Shedding light on a Beachy Head icon

Beachy Head Lighthouse by Rob Wassell. Picture of bedroom.

Beachy Head Lighthouse by Rob Wassell. Picture of bedroom.

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Beachy Head Lighthouse has got its stripes back after a two-year fundraising effort to get the iconic red and white building repainted.

Work finished at the lighthouse on October 10 after a team of painters moved into the lighthouse for three weeks to complete the work.

Hailsham-based Sussex Blast Cleaning carried out the works after campaign group Keep the Beachy Head Lighthouse Stripes raised £27,000 to get the painting done.

Keep the Beachy Head Lighthouse Stripes campaigner, historian, and writer Rob Wassell was treated to the birthday trip of a lifetime when he visited the lighthouse as the finishing touches were being painted.

Here Rob takes us on a journey through the lighthouse which had not been stayed in for more than 30 years until painting commenced:

“On October 8, it was my birthday, and what a present I was to receive – a visit to the Beachy Head Lighthouse.

It really was a dream come true for me. Having researched the lighthouse in detail for my book and now to have the opportunity to set foot inside was really amazing. I knew it was pretty compact inside but just how compact was still surprising.

There used to be only three bunks but two of the cupboards above had been converted into beds. The bedroom could now sleep five people, very cosy indeed. Something else that was a surprise was how steep the steps were. Made of iron rungs, the safest way was to come down backwards and you definitely couldn’t get anywhere quickly in the lighthouse.

Taking a quiet moment to reflect I also tried to imagine what it must have been like for a keeper. Trapped, literally, between these curved walls with two other guys with limited space living a very regimented life, it’s not for everyone. Plus it was a dangerous job, especially when they still had the oil lamp as it could literally flare up spraying burning oil over their hands and face. It was also a smelly job and one of the former keepers said that, on the train home, no-one would sit next to him as he stank of oil.

It was a challenge for the Sussex Blast Cleaning team, not only in terms of logistics delivering equipment and supplies but also staying on the lighthouse. Despite having a large collection of DVDs and a portable DVD player, the TV had broken. When they weren’t working until the light had faded, they were talking, listening to the radio or reading magazines or books huddled around the kitchen table, the only place to be able to sit down. Symbolically, just as the original keepers would have done all of those years earlier.

It was also great to meet the crew at last. Thank you Hugh and Ian the abseilers and Paul and Seamus for making us welcome. Thank you also to Martin for making it happen and Steve from Trinity House for being accommodating.

It was a really special day.

The stripes have been saved.”

For more information visit Rob’s website at www.beachyheadlighthouse.co.uk

Photographs taken by Rob Wassell. Visit his website at www.beachyheadlighthouse.co.uk.