Worldwide Lighthouses

Needles Lighthouse


General Information

Established: 1786

Current Lighthouse Built: 1859

Height: 31 Metres (101.71 Feet)

Automated: 1994

Electrified: 1993

Operator: Trinity House

Designer: James Walker

Light Information

Red (intensified): 17 Nautical Miles

White: 17 Nautical Miles Between (300°) and (83°)

Red: 14 Nautical Miles Between (83°) and (212°)

White: 17 Nautical Miles Between (212°) and (217°)

Green: 14 Nautical Miles Between (217°) and (224°)

The needles are a spectacular group of very jagged, narrow chalk sea-stacks formed by the erosion of the chalk cliffs that stick out from the western extremity of the Isle of Wight.

Wight is a relatively large island, inhabited by roughly 140,500 people - it is located just 10 miles by ferry from Southampton, which is on the Mainland.

The historic and very iconic lighthouse - one of Britain's most famous lighthouses - is very unusual in design, as it is one of the only offshore lighthouses that is not wave-washed. (Where the tower's walls are curved to deflect waves and keep the tower from being damaged)

The tower was build in 1859 to replace an old and not so affective lighthouse known as 'Freshwater Lighthouse', which until around 1913 and was situated on the cliff behind the Needles, roughly where the old gun battery can be seen today.

The cylindrical 31 metre high tower was designed by James Walker for Trinity House, at a cost of £20,000 - it consisted of a cylindrical tower with a wide stepped base to break the waves that hit the tower. The gallery was originally surrounded by a wall, which was removed when the helipad was constructed in 1987

Still almost intact and just missing the weather vane and vent is the lantern, covered underneath the helipad.

This massproduced design of lantern is almost only used on lights built by James Walker, and as a result, the shape of the glass panes do not correspond with the prefabricated triangle and diamond shapes of the helipad structure which surrounds the light.

Inside the lantern is the original 2nd Order fixed lens, giving a white flash, showing through red and green sectors in certain directions, to mark multiple hazards. Atop the lighthouse a bell was originally struck as a fog signal, but like most other bells used on Rock Lighthouses, they were almost inaudible, so it was replaced by a reed fog signal, mounted inside the lantern roof, in 1906. The new fog signal gave one blast of five seconds duration every fifteen seconds - this can be seen in some old photographs and postcards of the lighthouse, before the addition of the helipad.

October 20th 1939 saw the lighthouse switched off for most of the war under usual blackout regulations, meaning that all of the windows needed to be covered up. The light was only allowed to be lit to aid British vessels, and as soon as possible would have been switched off again. The fog signal remained operational, as it would have been less of a risk to use it, as it would be of no use to aircraft.

In 1987 this set of horns was replaced by 3 banks of super tyfon horns (Each bank consisting of two horns, one above another) - the light had a cable running from the gun battery installed, allowing it to run from mains electricity, whilst generating its own emergency supply.

The tyfons were removed and replaced when the lighthouse was made automatic in 1994.

Since automation, an electronic fog horn has been mounted on the helideck structure, which supports the helipad - it gives a blast Twice Every 30 Seconds.

In 2010 a £500,000 restoration was carried out by Trinity House, on the wooden foundations on which the lighthouse stands - if this had not been completed, the may have become threatened by erosion by the sea that constantly mines away at the chalk beneath it.


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