Happisburgh Lighthouse

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Happisburgh Lighthouse
Happisburgh lighthouse uk.jpg
Happisburgh Lighthouse
Coordinates52°49′14″N 1°32′13″E / 52.820479°N 1.536950°E / 52.820479; 1.536950Coordinates: 52°49′14″N 1°32′13″E / 52.820479°N 1.536950°E / 52.820479; 1.536950
ConstructionMasonry tower
Height26 metres (85 ft)
ShapeCylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
MarkingsTower with red and white bands, white lantern, red lantern roof
OperatorFriends of Happisburgh Lighthouse [1]
HeritageGrade II listed building Edit this on Wikidata
Focal height41 metres (135 ft)
Lens1st order catadioptric fixed lens
Light sourceMains power
Range14 nautical miles (26 km; 16 mi)
CharacteristicFl (3) W 30s

Happisburgh Lighthouse in Happisburgh on the North Norfolk coast is the only independently operated lighthouse in Great Britain. It is also the oldest working lighthouse in East Anglia.


Haisborough Lighthouse in 1888

The building was constructed in 1790 as one of a pair of lights ("High Lighthouse" and "Low Lighthouse")[2] and worked with the Newarp Lightvessel to guide mariners around the southern edge of the offshore Haisborough Sands. The light came from rows of oil lamps placed in front of polished reflectors. In 1868 the lantern stage (the top-most part of the tower) was replaced with the diagonally-framed glass structure seen today (which was a new innovation at the time) and following this improvement the reflectors were replaced in each lighthouse by a large (first-order) catadioptric lens designed by Chance Brothers at Smethwick near Birmingham.

In 1871 Happisburgh's lighthouses were used for a series of trials comparing a Douglass 4-wick oil light (displayed from the low lighthouse) with a Wigham 108-jet gas light (displayed from the high lighthouse) both using the same optics;[3] the experiments (which tested rival claims made by the principal advocates of these forms of illumination, James Nicholas Douglass and John Richardson Wigham respectively) were not conclusive and further trials later took place at South Foreland.

In order to provide a supply of coal gas for the lamp, a small gas works was established alongside the high lighthouse; the gas was manufactured using cannel coal and stored in a pair of gas holders situated behind the lighthouse.[4] In 1872, the trial having concluded, it was decided to retain gas as the illuminant for the high lighthouse. Beyond Happisburgh, however, Trinity House did not adopt gas as an illuminant for its lighthouses.

The low light was decommissioned and demolished in 1884 before it could be lost due to coastal erosion; its lantern and lens were reused at Southwold lighthouse.[5] The demolition of the low light led to the High Light being repainted with red bands, so as to differentiate it more clearly from the lighthouse at Winterton; at the same time it was also provided with an occulting mechanism to differentiate the light itself.[4]

The light source was changed to paraffin in 1904, and then to an unwatched acetylene system in 1929; this meant that there was no further need for keepers to be permanently accommodated on site, and the keepers' cottages were then sold.[4] In 1947 the light was electrified and given a new group flashing characteristic: three flashes every 30 seconds.[4]

The tower is 85 ft (25.9 m) tall, putting the lantern at 134 ft (40.8 m) above sea level.[6] The lighthouse is painted white with three red bands and has a light characteristic of Fl(3)30s (three white flashes, repeated every 30 seconds) at a height of 135 ft (41.1 m) with a range of 14 miles (22.5 km).[7] It continues to use the optic installed in 1868.

The other lighthouse - the "low light" - was 20 ft (6.1 m) lower. Together they formed a pair of range lights that marked a safe passage around the southern end of the offshore Haisborough Sands 8 miles (12.9 km) to a stretch of safe waters known as 'The Would'.[8]


In 1987 Happisburgh was one of five lighthouses declared redundant by Trinity House and deactivation was planned for June 1988. Villagers organised a petition to oppose the closure, and as a result the date was postponed. Under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894,[9] Trinity House may dispose of a working lighthouse only to an established Lighthouse Authority. On 25 April 1990 the Happisburgh Lighthouse Act[10] received the Royal Assent establishing the Happisburgh Lighthouse Trust as a Local Lighthouse Authority, and Happisburgh became the only independently run operational lighthouse in Great Britain.

In June 2018, the lighthouse was repainted. At a cost of £20,000, the work took two weeks by a specialist team of four painters. The 300 litres of specially mixed masonry paints used was donated by a paint company. Friends of Happisburgh Lighthouse, said: “The re-paint demonstrates our continuing commitment to maintaining Happisburgh lighthouse for future generations.”[11]

Due to COVID-19, the Lighthouse did not open to visitors in 2020.

In popular culture[edit]


See also[edit]


  • Price Edwards, E. (2010). Lighthouse(1884). BiblioBazaar. ISBN 978-1-146-41637-5.
  • Golding CBE, Capt. Thomas (1929). Trinity House from Within. private printing.
  • Hague, Douglas B.; Christie, Rosemary (1975). Lighthouses - Their Architecture, History and Archaeology. Llandysul : Gomer Press. ISBN 0-85088-324-5.
  • Long, Neville (1983). Lights of East Anglia. Terence Dalton Ltd. ISBN 0-86138-029-0.
  • Stevenson, D. Alan (1959). The World's Lighthouses Before 1820. Oxford University Press.


  1. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Eastern England". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Map of Norfolk". British History Online. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  3. ^ Elliot, George H. (1875). European Light-House Systems. London: Lockwood & co. pp. 104–113. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "A Brief History of Happisburgh Lighthouse". Happisburgh Village Website. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  5. ^ Point 2 - The Lighthouse, BBC Suffolk. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  6. ^ "Lighthouses of the World & Fog Signals" - Alexander Finlay, Richard Holmes Laurie, 1888
  7. ^ "Happisburgh Lighthouse". Happisburgh Village Website. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  8. ^ Happisburgh Village Website – History of Happisburgh Lighthouse Archived 5 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, part XI (p. 260 of the PDF version)
  10. ^ Happisburgh Lighthouse Act as annotation C9 modification of Merchant Shipping Act of 1894
  11. ^ "Visitors can see stunning new look Happisburgh Lighthouse at open day". Archant. Archant. 17 July 2018. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  12. ^ "The Writer... prochain single d'Ellie Goulding". news-de-stars.com. 21 June 2010. Archived from the original on 13 July 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.

External links[edit]