Posted 17 December 2012 by Andrew Gardner
OK, it's not quite as famous as 'How the leopard got its spots' but to many Sussex residents and regular visitors it's just as important. The iconic lighthouse at Beachy Head with its famous red and white stripes, was in danger of reverting to an ordinary, undistinguished grey appearance because Trinity House, the organisation which owns and operates all Britain's lighthouses, said it couldn't afford the paint job. So a year or so ago some determined local campaigners went into action. It’s something we wrote a blog on last year! Fundraising activities included street collections, book sales and a well-subscribed walk round the lighthouse at a low spring tide (the only time such a walk is possible) and the necessary £27,000 has been raised.
You might think from this reaction that the lighthouse had always been red and white, but strangely enough it hasn't. Originally it was black and white, then red and granite, until 1980 when the iconic red and white stripes first appeared. These would have made it stand out in dark and fog, but these days technical navigation systems at sea are so advanced that the colours are just cosmetic.
Originally, too, it stood on the headland but in 1899 that site had to be abandoned due to the crumbling chalk cliffs and the fact that it was often shrouded in fog. The current lighthouse was completed in 1902 and 3,660 tons of Cornish granite were used to build the tower. It stands about 165 metres out to sea, which is why a walk around it is a rare event - another one is expected to take place sometime in 2013 after the paintwork has been done, by the way, so it you're staying in one of our spectacular coastal cottages do try to go along.