Lighthouse to be taken apart brick by brick and rebuilt to save it from the sea
PUBLISHED: 16:30 12 July 2019
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One of Suffolk's best-known landmarks is to be saved from the sea - dismantled and rebuilt to become a museum for future generations.
Owners of the Orfordness Lighthouse, which has stood guard over one of the most treacherous stretches of sea along the county's coastline for 200 years, say they have "no intention" of letting the iconic building fall into the sea.
In recent years, erosion of the coast has left the structure teetering on the brink of disaster - with each new storm a threat to its stability.
Some work has been carried out to protect it, but everyone accepts that encroachment of the sea, due to the fragility of the shingle Ness, will continue.
A spokesman for the Orfordness Lighthouse Trust said: "It is true that the lighthouse is in a precarious position but due to the defences we put down around the base we have been able to defend the position far longer than was deemed possible when we took over ownership in 2013.
"However, due to several reasons, including the nature of the fabric of the lighthouse itself and the protected land it stands on and the nature of the erosion, we have long known that preserving her where she stands was only a short term aim.
"We have no intention of letting her 'fall into the sea' and never have.
"We intend to dismantle her brick by brick and rebuild a smaller replica elsewhere on Orford Ness and turn her in a museum. Trinity House have said they will return items such as the lantern to us in such a scenario.
"Because of the very mobile nature of the shingle we have always caveated that a bad storm with winds in a certain direction could threaten the structure.
"Every winter since 2013 this has been possible. We have in fact been quite lucky that big storms, like the Beast from the East, have actually deposited shingle on the beach. We don't know how long we'll continue to be so lucky!
"What has changed now is that there is now no longer any beach below the lighthouse to put down more defences and so our only option left to save her for the community is to dismantle her. We won't commence that until at least this autumn and could well be later than that."
The previous work involved volunteers loading builders' sacks with shingle and sand that was then wrapped in geo-textile material to make 'sausages' that were then placed on the beach around the base of the lighthouse to provide extra protection. Thanks to public donations, the trust has already spent around £25,000 on protection works.
The trust did consider "hard defences", such as sheet piling in front of the lighthouse, but this would have been hugely expensive and would still not have guaranteed its safety forever.
Thirty metres tall, grade II-listed Orfordness Lighthouse has stood on Suffolk's coast since 1792, replacing a set of leading lights eventually lost to the sea, and was electrified in 1959. It once contained a light so bright it could reach 24 nautical miles.
In 1964 it became the first lighthouse monitored by telemetry from Harwich, the start of lighthouse automation. It carried on its work until it was decommissioned by Trinity House in 2013 due to the dangers of the encroaching sea.
The lighthouse was bought by the Orfordness Lighthouse Company in September 2013 and then transferred to the Orfordness Lighthouse Trust, a registered charity, which aims to preserve the building for as long as possible and its legacy permanently.