Find out about the town’s historic lighthouses
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 lighthouse on legs
After the Pillar Lighthouse building was completed it was found that too low a vantage point had been selected to take into account the massive rise and fall of the tides, so a lighthouse on legs was built in 1832 to complement the tower.
The Low Lighthouse lights were inactive between 1969 and 1993 and were re-established on 31 December 1993.
The High Lighthouse lights were permanently discontinued at the same time.
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 and is visited by many thousands of walkers every year.
Burnham Old Lighthouse – ‘Round Tower’
Inactive since 1832, this 2-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.
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.
See more photos of Burnham On Sea lighthouses in our gallery.
More Burnham history: