Iconic Suffolk lighthouse faces the axe

IT has been an iconic landmark on the Suffolk coast for more than 200 years - but the lights could be about to go out for the last time at Orfordness lighthouse.

Tom Potter

IT has been an iconic landmark on the Suffolk coast for more than 200 years.

But the lights could be about to go out for the last time at Orfordness lighthouse after it emerged it has been recommended for closure.

The historic landmark has been under threat from a fast eroding coastline in recent years, and now the latest five-year review by Trinity House, which manages lighthouses around England, Wales and the Channel Islands, has said it may no longer be needed.

It plans to discontinue all navigational aids at Orfordness, instead increasing the range of the Southwold lighthouse - which itself earned a reprieve from a possible decommission last year - from 16 to 24 nautical miles.

Captain Roger Barker, the authority's director of navigation, said that as navigational technology continues to advance the reliance on the traditional system of lighthouses around the coast has diminished.

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Keith Seaman, the current Orfordness lighthouse keeper, said it would be a sad loss.

“Obviously there will be some objection from people used to looking at the Orford skyline and seeing what has become an iconic tower standing there. It would be a tremendous blow if it disappeared.

“For me it would be a sad loss having worked there since 1994. It has become a part of me and I have enjoyed showing visitors round. If the lighthouse goes then I will no longer be required.

“It's inevitable that at some stage the tower will cease to exist because of severe erosion but that may now be hastened.”

It was feared that the lighthouse, which has guided ships since 1792, may be lost to the sea within five years unless moved inland or rebuilt with stronger foundations.

Adrian Underwood, whose father Charlie spent more than 28 years as lighthouse attendant before retiring in 1994, and was awarded the MBE for his service to Trinity House, said it's loss would be a “shame”.

Mr Underwood, the youngest of his six sons, said: “I had heard that the lighthouse was getting very close to the sea due to coastal erosion and that they may have to demolish it.

“It would be such a shame to see a building that has been there since 1792 meet its end after so many years.”

The lighthouse could still prove a vital navigation tool in the event of failing electronic or satellite positioning systems and objection to the proposed switch-off is already being sounded by members of The Alde and Ore Association, which exists to preserve the Alde, Ore and Butley Creek rivers and their banks.

Public consultation into the future of Orfordness lighthouse continues until January 29. Responses should be sent to Navigation Directorate, Trinity House, Tower Hill, London, EC3N 4DH or email navigation.directorate@thls.org


- The stretch of water overlooked by Orfordness lighthouse is notoriously treacherous - on one night in 1627, 32 ships hit the shore leaving barely any survivors. The lighthouse, in its original form, was established a decade later.

- On June 23, 1707, the wooden building was attacked by a French pirate who damaged a lantern and stole items including the keeper's beds.

- In 1792 the a new brick tower was built and remains standing to this day.

- In 1959 the lighthouse was converted to electric power.

- Its lantern burns with the intensity of 635,000 Candela and has a range of 25 nautical miles.

- The lighthouse is often used by sceptics to explain the lights seen by US airman during the world famous Rendlesham UFO incident in 1980.