever built.

During the new tower's construction, the old lighthouse remained in service, exhibiting one single flash every 2 minutes, but a fixed red light was shown at the same time, from the site of the new tower.

Beachy Head lighthouse was lit for the first time on October 2nd 1902 and Belle Toute was decomissioned on the same day and was sold the following year.

The new tower stands 43 metres in height and is painted white with a single red stripe across its middle. The lighthouse contains a huge first order fresnel lens, which gives 2 White Flashes Every 20 Seconds - originally visible for over 20 nautical miles, its range was reduced in 2011 to only 8 nautical miles as an alternative to discontinuing the light, which many local residents were opposed to, despite the nearby light on the Royal Sovereign being able to be seen from Beachy Head.

The white light was only operated by Parafin for 18 years before being converted to electricity in 1920, as it was easier to turn off the light quicker, should the light be used by enemy ships during the war. An explosive fog signal which was installed on the lanterns roof in 1902 was removed in the 1980s and was replaced by a simple electric horn giving a 6 second blast every 30 seconds - this has now been discontinued and no fog signal is operational at the site.

The light was automated in 1983 and the keepers left on 28th June of that year.

Beachy head lighthouse - the only wave-washed tower in england to be operated without a helipad (Mainly due to the fact it can be more easily reached by boat than some of the more remote rock-towers, and even foot at low tide,

sometimes) is one of the most iconic in existance.

On October 14th 2011 the 'Beachy Head Lighthouse Campaign' was set up to help raise funds to repaint Beachy Head Lighthouse, following Trinity House announcing that it can no longer afford to repaint the iconic structure in its distinctive but now no-longer nessescary pattern. The Campaign hopes to raise the £45000 required to repaint the tower. If this money can not be raised, it will be allowed to return to it's natural grey granite appearance.

On November 14th 2011, Crown Paints' agreed to provide all of the required paint for the job, free of charge.