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Visiting Happisburgh Lighthouse, Happisburgh, Norfolk, England: a functioning, 18th century structure
Shining since 1791
While its automated light dates from 1929, this conspicuous structure on the coast of Norfolk, England, has actually functioned as a lighthouse since the late 18th century.
Built in 1790, its beacon first shone as a warning to shipping the following year.
Previously there were two lighthouses in Happisburgh. One of these, dismantled in the 19th century, was known as Lower Light, and was situated at a part of the village's beach known by that name (see photo, right). The other lighthouse, known as High Light, is the one which still functions today.
Although it almost did not, after 1987. Whether it was case of 'Who died and left you in charge?' or whether a scientically calculated assessement really did leave it redundant, the authorities wanted to decommission Happisburgh Lighthouse. Instead, a furious group of local activists, only too aware of the many shipwrecks which had accumulated off Happisburgh over the centuries, campaigned to take over the Lighthouse under the auspices of a local trust. This duly came about and today the Happisburgh Lighthouse is the only such beacon in the United Kingdom which is administered independently.
So how high is the High Light? Well, as a structure it is 26 metres from its base. But because of the lie of the land, the actual light is 41 metres above sea level, with a range of 26 kilometres.
14 kilometres offshore is a treacherous series of sanbanks known as the Haisborough Sands, which substantially first hightened the need for a lighthouse in Happisburgh.
...and a pronunciation mouthful
14 kilometres offshore is a treacherous series of sanbanks known as the Haisborough Sands, which substantially first hightened the need for a lighthouse in Happlisburgh.
The observant reader will now ask a question. What is the difference between 'Happisburgh' and 'Haisborough'? Well, in fact there isn't a difference: it is just that the village is written 'Happisburgh' but pronounced 'Haisborough'; whereas the Sands are know by the spelling — and easy pronunciation — 'Haisborough'. (One can just imagine, otherwise, unfamiliar shipping radio operators during stormy weather referring to 'Happisburgh' and not knowing how to pronounce it...)(1)
Its red and white stripes by day and its light's flashes at night: Happisburgh Lighthouse is truly an area landmark. I have many times witness the three, consecutive flashes of Happisburgh Lighthouse, between 30 second intervals, beaming reassurance through the night to 'those in peril on the sea' (2).
June 4, 2013
(1) But, then, this is Norfolk for you. Another place in Norfolk is Wymondham (but pronounced 'Windham'!).
(2) Quotation from 'Eternal Father, Strong to Save', which has been widely known by seafarers in the English-speaking world and a hymn adopted by the US Navy.
Also worth seeing
In Happisburgh itself, its stone parish church dates from the 15th century.
North Walsham (distance: 14.2 kilometres); noted features of this market town include the 17th century Market Cross and the partially ruined, Medieval church of St Nicholas.
How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Happisburgh is 234 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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