Beachy Head lighthouse to be moved further inland ... just 20 years after first relocation

·2-min read
A huge cliff fall has cut off an access path to the Belle Tout lighthouse, by Beachy Head - Jon Santa Cruz
A huge cliff fall has cut off an access path to the Belle Tout lighthouse, by Beachy Head - Jon Santa Cruz

Beachy Head's lighthouse will have to be relocated further inland, its owner has said, just over 20 years after it was first moved away from the cliff edge.

Belle Tout is now just 20m (65ft) away from the 162m (530ft) drop near Eastbourne, East Sussex, after tonnes of chalk cliff fell on to the beach below this week.

The lighthouse, which featured in the James Bond film The Living Daylights, was first moved in 1999 due to fears that erosion would see it plunge over the precipice. Engineers used 22 hydraulic jacks to shift the 850-tonne structure 17m (56ft) backwards.

However, the latest cliff fall has prompted its owners to start planning another costly shift in position further inland.

David Shaw, who bought Belle Tout with his wife in 2008, told The Telegraph he wished the previous owners had seized the opportunity to move it even further inland when they had the chance.

"They could have gone the same distance again - I guess cost was a serious consideration," he said.

"I guess they thought it would be moved far back enough in their lifetime and they were thinking about selling. I wish they'd thought that way - it would be more costly long term to keep moving it.

"When it's necessary to move again, it could go back the same distance again, back to the perimeter wall, giving it another 50 or 60 years. We've not in imminent danger. It's mother nature's way of telling us that she's in charge."

EDDIE MITCHELL - EDDIE MITCHELL
EDDIE MITCHELL - EDDIE MITCHELL
EDDIE MITCHELL - EDDIE MITCHELL
EDDIE MITCHELL - EDDIE MITCHELL

Mr Shaw said erosion was claiming around 60cm in ground every year, so a second move would not be necessary for at least a few decades.

He believes the latest cliff fall, which sounded like clapping thunder to lighthouse residents, was triggered by recent torrential rain and strong winds.

Belle Tout was built in 1832 and its location was carefully planned so that the light was visible to sailors as far as 20 miles out to sea. Its effectiveness dwindled over the years and it was eventually decommissioned in 1902.

Among its many previous owners was the BBC, which bought it in 1986 then used it in the making of the television series Life and Loves of a She-Devil, starring Dennis Waterman and Patricia Hodge.

It also made an appearance in James Bond’s The Living Daylights with Timothy Dalton in 1987.

Regarded as Britain's most famous inhabited lighthouse, it is now used as holiday accommodation.

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