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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.

Southwold Lighthouse
Southwold -Suffolk -lighthouse -23Sept2007.jpg
The lighthouse in 2007
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 920 mm 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

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 main navigation lamp. This 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 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] Until 2013 a cluster of three 90-watt Osram Halostar lamps provided the main light within the optic (which had a range of 17 nautical miles (31 km; 20 mi)).

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]

2014: the old optic retained for emergency use; the new main lamp above it, inside a small rotating optic.

Then in December 2012, the range of Southwold's light was increased to 24 nautical miles (44 km; 28 mi), to compensate for the imminent closure of Orfordness Lighthouse (which took place in June 2013).[2][3][4][10][11][12][13] This was achieved by installing a new main light: a BLV Topspot 90 Volt Metal Halide 150-watt lamp placed within a small revolving optic.[2][4] To make space for it within the lantern room the upper prismatic section of the old optic has been removed (it is currently on loan to Happisburgh Lighthouse, where it has been put on display not far from its original location).[14] The central and lower sections of the old lens, together with its lamp, have been retained for use as an emergency backup.[2]

Current displayEdit

Since January 2016 a 180-watt revolving MFR (LED reflector) lamp[15] manufactured by Mediterraneo Sanales Maritimas has been in use as the main lamp[16] The current light characteristic is one white flash every 10 seconds (Fl(1).W.10s) visible between 204°–032.5°.[4][17] 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]


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.[18] 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.[19] Guided visits are run by the Southwold Millennium Foundation.[2][18]

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.[20][21][22]

Cultural referencesEdit

The lighthouse has featured in television programmes, including an episode of Kavanagh QC[23] 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][24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Southwold Archived 8 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine, The Lighthouse Directory, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Southwold Lighthouse Archived 9 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Trinity House. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Point 2 – The Lighthouse Archived 17 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News Suffolk, 2 July 2005. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e Application note 32064 – Southwold Conversion Archived 21 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Pelangi. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  5. ^ Discovering Southwold Archived 20 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News Suffolk, 4 July 2005. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  6. ^ a b The sea – Southwold's Lighthouse Archived 14 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Southwold Museum. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  7. ^ Landmark lighthouses may be axed, BBC News, 4 August 2005. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  8. ^ Barnes, Jonathan. (4 August 2005). Historic lighthouses face closure Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, East Anglian Daily Times, Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  9. ^ a b Lighthouse wins reprieve as sat nav for ships not reliable enough Archived 9 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine, The Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2009. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  10. ^ Rogers, Lauren (12 May 2011) Southwold Lighthouse reach will be extended to keep mariners safe Archived 13 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Lowestoft Journal. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  11. ^ Orfordness Lighthouse: last chance for the public to visit? Archived 26 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News Suffolk, 18 August 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  12. ^ Notice to mariners 38/2012 B5 Southwold LH Archived 22 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Trinity House, 3 August 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  13. ^ Orfordness Lighthouse gets switched-off and left to the sea Archived 10 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine, BBC Suffolk news website, 28 June 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  14. ^ "1 March 2019 [photo]". uklighthousetour. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  15. ^ "Link: Lamp details on Mediterraneo Sanales Maritimas site". Archived from the original on 30 May 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  16. ^ Notice to mariners 01/2016 Southwold Lighthouse Archived 28 May 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Trinity House, 15 January 2016.
  17. ^ Notice to Mariners – 49/2012 B6 Southwold LH Archived 21 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Trinity House. 5 November 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  18. ^ a b See inside a lighthouse Archived 4 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine(pdf), Trinity House. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  19. ^ The Lighthouse, Southwold Archived 22 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine, British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  20. ^ Bernard's Southwold lighthouse challenge Archived 4 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Lowestoft Journal, 14 August 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  21. ^ Daring abseilers brave dizzying lighthouse heights Archived 14 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine, East Anglian Daily Times, 15 August 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  22. ^ Actor Bernard Hill abseils down Southwold Lighthouse for RNLI Archived 11 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Eastern Daily Press, 11 August 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  23. ^ Southwold Camping and Caravan Site Archived 2 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Waveney District Council. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  24. ^ , Adnams Southwold. Retrieved 29 October 2012.

External linksEdit