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 in 2007
|Year first constructed||1890|
|Tower shape||cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern|
|Markings / pattern||white tower and lantern|
|Tower height||31 metres (102 ft)|
|Focal height||37 metres (121 ft)|
|Original lens||1st order 920 mm focal length, catadioptric fixed lens|
|Current lens||Pelangi PRL400TH|
|Range||24 nautical miles (44 km)|
|Characteristic||White rotating – flashing once every 10 seconds|
|ARLHS number||ENG 135|
|Managing agent||Southwold Millennium Foundation|
|Heritage||Grade II listed building|
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).
Construction of the lighthouse began in 1887, led by Sir James Douglass, Engineer in Chief of Trinity House. A light was lit on a temporary structure in February 1889 and the lighthouse itself began operating on 3 September 1890. 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.
The original light was powered by a six-wick Argand oil burner. Just six days after the light was commissioned there was a fire in the lighthouse with the burner being destroyed. The inexperience of the new lighthouse keepers was blamed for the fire. 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. It was converted to battery operation, with the batteries charged using mains electricity, in 2001. 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. Both lighthouses were reprieved in 2009 following a review by Trinity House that found that satellite navigation systems were not yet sufficiently reliable.
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). 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. 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). The central and lower sections of the old lens, together with its lamp, have been retained for use as an emergency backup.
Since January 2016 a 180-watt revolving MFR (LED reflector) lamp manufactured by Mediterraneo Sanales Maritimas has been in use as the main lamp The current light characteristic is one white flash every 10 seconds (Fl(1).W.10s) visible between 204°–032.5°. 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.
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. Two keeper's cottages were built next to the lighthouse rather than living quarters being made in the lighthouse itself.
The lighthouse has featured in television programmes, including an episode of Kavanagh QC and the children's television series Grandpa in My Pocket. 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.
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