Orfordness Lighthouse

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Orfordness Lighthouse
Orford Ness lighthouse - geograph.org.uk - 934461.jpg
Orfordness Lighthouse
Orfordness Lighthouse is located in Suffolk
Orfordness Lighthouse
Coordinates52°05′02″N 1°34′27″E / 52.083940°N 1.574246°E / 52.083940; 1.574246Coordinates: 52°05′02″N 1°34′27″E / 52.083940°N 1.574246°E / 52.083940; 1.574246
Year first constructed1637 (first)
Year first lit1792 (current)
Constructionbrick tower
Tower shapetapered cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / patternwhite tower with two red bands, white lantern
Tower height30 m (98 ft)
Original lens2nd order 700mm, three panel catadioptric
Range25 nautical miles (46 km; 29 mi)
CharacteristicFl W 5s.
Admiralty numberA2258
NGA number1564
ARLHS numberENG-096
Managing agentOrfordness Lighthouse Trust[1]
HeritageGrade II listed building Edit this on Wikidata

Orfordness Lighthouse is a decommissioned lighthouse on Orford Ness, in Suffolk, England. The 30 metres (98 ft) tower was completed in 1792. The light had a range of 25 nautical miles (46 km; 29 mi).[2] It was equipped with an AIS transmitter with MMSI 992351016.[3]


The first lights in this area were constructed in 1637: a pair of wooden leading lights.[2] These were replaced in 1780 by a pair of brick octagonal towers. Scarcely a dozen years later the lower light of the two was precariously close to the sea due to shore erosion; it collapsed not long afterwards. In 1792, anticipating this inevitability, the landowner Lord Braybrooke built a new 'high light' in a different position. This is the lighthouse which still stands today. The old high light then functioned as the new 'low light'. Both were fitted with Argand lamps and reflectors (there were fourteen burners in the high light, later increased to sixteen).[4] In 1837 the lease of the Orfordness lighthouses (held together with Winterton Lighthouse to the north) was purchased by Trinity House.[4] The following year, the low light was fitted with a fixed array of dioptric lenses and mirrors by Isaac Cookson & co. of Newcastle-upon-Tyne[5] (the mirrors were replaced by prisms in 1850).[4]

In 1887 the low light was again lost to erosion; this time it was not replaced. Instead, in 1888, red and green sectors were added to the high light,[6] which had been provided with a large (first-order) fixed optic in 1868, engineered by James Chance.[7]

The lighthouse was further modernized in 1914: a new revolving optic was installed (which remained in use for 99 years), and a new additional light was installed along with fixed lenses at a level below the lantern, so the sector lights now shone from windows on the tower. The lighthouse was electrified in 1959, and in 1964 it became the first lighthouse to be monitored by telemetry from Harwich, ushering in a process of lighthouse automation which continued around England over the next 35 years. The keepers were withdrawn from Orfordness the following year.[6]

July 12th 2019==Decommissioning==

Unveiling of the decommissioned optic from Orfordness at the IMO HQ.

The lighthouse was decommissioned on 27 June 2013, because of the encroaching sea. The modern electrical equipment and hazardous materials (mercury) have been removed. Trinity House has increased the power of the light at Southwold Lighthouse to compensate for the closure of Orfordness lighthouse. Unless demolished, the Orfordness tower was expected to survive for seven to eight years before falling into the North Sea.[8]

The 1913 optic has been removed and is now displayed at the London headquarters of the International Maritime Organization.[9]

Orfordness Lighthouse Trust[edit]

After decommissioning, the lighthouse was purchased by the Orfordness Lighthouse Trust, a registered charity established 'to preserve the Lighthouse for as long as possible and its legacy after that'.[10] Under the Trust's stewardship the lighthouse has been opened to the public on certain specified days each summer since 2013. In the winter of 2013-14 10 metres of the surrounding beach was lost to erosion; Trust volunteers then installed a sea defence, in the form of gravel-filled bags, to help protect the low cliff in front of the lighthouse (since when erosion on either side of the defences has overtaken the lighthouse). Notwithstanding these measures, it remains 'at imminent risk of falling into the sea'.[11] As of 2019 the Trust remains committed to keeping the Lighthouse standing where it is for as long as possible. In the longer term it aspires 'to dismantle the Lighthouse and rebuild a replica elsewhere on the Ness'.[11] With this in mind the optic was removed in 2014.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Orfordness (Orford Ness) (High) The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 4 May 2016
  2. ^ a b "Orfordness Lighthouse". Trinity House. Archived from the original on 28 February 2011.
  3. ^ "ORFORDNESS".
  4. ^ a b c "Lighthouse management : the report of the Royal Commissioners on Lights, Buoys, and Beacons, 1861, examined and refuted Vol. 2". p. 74.
  5. ^ Tag, Thomas. "The Fresnel Lens Makers". The United States Lighthouse Society. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b Woodman and Wilson (2002). The Lighthouses of Trinity House. Bradford on Avon: Thomas Reed.
  7. ^ Chance, James Frederick (1902). The Lighthouse Work of Sir James Chance, Baronet (PDF). London: Smith, Elder & co. p. 166. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Orfordness lighthouse gets switched off and left to the sea". BBC.
  9. ^ "Her Majesty The Queen Visits The International Maritime Organization". Getty Images. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  10. ^ a b "About the Trust". Orfordness Lighthouse. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Welcome to Orfordness Lighthouse". Orfordness Lighthouse Trust. Retrieved 22 February 2019.

External links[edit]

Orford Ness, Suffolk, showing locations of main sites.[1]
  1. ^ "Orfordness Visitor Map" (PDF). National Trust. 2018. Retrieved 19 November 2018.