Standing proudly in the middle of historic Southwold, in the heart of the Suffolk Coast is Southwold’s Lighthouse. The tower is 30.8m (101ft) tall, with the top at 36.6m above mean high water.
Southwold had no lighthouse until 1888, at which time Trinity House, the lighthouse authority of England and Wales, decided a new light should be built at Southwold when coastal erosion and severe storms had destroyed three local lighthouses at Orford Ness, to the south.
The first lighthouse was a temporary measure in the form of a beacon at the southern end of the beach on California Sands. The people of Southwold welcomed its arrival with some excitement, and a band played the National Anthem at inauguration.
In May 1889, work began on a permanent lighthouse on the plot beside the coastguard station, which was deemed advantageous as its nearness to the cliff made it prominent along the coast and smoke from the town would not obscure the light.
The mayor, Mr. Eustace Grubb, laid the first of 1,500,000 half bricks which were delivered via Halesworth on the Southwold railway. It caused an enormous headache for both the railway and the local coal merchant, Thomas Moy & Co, whose combined fleet of just 15 goods wagons ran a frenzied shuttle service. Ten months later the lantern was installed. The lantern weighed eight tons and it arrived from Harwich in two pieces, transported in two separate wagons. Trinity House inaugurated the light on 3rd September 1890.
Six days after the light’s inauguration the Argand burner burst into flames and was destroyed because of the new lighthouse keepers’ inexperience, but it was replaced and the keepers were given extra training. The lighthouse was electrified and de-manned in 1938.
The main navigation light is white and is visible for 18 nautical miles, and red sectors, marking shoals to the north and the Sizewell Bank to the south are visible over land 15 nautical miles.
The Lighthouse is a listed building and tours take place between April and November, so you can visit the tower and enjoy the panoramic views from the top. For information visit the Trinity House website.