It’s a welcoming sight for sailors heading to Southwold Harbour, shines a guiding light for vessels navigating the east coast’s busy shipping channels, has appeared in some star-studded TV programmes and has had a pale ale named after it – Southwold Lighthouse really is one of the town’s most famous landmarks!
Standing 37m above sea level, the lighthouse came into operation in 1890, replacing three local lighthouses which were under threat from severe coastal erosion at Orfordness to the south. The light was provided by a series of burners (the lighthouse survived a fire in its original oil-fired lamp just six days after commissioning!) until the station was electrified and demanned in 1938. Today, the range of Southwold lighthouse reaches some 24 nautical miles.
Eagled-eyed children might recognise Southwold Lighthouse from the BBC children's television series Grandpa in My Pocket, while their own grandparents may have spotted it in an episode of Kavanagh QC.
The lighthouse, a Grade II listed building, is now monitored and controlled from Trinity House’s Planning Centre in Harwich, Essex. If you fancy enjoying the view from the top – and have the stamina to take on the 113-step spiral staircase! – tours are run throughout the year by the Southwold Millennium Foundation.
FACTS ABOUT SOUTHWOLD LIGHTHOUSE
- It is 31 metres tall.
- The first "lighthouse" in Southwold was a temporary beacon which was located on the beach opposite The Sail Loft, Ferry Road (The Dutch Barn).
- The top is 36.6 metres above water (mean high point).
- Prior to 1888, there was no lighthouse in Southwold.
- The one that stands today was established to replace several lighthouses in Orford, that were destroyed by storm damage.
- In 1938 it was electrified and thus, no longer required the services of a lighthouse keeper.
- It became a Grade II listed building in 1971.
- The lamp burns very brightly at 1,500 watts.