Friday 23 July 2010

...and lighthouse

I love to see the rock formations eroded by the constant battering of the sea against these chalk cliffs.

Flamborough head is a prime example of an essential location for a lighthouse. On some days, it is open to the public; unfortunately, not the day we visited. If I go again, I want to go up!

This is not the first lighthouse atop this cliff. The first one was a beacon light, dating back to around 1674. It is still in place, slightly further back on the cliff, and is the only known example in England!! If I'd known that while I was up there, I would have definitely taken a photo. Instead, I'll have to content myself with offering you this - taken on a rather less wild day. The interesting (and quirky; in fact downright odd!) thing about this light beacon is that it's believed to have never been kindled! Wha...?!!

The current lighthouse was designed by Samuel Wyatt and built in 1806 by John Matson of Bridlington. It is 85 feet tall. He built it without the use of scaffolding and lived to tell the tale! (Which also strikes me as a slightly odd thing to do. - the lack of scaffolding that is, not the living; which is usually rather sensible). It cost £8,000 to build and was first lit on the first of December in the year it was built. The light itself was oil burning and the shaft rotated so that the light shone through 3 reflective windows; two with white glass and one with red. This made Flamborough the first ever lighthouse to display two white flashes followed by a red.

Electricity was installed in 1940 and an electric fog horn added in 1975, ending the need to send up a rocket flare at five minute intervals during foggy weather. In 1996 the lighthouse was automated, the last ever keeper leaving on 8th May of that year. I know it's more efficient and that being a lighthouse keeper was really a lonely and dangerous task, but my head is still full of the storybook image of the keepers of lights and I find the automation rather sad. Nowadays, the light is controlled from HQ at Harwich (miles away; not even in Yorkshire!). Oh well.

PS: Forgot to mention that the signal, these days, is four white flashes every 15 seconds! (just in case you're ever ambling up the Yorkshire coast on a boat in the dark!)


  1. We have so many lighthouses here in Portsmouth and close-by. One of the most famous went automated sometime in the 90s (I think). I felt sad but understood.

  2. Early this month the government announced the closure of all the remaining manned lighthouses in the country. Fine for those living in the middle of the continent, but rather sad and a bit scary for those on the edges, or those who make their living from the sea. We are still withing living memory of terrifying wrecks on the coast and just two years ago the terrible loss of life when a BC Ferry wound up on the rocks with loss of life. It's a foolish decision, I think.
    I'm trying to imagine the determination it must have taken to build a structure like this lighthouse without scaffolding!