Lighthouses of South East England
Explore the lighthouses and lightvessels of South East England. The coastline of South East England takes in the county of Kent round to the River Thames and into Greater London.
Please note that some lighthouses offer holiday accommodation, or may be privately owned. Please take care not to trespass or drive on private property.
There have been lighthouses at Dungeness since 1615. Three of these remain. One way to reach the peninsula is via the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.
Discover more about places to visit in Dungeness.
From Dover, visit the oldest remaining lighthouse in the country, the Roman Pharos, built around the first century AD on the grounds of Dover Castle, which looms over the town. It is the tallest remaining Roman structure.
The town Dover is a busy commercial port, and ferries traverse to and from the continent continuously across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The harbour lighthouses are visible on the various breakwaters sheltering the busy harbour.
Perched on the top of the white cliffs, overlooking Dover Harbour, stands South Foreland Lighthouse near St Margaret’s at Cliffe. The Low Lighthouse is located near the clifftop on private grounds and featured in the 1967 horror movie The Shuttered Room, starring Oliver Reed.
Both Dungeness and South Foreland Lighthouses have been instrumental in advances in lighthouse technology.
South Foreland was the first lighthouse to have electricity installed, following experiments undertaken by Michael Faraday for Trinity House, with the first trial taking place in 1858. It was also from South Foreland that Guglielmo Marconi made his first ship-to-shore radio transmission, receiving a message from the East Goodwin Lightvessel in 1898. Decommissioned in 1988, the lighthouse is open as a visitor centre.
The shipping lanes of the English Channel are some of the busiest in the world. The Goodwin Sands, around four miles off the coast of Deal, are a notoriously dangerous sandbank marked by the East Goodwin Lightvessel. In November 1954, during a ferocious storm, the South Goodwin Lightvessel broke free from its anchor chain and capsized when she ran aground on the sands, with the loss of all seven of her crew.
The town of Ramsgate is a bustling harbour on the south coast and formed one of the earlier sites as a depot for Trinity House. Part of the Clock House at Ramsgate Harbour was used to store and maintain buoys after completion in 1837. The Ramsgate depot closed in 1914. The pretty lighthouse on the pier was established in 1783.
In the historic town of Broadstairs are plenty of reminders of author Charles Dickens. Bleak House, which overlooks the northern side of the town, is where Dickins wrote his novel, David Copperfield. Bleak House is now a guest house.
North Foreland Lighthouse is located on the outskirts of Broadstairs, adjacent to the golf course, and overlooks Joss Bay. It was probably one of the more comfortable lighthouse stations due to easy walking distance into the town. North Foreland was the last of the Trinity House lighthouses to be automated in November 1998.
To the west of Margate, the twin towers of the ruined St Mary’s Church dominate the local skyline and date back to the 12th century. The towers at Reculver were used as a daymark. Trinity House bought the ruins around 18, and the tower was restored.
Along the River Medway are several former lightvessels at Hoo Marina. LV16 near Rochester is one of the oldest surviving wooden lightvessels, though she has been significantly restored.
Chatham Historic Dockyard is worth a visit. It was used as the location for the filming of the BBC Drama Call the Midwife.
Heading along the Thames estuary towards London, LV21 stands proudly on the quayside near Gravesend Pier on the southern banks. The lightvessel is often open for arts and exhibitions events.
Gravesend also marks the end of the Saxon Shore Way, a 140 mile long path following the coast to Rye.
London and the River Thames
There are some minor lights dotted along the shoreline, and some surprising discoveries in the city of London.
Further along, the Thames, heading into London, are the impressive Headquarters of Trinity House at Tower Hill.
At Blackwall, Trinity Buoy Wharf, established in 1803, was the former base for engineering and training depot for lighthouse keepers. It is now an arts centre and cafe.
There are some interesting lighthouses carved into the city’s buildings, and many museums housing lighthouse optics and artefacts.
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