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Les Sentinelles des Mers

Par Guy Detienne


Orfordness lighthouse.
Version française :

(Each photo can be enlarged with a mouse click)

The East Anglian Coast is considered dangerous because of its sandbanks. These change places, making the approach to the ports difficult.
This part of the North Sea is also full of wrecks, stranded on these banks yet remote from the coast.

The first two lighthouses were built in 1637. They were made of wood. They did not last and are replaced, in 1780, by two brick towers.
But already at the time the sea erodes the coast. Twelve years later, the previous fire is in a delicate situation.
It will eventually collapse in turn. The later fire will collapse in 1887.

A new lighthouse was built in 1792. It is the current lighthouse.
Its design is different and its optics are sector-based.


The lighthouse in year 1910.

In 1914, a first ordre optic was installed on a mercury. Fixed lenses were installed on the tower windows. So the areas are maintained. It has a range of 24 milles.

The lighthouse is guarded by two keepers. They each have their homes at the foot of the lighthouse.

He saved many lives, that’s his goal.

He also played an important role in the Second World War. He served as a landmark for aviation.

On the picture opposite, we see him in his camouflage costume.





A special feature of this lighthouse is the communication system between keepers.

In the lantern there are two vocal pipes. They are spotted PK (Principle Keeper) and AK (Assistant Keeper). Each is connected to the corresponding dwelling.
At each end a whistle is connected. When the keeper needed to communicate with the other keeper, he would blow the whistle that would blow the whistle at the other end.

So warned, they could talk to each other through the pipe.

Lighthouse in year 1951.

The lighthouse was electrified in 1959. The automation came in 1964 which led to the departure of the guards the following year.

But nature continues its work and the sea is dangerously close.

Lighthouse in year 2005.

Trinity House, in charge of the lighthouse, decided that it could no longer remain in service.

For technical and regulatory reasons, it could not remain at this location or be moved.

The lighthouse was decommissioned on June 27, 2013. Electrical equipment was removed as well as mercury.

It’s being considered for demolition.

Lighthouse in year 2015.
Orfordness Lighthouse Trust.
The lighthouse is located in the Orfordness Nature Reserve.

Nicholas Gold, steward in the park, wants him to stay as long as possible as a symbol of the reserve. He bought the lighthouse and buildings for £2,000 and created the Orfordness Lighthouse Trust.

In early 2014, guided tours and other activities were organized. This attracted thousands of people.


In the winter of 2015-2016, storms eroded the shoreline. A call for donations was launched.

To stop shoreline erosion in front of the lighthouse, they place bags of gravel and pebbles. These bags are wrapped in plastic and form a huge sausage. It is a total of 4 rolls that have been placed.

This system reduced the effect of waves and reduced beach erosion.




In July 2019, despite the efforts made, it is no longer possible to keep it.

In addition, winter storms were the death knell of this lighthouse.
The guards' little houses collapsed and the sea gnawed at the base of the lighthouse. The end is programmed.

The East Suffolk Council determined that the Orfordness lighthouse was now unsafe and ordered its removal.

Demolition is planned for early 2020.



Negotiations are undertaken to find a demolition company that can do the work for a limited budget.

Access is not simple and the beach must be consolidated for gear.



Methodical dismantling.
The dismantling was planned for early spring. But the arrival of Covid disrupted plans.

Anglian Demolition of Attleborough is responsible for the work.

Work began in the month of July. Interesting items are disassembled.

It is planned to save as much historical object as possible. Among these, the lantern, a wooden box housing the lamps and elements of the staircase.

Some other parts are also saved. The goal is to be able to expose them near the port of Orford.





The roof of the lantern had to be cut and the lantern separated from its base.

It was carefully descended on July 18, 2020.

The lantern is still 14 tons.


The final phase.





By Tuesday the whole thing will be down”, said Nicholas Gold who owns the lighthouse and is a trustee at the Orfordness Lighthouse Trust.

Mr Gold said that although it was sad to see the lighthouse come down, “the while purpose was to keep it alive for people to visit for as long as possible” said Mr Gold.

«We have achieved that.".

Thank you.

Thanks go first to Mr. Gold and the team of volunteers who did their utmost to delay the dismantling.
They allowed many visitors to visit the site and climb the stairs one last time.

I also thank them for allowing me this page and sharing the history of this lighthouse and its last moments.

I also thank the photographers who allowed me to make this page.