East Bank Lighthouse is located along the banks of the River Nene, a short distance inland from the entrance to The Wash. It overlooks its twin lighthouse across the river at West Sutton.
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The River Nene is the tenth-longest river in the UK, being navigable from 88 miles from Northampton to Wash.
The current Cross Keys swing bridge spans the river at Sutton Bridge and was built in 1897. It is the third bridge, the first being opened in 1831 and designed by John Rennie Junior and Thomas Telford. It formed part of the Wash Embankment works.
At the mouth of the River Nene, two lighthouses were built in 1831 on opposite banks marking the opening of the Nene outfall cut. This new cut realigned the river from Sutton Bridge into The Wash and was designed to help drain the surrounding low-lying fenland.
Some reports state that the lighthouses were never lit, but other sources indicate they were used as navigation aids. A light was exhibited for one and a half hours following high water during the hours of darkness. These lights guided ships through the sandbanks of The Wash and into the River Nene.
The west lighthouse has a half-moon window to the north, and the east bank has one to the south to indicate if a ship was not in the channel.
Both East and West Bank Lighthouses are similar in design. Both are 60 ft high-tapering circular towers with hexagonal lanterns. A chimney protrudes through the roof, and a window faces the channel.
East Bank Lighthouse is sometimes called the Sir Peter Scott Lighthouse. The naturalist and artist Sir Peter Scott lived at the lighthouse between 1933 and 1939, adding extra buildings during his residency. He bought an area, establishing a nature reserve, what is now the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.
Scott was enlisted in 1939, and the army utilised the lighthouse during the Second World War. They intended to add a gun platform at the top of the tower, but this was not done. Following the war, the lighthouse became run down again, and the sea walls were half a mile to the seaward of the tower.
The lighthouse and Peter Scott also inspired the story The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk by Paul Gallico. In Gallico’s book, the lighthouse is relocated.
By the 1960s, the lighthouse was leased by Mr Gandy. It was then used as a holiday residence and later as the headquarters for the Fenland Wildfowlers following Gandy’s death. However, by 1975 the lighthouse had fallen derelict once more.
In 1985 Commander David Joel bought the lighthouse and restored it to its former glory. The lighthouse was sold again in 2010 to Doug and Sue Hilton, the current owners, who set up the Snow Goose Trust to commemorate Sir Peter Scott’s life.
The West Lighthouse, also known as Guy’s Head Lighthouse, had an attached keeper’s house, and further buildings have been added.
It was used as a former Customs and Excise station, housing the commissioners. Customs officials would call the incoming vessels to confirm their cargo and destination.
Both lighthouses are at the end of a narrow road two miles from Sutton Bridge. Both are privately owned.
Look out for the road sign depicting the two lighthouses as you enter Sutton Bridge