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Visiting the 1874 High Lighthouse, Lowestoft, Suffolk, England: recalling Trinity House's first lighthouse of 1609

Updated on February 26, 2015
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Lowestoft Lighthouse
Lowestoft Lighthouse | Source
The High Light, Lowestoft, 1851 (Source: 'The Eastern Counties Railway Illustrated Guide', p. 55)
The High Light, Lowestoft, 1851 (Source: 'The Eastern Counties Railway Illustrated Guide', p. 55) | Source
Ensign of Trinity House (Source:
Ensign of Trinity House (Source: | Source
HRH Anne, The Princess Royal
HRH Anne, The Princess Royal | Source

A longstanding light for shipping in the North Sea

Lowestoft High Lighthouse (more shortly about its title) has a distinguished history among lighthouses in England and Wales. A predecessor was in fact the first lighthouse to be sponsored by Trinity House, the governing body of lighthouses and navigational aids. This body dates from the 16th century; and in 1609, Trinity House created its first, permanent lighthouse here at Lowestoft, Suffolk.

The name High Lighthouse refers to the fact that until 1923 there was also a Low Lighthouse at Lowestoft; shipping was supposed to align the two lights and navigate accordingly along a sea channel, now disappeared, among the often treacherous sandbanks off England's easternmost point, known as Ness Point, at Lowestoft.

Lowestoft High Lighthouse does not look particularly 'high' in comparison with some other lighthouses; however, its situation on a hillside brings it to a height of 37 metres above sea level, even though the structure itself is only 16 metres high. The current structure dates partly from 1874, although elements of the building are reckoned to date from between 1650 and 1699 (1). The lighthouse was paraffin fired prior to 1936, when it was electrified. Automation followed in 1975. It has a 70 watt lamp, with a range of 42.6 kilometres.

Trinity House is composed of 31 Elder Brethren and 300 Younger Brethren. At the time of writing the Master of the Corporation of Trinity House is HRH Anne, The Princess Royal (1950-). Historically, other distinguished figures have also occupied the post; these have included: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), Chief Secretary to the Admiralty and author of a famous diary; William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), long-serving Prime Minister of Great Britain and Chancellor of the Exchequer; Admiral Sir William Penn (1621-1670)(2), whose son William Penn (1644-1718) is especially known as the founder of Pennsylvania; Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), victor of the Battle of Waterloo and Prime Minister of Great Britain.

I have supplied (right) a drawing, dating from 1851, of the Lighthouse: its profile is visibly somewhat different, seen in its previous state. The surrounding sandy hills, known as the Denes, which still form the base for the present structure, are also visible in this 19th century picture.

I have also supplied a representation of the Trinity House Ensign, which Ontarians and Manitobans with recognize as being similar to their Provincial flags.

Thus, the structure and its predecessors have provided a light for more than four centuries for shipping in the North Sea. There is a sense in which, while the history of this period has seen many far reaching changes, yet basic navigational needs persist, and these are supplied here by the High Lighthouse, as sponsored by Trinity House since 1609: before even the Mayflower set sail for North America.

February 26, 2015


(1) See also:

(2) Interestlngly, Admiral Sir William Penn served as a flag officer at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War; a portrait of Admiral Sir William Penn was painted by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680) as part of a series of portraits known as the Flagmen of Lowestoft.

Map location of Waveney District, Suffolk
Map location of Waveney District, Suffolk | Source

Also worth seeing

In Lowestoft itself, its Town Hall dates from 1869-1873; St Margaret's Church is a flint building dating from the 15th century; the War Memorial Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Royal Naval Patrol Museum are all situated in the town; the Lowestoft Museum, with a noted, porcelain collection, is situated in neighbouring Oulton Broad.

Somerleyton (approx. 11.4 kilometres) has a fine, stately home, Somerleyton Hall and Gardens, open to the public.

Great Yarmouth (distance: 19 kilometres) has various, distinguished buildings of interest to the visitor, a few of these being: North-West Tower; St Nicholas's Church; the Anna Sewell House; the Britannia Monument, and others.

Burgh Castle (distance: approx. 18.3 kilometres), a structure which dates from the Roman era.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Great Yarmouth is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. The town is 265 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please 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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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 2 years ago

      Blackspaniel1: Yes, you are undoubtedly right. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 2 years ago

      There is something about light houses that seem to have the ability to draw attention.