South Foreland Lighthouse – recent history

Improvement and repair © NT

Improvement and repair

The Upper and Lower Lighthouses that we see today were built in the middle of the nineteenth century. Trinity House bought the both lighthouses in 1832 from Greenwich Hospital for £8366. Apparently, there was a huge explosion around this time causing a lot of damage to one of the towers. This meant there were considerable building repair works at South Foreland.

Renewal and refurbishment

The Upper Lighthouse was heightened and refurbished in 1842, and then in 1846 the Lower Light was fully rebuilt at a total cost of £4409. The works were supervised by one of the greatest Victorian engineers, James Walker FRS (1781-1862).

The Upper and Lower Lighthouses can be seen from the land, but are even more obvious when viewed from the sea. They were designed to be used together. The seamen would line up the two lights, and when the Upper Light shone directly above the Lower Light they could steer safely past the southern tip of the Goodwin Sands.

Time for change

By 1904 the movement of Goodwin Sands meant that this arrangement was no longer safe, so the Lower Light was switched off. A much brighter flashing light was installed in the Upper Lighthouse. For most of the twentieth century South Foreland shone out nightly over the Straits of Dover until 30th September 1988 , when modern navigational aids meant that the lighthouse could be closed down. Nowadays, the Goodwin Sands are marked by several illuminated buoys.

The Lighthouse remained dark until June 2012 when the South Foreland light shone out across the English Channel once again in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.