BELL TOOT LIGHTHOUSE, EASTBOURNE
Belle Tout lighthouse at Beachy
Head is over 150 years old, and although it no longer works to warn
ships that the cliffs are close by, it's a famous landmark with a peculiar
Belle Tout or Bell Toot - famous lighthouse near Eastbourne, Sussex
Subsequently a local man named 'Mad Jack Fuller' constructed a wooden lighthouse on the cliff top, which so successfully diverted ships from the course of disaster that the decision was made to build a permanent lighthouse in 1832.
The cliffs at Beachy Head are crumbing fast and in spring 1999 the present owner Mark Roberts saved the structure from tumbling into the sea by moving it back from the cliff-edge.
Belle Tout is the only lighthouse in private occupation in Britain. Selected guests have the opportunity to spend the night in the lighthouse and watch the sun set from the Lantern, where the light used to be.
The coastal vistas from the top of Beachy Head are breathtaking, though sadly some visitors don't come here just to admire the view: the 300 ft high cliffs are the most popular suicide spot in the world.
17th March 1999 - Moving The Belle Tout Lighthouse
The Seven Sisters Cliffs on the South Coast are one of Britain’s natural landmarks, but as you may have seen on the news, they’re slowly crumbling away. It’s this crumbling that keeps the cliffs looking so white - but that’s not such good news if the cliff edge is getting closer and closer to your home.
Belle Tout lighthouse was built in 1832, its location was carefully
planned so the light, visible up to 20 miles away, was cut off by the
cliff edge. Any ships that sailed into the area, where the flashing light
was no longer visible, would know that they
were too near the cliffs.
Cliff erosion made Belle Tout’s effectiveness diminish. The lighthouse was finally decommissioned in 1902 when a new one was built on the rocks below Beachy Head. The erosion continued, and the edge of the cliff is getting dangerously close to the lighthouse.
When Mark Roberts moved into Belle Tout lighthouse 5 years ago there were 10m of land between the building and the sea - now there are only 3. Mark couldn’t bear to see it fall in, so he decided to move the building inland.
Belle Tout on the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs
Mark began planning the move early last year. When last November 5m of cliff fell away, Mark knew it was time to get moving. For the last five months teams of construction workers, led by Tim Jolley, have been toiling away building a network of concrete beams that they’ll use to move the building inland.
The floor of the lower level was removed and the walls underpinned. A reinforced beam was gradually constructed under each load bearing wall. Sliding tracks were built underneath the house to extend over a new lower storey, 17m away. This new floor was built to maintain the lighthouse at its exact current altitude and will contain further accommodation.
On the day of the move, the lighthouse was jacked into the air, and a steel rail thread underneath. Then, a series of hydraulic rams slid the lighthouse along, into its new position a further 17m inland. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it took nearly 200 years for that much cliff to erode - so Belle Tout should be safe for a few years yet.
in case it’s not, the engineers have made sure that the move was done in
such a way that the lighthouse could be moved again, should the need
House move of the century
An historic lighthouse perched on the edge of a rapidly crumbling cliff face is to be saved from oblivion by being moved 17 metres inland. The 165-year old 'Belle Tout' (Bell Toot) lighthouse near Beachy Head on the south coast of England, will be raised 60 centimetres above its foundations and moved backwards on rails to a safe distance from the edge. Stuart Sutton-Jones reports.
1902 the lighthouse warned sailors of the perils of one of the most
dangerous stretches of the English Channel. The Roberts' family bought it
in 1996, but years of coastal erosion now means their home is just 3
metres from the edge. They love their unusual dwelling so much, rather
than lose it to the sea, they've raised the 288 thousand dollars necessary
to shift it inland. Top engineers have devised a plan to lift the 850
tonne lighthouse on hydraulic jacks and move it northwards on concrete
rollers. Bad weather has delayed the project - but it's still a race
against time. The last major landslide was in November. Owner Mark Roberts
says he remembers it only too well.
Mark Roberts said: "My wife Louise and myself woke up to this tremendous rumbling of noise, very much like thunder, but it continued for about a minute and we knew that the dreaded fall had occurred."
"If all goes well, it will take just 20 minutes to re-locate the building to what the family hopes will be its final resting place. However just to be on the safe side, engineers will be building the new foundations in such a way that the structure can be moved again, if necessary. In London this is Stuart Sutton-Jones."
This lighthouse was replaced by Beachy Head Light in 1902. It was badly damaged during WWII when it was used for bombing practice. It was moved back 70 feet from the eroding cliff in 1999.
The Sunshine Girls were pleased to see the Bell Toot
lighthouse still going strong
Jack Fuller (Mad Jack)
Time was found in Jack's chaotic lifestyle for more serious pursuits. One being the inspiration behind the building of Belle Tout Lighthouse in 1832.
When the structure was built it was placed in a specific position with respect to the cliff edge. The way this worked was that if the boat was in the shadow cast by the cliff, and thus unable to see the light, then it was too close to the rocks.
Steady cliff erosion over the years made this feature non-existent, and by the late nineties it was 3m from the edge, meaning it would have actually illuminated the beach itself, had it still be in use.
The lighthouse was in fact de-commissioned way back in 1902, as due to the heavy sea mists in this area- see photograph- its light often wasn't visible ,not a handy feature for a lighthouse!
During the 1940's it became a handy target for the navy to shoot at in practice, despite the fact that there was actually a war on at the time, and therefore no shortage of more hostile targets had they wanted them.
Fortunately it was rescued from oblivion by the Cullinan family who owned it from 1955 to 1980, and during this time restored it to its former self. Fay Weldon's, 'She Devil', had finished cavorting around with the vicar, Mark and Louise Roberts bought the structure, and eventually had it moved back 17m from the cliff edge.
Tower Height: 47
of Tower: White, conical
light is not operational
Date Established: 1832
Date Present Tower Built: 1832
Tower Moved? 1999
Date Deactivated: 1902
Current Use: Privately owned.
BBC TV series: Life and Loves of a She Devil
The Belle Tout Lighthouse was used as a location for the TV adaptation of Fay Weldon’s "Life and Loves of a She-Devil."
Once the dust had settled on this - and indeed the series, the scene of the fornicating vicar at an orgy, was not well received by some people - the building once again shot into the media, when it was reason behind this was that it was getting closer and closer to the cliff edge, on account of cliff erosion.
This magnificent building was to come to the public's notice in the 1980's when it featured in a BBC television series of the adaptation of Fay Weldon's, "Life and Loves of a She Devil".
The Sunshine Girls love Bell Toot
of the Belle Tout Lighthouse
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