Southwold lighthouse

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Southwold lighthouse
Southwold -Suffolk -lighthouse -23Sept2007.jpg
Southwold lighthouse
Southwold lighthouse is located in Suffolk
Southwold lighthouse
LocationSouthwold, Suffolk
Coordinates52°19′38″N 01°40′53″E / 52.32722°N 1.68139°E / 52.32722; 1.68139Coordinates: 52°19′38″N 01°40′53″E / 52.32722°N 1.68139°E / 52.32722; 1.68139
Year first constructed1890
Constructionbrick tower
Tower shapecylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / patternwhite tower and lantern
Tower height31 metres (102 ft)
Focal height37 metres (121 ft)
Original lens1st order 920mm focal length, catadioptric fixed lens
Current lensPelangi PRL400TH
Intensity17,100 candela
Range24 nautical miles (44 km)
CharacteristicWhite rotating – flashing once every 10 seconds
Admiralty numberA2272
NGA number1588
ARLHS numberENG 135
Managing agentSouthwold Millennium Foundation[1]
HeritageGrade II listed building Edit this on Wikidata

Southwold lighthouse is a lighthouse operated by Trinity House in the centre of Southwold in Suffolk, England. It stands on the North Sea coast, acting as a warning light for shipping passing along the east coast and as a guide for vessels navigating to Southwold harbour.

The lighthouse, which is a prominent local landmark, was commissioned in 1890, and was automated and electrified in 1938. It survived a fire in its original oil-fired lamp just six days after commissioning and today operates a 180-watt lamp. The main navigation lamp has a range of 24 nautical miles (44 km; 28 mi).[2]


Southwold lighthouse

Construction of the lighthouse began in 1887, led by Sir James Douglass, Engineer in Chief of Trinity House.[2] A light was lit on a temporary structure in February 1889 and the lighthouse itself began operating on 3 September 1890.[2] It replaced three lighthouses that had been condemned as a result of serious coastal erosion. The lantern and lens (built by Chance Brothers in 1868) had originally been part of the Happisburgh low lighthouse but became available when the latter light was demolished.[3]

Lower half of the 1868 optic (pictured in 2007)

The original light was powered by a six-wick Argand oil burner.[4] Just six days after the light was commissioned there was a fire in the lighthouse with the burner being destroyed.[5][6] The inexperience of the new lighthouse keepers was blamed for the fire.[6] The burner was replaced with an oil-fired light in 1906 and a petroleum burner in 1923. The light was electrified and automated in 1938.[2] It was converted to battery operation, with the batteries charged using mains electricity, in 2001.[3]

The lighthouse, along with Lowestoft Lighthouse to the north, was threatened with closure by Trinity House in 2005, with shipping companies increasingly using satellite navigation systems rather than relying on lighthouses.[7][8] Both lighthouses were reprieved in 2009 following a review by Trinity House that found that satellite navigation systems were not yet sufficiently reliable.[9]

Current display[edit]

A 180-watt revolving MFR lamp[10] manufactured by Mediterraneo Sanales Maritimas is in use as the main lamp[11]. Prior to January 2016 a BLV Topspot 90 Volt Metal Halide 150-watt revolving lamp with a range of 24 nautical miles (44 km; 28 mi) provided the main light.[2][4] This replaced three 90-watt Osram Halostar lights with a range of 17 nautical miles (31 km; 20 mi) in December 2012 in preparation for the closure of Orfordness Lighthouse in June 2013.[2][3][4][12][13][14][15]

The current light characteristic is one white flash every 10 seconds (Fl(1).W.10s) visible between 204°–032.5°.[4][16] The white light is used for general navigation. Red sectors, previously used to mark shoals to the north and offshore sandbanks at Sizewell to the south, were removed as part of the 2012 refit.[2][4] The old lens and BLV Topspot lamp has been retained for use as an emergency backup.[2]


Inside the tower

The lighthouse is 31 metres (102 ft) tall, standing 37 metres (121 ft) above sea level. It is built of brick and painted white, and has 113 steps around a spiral staircase.[17] Two keeper's cottages were built next to the lighthouse rather than living quarters being made in the lighthouse itself.[3]

The lighthouse is a Grade II listed building.[18] Guided visits are run by the Southwold Millennium Foundation.[2][17]

Southwold lighthouse

The lighthouse was the site of charity abseil events in 2009, 2011 and 2013. The events raised money for the Southwold lifeboat operated by the RNLI from Southwold harbour.[19][20][21]

Cultural references[edit]

The lighthouse has featured in television programmes, including an episode of Kavanagh QC[22] and the children's television series Grandpa in My Pocket.[2] It also appears in the art house movie Drowning by Numbers, directed by Peter Greenaway. Adnams brewery, which operates from the town, has named a pale ale Lighthouse in recognition of the importance of the lighthouse as a landmark in Southwold and has featured the lighthouse on promotional material.[9][23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Southwold, The Lighthouse Directory, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Southwold Lighthouse, Trinity House. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  3. ^ a b c d Point 2 - The Lighthouse, BBC News Suffolk, 2 July 2005. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  4. ^ a b c d e Application note 32064 - Southwold Conversion, Pelangi. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  5. ^ Discovering Southwold, BBC News Suffolk, 4 July 2005. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  6. ^ a b The sea - Southwold's lighthouse, Southwold Museum. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  7. ^ Landmark lighthouses may be axed, BBC News, 4 August 2005. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  8. ^ Barnes, Jonathan. (4 August 2005). Historic lighthouses face closure, East Anglian Daily Times, Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  9. ^ a b Lighthouse wins reprieve as sat nav for ships not reliable enough, The Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2009. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  10. ^ Link: Lamp details on Mediterraneo Sanales Maritimas site
  11. ^ Notice to mariners 01/2016 Southwold Lighthouse, Trinity House, 15/01/2016.
  12. ^ Rogers, Lauren (12 May 2011) Southwold Lighthouse reach will be extended to keep mariners safe, Lowestoft Journal. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  13. ^ Orfordness Lighthouse: last chance for the public to visit?, BBC News Suffolk, 18 August 2011. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  14. ^ Notice to mariners 38/2012 B5 Southwold LH, Trinity House, 3 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  15. ^ Orfordness lighthouse gets switched-off and left to the sea, BBC Suffolk news website, 28 June 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-28.
  16. ^ Notice to Mariners - 49/2012 B6 Southwold LH, Trinity House. 5 November 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  17. ^ a b See inside a lighthouse(pdf), Trinity House. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  18. ^ The Lighthouse, Southwold, British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  19. ^ Bernard’s Southwold lighthouse challenge, Lowestoft Journal, 14 August 2011. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  20. ^ Daring abseilers brave dizzying lighthouse heights, East Anglian Daily Times, 15 August 2011. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  21. ^ Actor Bernard Hill abseils down Southwold lighthouse for RNLI, Eastern Daily Press, 11 August 2013. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  22. ^ Southwold Camping and Caravan Site, Waveney District Council. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  23. ^ , Adnams Southwold. Retrieved 2012-10-29.

External links[edit]

  • Southwold Lighthouse at the Trinity House website
  • Historic England. "Details from image database (484878)". Images of England.