THE SEA
SOUTHWOLD'S LIGHTHOUSE
Over a million bricks to save the ships
 
Registered Charity No 110957, Museum & Galleries Registration No 808, MLA (Museums Libraries Archives) Accredited
 
Lantern with migrating birds
In the beginning
The Sea
Natural Southwold
Fishing
Transport to Southwold
Southwold at war
Christianity in Southwold
Industry
Arts & Crafts
Holidays & Leisure
Southwold the town
Southwold Shops & Trades

Find out more about Southwold’s lighthouses in the booklet on sale in the
museum shop.

 
 
Click the green headphone icons to hear extracts from our Sound Archive
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Southwold had no lighthouse until 1888, and even then it wasn’t built – because of local navigational hazards. Trinity House – the lighthouse authority for England and Wales – decided to establish a new light at Southwold when erosion and severe storms destroyed the front lights down the coast at Orford Ness.

Contemporary drawing of the Temporary Light

   
 

Southwold's first light was a temporary beacon at the southern end of the beach, on California Sands, opposite the building in Ferry Road which is now a restaurant. It was welcomed by the town with some excitement with the band playing the National Anthem at its inauguration.

On the left is a contemporary drawing of the temporary light. Click the picture to see this at a larger scale together with a rare photograph of the light itself P1457

   
 

Work on the permanent light started in May 1889. The plot, beside the coastguard station was hailed by the press as "very advantageous... the smoke from the town will not obscure the light and its nearness to the cliff must make it very prominent all along the coast."

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.Then, 10 months later, it was time to install the lantern - all eight tons of it. It arrived from Harwich in two sections in two of Thomas Moy's wagons. The light was inaugurated by Trinity House on 3 September. Six days later, as a result of the new keepers' inexperience, the six-wick Argand oil burner burst into flames and was destroyed. It was replaced and the keepers 'retrained'. It was electrified and de-manned in 1938.

The boy who kept the light burning
 
 
The Lighthouse in the 1890s
 
Southwold Lighthouse  in 1910
 
Southwold Lighthouse from the sea in 1892
 
   
The lighthouse photographed in the late 19th Century. Click on the pictures to see larger reproductions. From top left: P477, P1458, P1428, P1036
 
Southwold Lighthouse
View from the top of the lighthouse looking North in October 1893

This photograph was taken from the top of the lighthouse three years after it was built. Would you like to see it in
close-up?

 

Lighthouse facts

It is a listed building
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You can find it at the St James Green end of Stradbroke Road or 52° 19'.60 N 01° 41'.00 E
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The tower is 30.8 m
(101 ft) high

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The top is 36.6 m above mean high water
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The lamp is 1,500 watts
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The main white light is visible for 18 nautical miles

°
Red sectors are visible over land north and south for 15 nautical miles
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Originally 'group occulting'*, 2 every 20 seconds

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In 1938 became 'group flashing'*, 6 every 20 seconds
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In 1965 became 'group flashing*', 4 every 20 seconds

*Find out what these terms mean; visit

Use the links below to explore Southwold’s other sea stories.

Coastal erosion - The village that fell into the sea
Shipwrecks and lifeboats
Southwold’s killer flood of 1953

 
 

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Southwold Museum & Historical Society, 9 -11 Victoria Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6HZ
Tel: 01502 726097 email