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Lend a hand to help light stay working

PUBLISHED: 09:38 11 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:40 06 July 2010

FOR nearly 180 years, Pakefield's tiny lighthouse has been standing strong on the sandy cliff south of Lowestoft.

But now after decades of exposure to salty water and bracing North Sea winds, the coastwatch volunteers who care for the unique structure face a fight against time to raise money for urgent repairs.

FOR nearly 180 years, Pakefield's tiny lighthouse has been standing strong on the sandy cliff south of Lowestoft.

But now after decades of exposure to salty water and bracing North Sea winds, the coastwatch volunteers who care for the unique structure face a fight against time to raise money for urgent repairs.

The small and rather unusual lighthouse stands just 34ft above sea level, making it about a quarter of the height of the much better-known High Light at nearby Lowestoft.

It was built in the grounds of Pakefield Hall in 1831 and for the next 33 years it helped vessels find safe passage among the offshore sandbanks.

It then fell into disrepair until it was bought by the hall's owners in 1929 and went on to have a colourful life. When the holiday camp which is now Pontins opened on the site in the late 1920s, it was used for a time as a bar and later as a darkroom for the holiday centre's photographer and during the second world war, its roof was removed so it could be used as a lookout post for the Royal Observer Corps.

In 2000, it was taken over by Pakefield Coastwatch and returned to something close to its original purpose as a surveillance station.

The small lighthouse is now manned during daylight hours as volunteers keep watch over the stretch of the North Sea running from Lowestoft to Kessingland but its exterior paint is crumbling and funds desperately need to be raised to give it a new lease of life.

Senior watch keeper Roy Woods said: “Over a number of years, the salt in the wind has penetrated the render and has got through on to the main structure, so now it's come away from the wall and the paint is coming off in strips.

“This winter has been exceptional weather-wise, so the problems have got worse very quickly. The render and coverings on the brickwork need to be removed, the whole lighthouse needs to be power cleaned and sealed and then re-covered with specialist paint.”

Station controller Frank Mortimer said that as the little lighthouse is hidden at the edge of the Pontins holiday park, it has become something of a forgotten part of the village's heritage.

He said: “A lot of people don't even know we're here, but as volunteers we do a really important job. Our watch covers all sorts of things, from yachts sailing in competitions to commercial tankers offshore and even stranded seals stuck on the beach.

“When we spot anything, we alert the coastguard at Great Yarmouth and any recue or help is coordinated from there.”

However he said that as a voluntary group, finding money to pay the lighthouse's maintenance bill is difficult. “We get some donations locally but we don't receive any grant funding so trying to find several thousand pounds for the exterior work to be done is a bit of an impossible task.”

Anyone who can help the lighthouse should contact Frank Mortimer on 01502 573458.

The world's first known lighthouse was the Pharos at Alexandria in Egypt. Constructed between 300 and 280BC by Ptolemy I, it stood more than 400ft tall and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World until it was destroyed by invaders and a series of earthquakes.

The oldest existing lighthouse is thought to be at La Coruna in Spain, which dates from 20BC and is called the Tower of Hercules.

Lighthouses in England, Wales and the Channel Isles are the responsibility of Trinity House. The first lighthouse built by Trinity House was High Light at Lowestoft, which was part of a series of lights put in place to help guide vessels through a maze of sandbanks between Lowestoft and Happisburgh. The lighthouses were paid for by a systems of charges imposed on vessels leaving port in Newcastle, Hull, Boston and King's Lynn.

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