Orfordness Lighthouse: Historic Suffolk landmark reduced to rubble

By Martin Barber
BBC News Online

  • Published
Orfordness Lighthouse and the demolished siteImage source, Martin Barber/Mike Page
Image caption,
The 30m (98ft) lighthouse was the 11th and final warning beacon based on the shingle spit

The demolition of a lighthouse that had stood for more than 200 years has been completed.

Orfordness Lighthouse has been taken down because the sea is eroding the shingle beach it stands on in Suffolk.

Work to remove the Grade II listed structure started in July and now just a pile of rubble remains.

Orfordness Lighthouse Trust (OLT) hopes to recreate the top third of the 1792 structure as a permanent tribute built at a safe distance from the sea.

Media caption,

Drone footage captured the start of deconstruction work

It will include many of the original features that have been saved during the demolition work including the lantern room, bespoke curved cabinets used to hold the lighthouse bulbs and the Coade stone that was in place above the door.

Image source, Orfordness Lighthouse Trust
Image caption,
The lighthouse was designed by architect William Wilkins and the Coade stone has been removed from above the door

The building was decommissioned as an active lighthouse in 2013 and the OLT cared for the structure, affectionately known as "the old lady" in her twilight years, and tried in vain to protect it from the encroaching tide and winter storms using "sausage" sea defences.

They welcomed thousands of visitors to the site from all over the world but eventually had to admit defeat - taking the decision to "deconstruct" the building to save what they could for future generations rather than let it fall into the sea.

Media caption,

A giant jackhammer was used to demolish the Suffolk red brick walls with as many as possible being salvaged

Image source, Orfordness Lighthouse Trust
Image caption,
Artefacts from the lighthouse will be held in storage in the hope they can eventually be used in a tribute building

"The lighthouse was symbolic and it feels really empty without it being there," said Tim Underwood, grandson of Charlie Underwood the last lighthouse keeper who worked on the site from 1965 until his retirement in 1994.

Image source, Orfordness Lighthouse Trust
Image caption,
The OLT continue to clear the demolition site in readiness for time and tide to reclaim the land

He added: "It's so much more than pile of bricks - to the people of Orford and the wider community it was really a symbol of strength on the horizon and to see it being taking down was really quite hard."

Image source, Google
Image caption,
The planned lighthouse tribute, featuring a number of original features, will be sited nearly 1.5 miles (2.4km) from the sea on the River Ore on the other side of the spit

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