In pictures: Plans unveiled for the future of an iconic piece of Sussex maritime history

The lantern tower of the famous Sovereign Lighthouse, which has been a landmark off the Sussex coast for more than half a century, is set to go on permanent display in a Sussex town.

Ray Konyn, who has played a key role in securing the tower, said: “In 2018 I was aware that its 50 year life span was coming to an end and I found it sad that this piece of iconic history was going to be dismantled and disposed of so I wrote to Trinity House and put forward the idea of rescuing the lantern tower part of the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse and they were interested in the idea.

"I then had to work out some kind of strategy. at the time I was a founder and trustee of a charity called Bexhill Heritage, so offered it to them as a project.

"We worked out a strategy to bring it ashore, but the trustees voted the project down and it came back to me as an individual to find another way so I set up another charity as a dedicated maritime centre. I found a lot of wonderful local expertise to help.

"The actual extraction of the light tower took place in September 2023. The contractors turned up to sea with a huge rig barge called ‘Gulliver’ to dismantle it and take it away.”

Gordon Smith, vice chairman of Bexhill Maritime Centre, said: "It was taken to Shoreham and was there until the beginning of December. Then the contractors who transported it, Coussens Cranes, had to tip the tower onto its side so that it would fit on the trailer. They moved it by road to Ibstock, a brick company in Bexhill. They have agreed, very kindly, to store it for us until we are ready to put it in its final position, which will be on the seafront at Bexhill, at the bottom of Galley Hill, as part of the Maritime Centre. The tower will be the landmark and focal point of the Maritime Centre.

"The centre itself will be all about the local ecology, environment and climate change. There will be an exhibition area, a meeting room, and a cafe.

"We cannot give any definite date at this stage yet, as we are now working on the pre-planning application. We are also working for the funding for this big project. Once the plans have been passed and the funding in place, we will then be in a position to give a more accurate idea of when the thing will actually happen. Logically, we are talking two – three years before the centre will actually be open.

"We are very lucky to have various sponsors to help us with this.”

Ray added: “In September we had a crisis situation as the tower was coming in to Shoreham for three weeks to have any asbestos removed and after that we had nowhere to put it. We inspected 15 different sites to see if they were appropriate and each site had a problem. By chance, one of our committee members popped into Ibstock Bricks who said they could store it for us. It went down to a fine wire and they helped us out of a very difficult situation. It was a lucky break for us.”

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