Worldwide Lighthouses

North Foreland Lighthouse

North Foreland

General Information


Established: 1499

Current Lighthouse Built: 1691

Automated: 1998

Electrified: 1920

Operator: Trinity House

Designer: James Walker

Light Information


White: 19 Nautical Miles

Red: 16 Nautical Miles Between (15°) and (181°)

Red: 15 Nautical Miles Between (181°) and (200°)

North Foreland lighthouse is a chalk headland where the North Sea and English Channel meet, at their narrowest point; the Dover Strait. This lighthouse marks the approach to the River Thames, for london-bound ships coming up the English Channel.

A light was shown from this headland as early as 1499 and a lighthouse was built here as early as 1636, when a lease was given to a Sir John Meldrum, for building a light here - it was a two story wooden octagonal tower with an unprotected coal burning light on top, which was unreliable and couldn't be lit easily, if at all in bad weather - suprisingly the tower remained standing for 47 years but then burned down and was completely destroyed. This light was replaced with a candle on a pole, which was less reliable than the original lighthouse, so this was quickly replaced with the construction of the present tower in 1691. The octagonal building was originaly only 12 metres in height, which made it difficuilt to see from the sea, so in 1793, the elevation of the light was incresed by by 14 metres to help solve this problem.

The lighthouse changed owners several times, till Trinity House purchased it in 1832, following which, major alterations were made to improve the quality of the light.

In 1840, two rectangular keepers cottages were added to either side of the tower and were joined by short corridors and in 1890 a lantern was built on the top thus making the current white painted tower 26 metres in height. It is not known who the tower was originally designed by, but owes most of its current appearance to James Walker, including the unusual lantern (The last intact example of its kind in the UK), which was designed for the optimum viewing of a 3-tiered array of Parabolic Reflectors.

Today the light flashes 5 times every 20 seconds - The White light is visible for 19 and the Red sector lights are visible for 15 and 16 nautical miles.

The Lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1920 and was the last Trinity House lighthouse to become fully automatic, finally bringing the gradual Trinity House automation programme to an end, after 88 years. Prior to automation, keepers at North Foreland assumed the responsibility for managing the automatic lightships and other nearby lighthouses from the station. A ceremony was held at the lighthouse on 26th November 1998, attended by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, when the final keepers in the British lighthouse service folded up the flag and handed over the keys.

The light is now remotely monitored and controlled from the headquarters and maintainence depot in Harwich, Essex.

The light can be viewed very well from the main road and public footpath and can easilly be photographed. The tower is closed to the public due to problems with dampness.