Burnham-On-Sea in Somerset has had three lighthouses over the years – of very different shapes – which have played a vital role in keeping sea-going vessels safe.
The iconic beach lighthouse, pictured here, is the best known landmark in Burnham-On-Sea and adorns many postcards and holidaymaker’s photo albums.
The nine-legged wooden lighthouse was built in 1832 and is a Grade II Heritage listed structure. Burnham-On-Sea lighthouse was also named on a list of the world’s top 10 most beautiful lighthouses in 2014.
Burnham-On-Sea’s iconic lighthouse
Burnham’s ‘lighthouse on legs’ was built in 1832 to complement a separate pillar lighthouse which was found to have too low a vantage point to be sighted by all vessels in the channel.
The Low Lighthouse’s lights were inactive between 1969 and 1993 and were re-established on 31st December 1993.
The lighthouse has a focal plane of 7m and provides a white flash every 7.5s plus a directional light (white, red, or green depending on direction) at a focal plane of 4m. The light is shown through a window at the front.
The lighthouse is painted white with a single vertical red stripe on its front face and is 9m tall with a conical roof and mounted on 9 timber pilings.
It remains an active aid to navigation to this day and is visited by many thousands of walkers every year who marvel at the structure.
Taking photos of the building silhouetted with the setting sun in the background is a must for visitors!
Burnham Old Lighthouse – ‘Round Tower’
Inactive since 1832, this two-story masonry tower with castellated top is located on The Esplanade in Burnham-On-Sea.
Originally 4 stories tall, the tower was reduced in height after being replaced as a lighthouse, so that it would not be confused with the Burnham High Lighthouse (see below).
Built privately by the local curate, this lighthouse has always been known locally as the Round Tower.
This old lighthouse has a curious history. In around 1750 an old fisherman and his wife lived in a cottage close to the church. One stormy night, anxious about her husband not returning home after dark, the wife put a candle in the window of the cottage to help him find his way home. It saved his life and the grateful sailors decided to pay her small sums of money from that time on to keep a candle burning in order to safely guide them on their homeward journeys.
Later, the sexton of the church gave the fisherman’s wife five pounds for the rights to place a light on the church tower – it being higher and therefore more effective. He, in turn, was given twenty pounds by the Reverend David Davies, Curate of Burnham, who built the structure now known as the Round Tower.
Burnham-On-Sea’s Pillar Lighthouse – ‘High Lighthouse’
Burnham’s pillar lighthouse had a paraffin-fired light and is a hundred feet in height.
It quickly became a tourist attraction with many visitors climbing the spiral staircase to view the coasts of South Wales and North Devon.
It is now a private house on the Berrow Road and has been inactive since 1993.
Measuring 30m (99ft) tall, it is a brick tower with a conical roof and a half gallery on the front which incorporated the keeper’s quarters.
It is located on Berrow Road, about 500m east of the low lighthouse. In July 2018, the lighthouse was bought by anonymous buyer.
See more Burnham On Sea history.