LANTERNS tied to Sussex grazing livestock could be seen well out to sea and easily mistaken for the lights of another vessel. Danger indeed. Jonathon Darby was Parson of East Dean in the late 17th century and his duties included the burial of bodies washed up from ship wrecks.
He realised that a fixed light could be a more reliable warning to sailors of the coast ahead, so he set about excavating ‘Parson Darby’s Hole’ near Belle Tout on Beachy Head, creating a chimney that led up from the coast and ledges where he could set lights on stormy nights.
It has been said that Parson Darby created his Hole to escape the tongue of his wife, but he often spent nights there watching the sea, and there is little doubt that this resulted in many lives being saved.
Parson Darby died in 1729 and is buried in Friston churchyard with the epitaph Sailors’ Friend on his gravestone.
Today, there is a Beachy Head Brewery dark ale/stout named in his honour.