Happisburgh Lighthouse (pronounced Haisborough) is a charming independently run lighthouse in Norfolk. Situated just up the coast from Eccles-on-Sea it is the oldest working light in East Anglia, and the only independent run lighthouse supported solely by voluntary contributions in the UK. The light, which was originally built in 1790, was one of a pair but the lower light was finally washed away from beach level in 1974. The existing tower is 85ft tall and this allows the lantern to be placed 134ft above sea level. This light, along with two light ships in the Wolds, mark the safe passage around the treacherous sandbank of Haisborough Sands, saving countless ships from tragedy.
The lighthouse is painted white with three red bands. Each UK lighthouse has a signature i.e., they all shine differently so they can be identified. The light characteristic at Happisburgh is designated as Fl (3) W 30s, which means 3 white flashes, repeated every 30 seconds. The light has an effective range of 18 miles.
We visited Happisburgh Lighthouse while staying in our caravan just down the coast in Hemsby. The lighthouse is a working light and so cannot be open all of the time. Because of its tireless volunteers, it is open to visits from the public at regular intervals through the summer. We visited in May on a glorious sunny day with not a cloud in sight. The 112 steps to the top provided a little exercise and the staff were wonderfully knowledgeable about the light, local history and even palaeontology on the mud banks at low tide. The tour provided a huge amount of history about the local area.
The lighthouse visit is brilliant for adults and children alike and judging by the queues to get in its popularity is already established. My advice is to get there early, let the children play in the playpark and then go up to the lighthouse for opening.
Fame and Fortune
Fame has also been conferred on the lighthouse. As it is so eye-catching it has often been used in films, videos and TV programs. The lighthouse was actually used as the location for the video of Ellie Goulding’s 2010 song ‘The Writer’. Also, the lighthouse can be seen in the 2015 horror film AfterDeath, where its beam causes terrifying flashbacks! I am also assured that Anneka Rice visited as part of her ‘Challenge Anneka’ program. Happisburgh lighthouse also featured in the ITV series Kingdom starring comic genius Stephen Fry. The lighthouse is seen in the opening credits and is central in an episode where the Market Shipborough lighthouse is under threat.
Tragedy has also followed Happisburgh in the history of the area. There have been some that the light could not save. HMS Invincible sailed out of Yarmouth in March 1801 to join the Baltic Fleet under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker and Lord Nelson for the Battle of Copenhagen. The Third Rate 74-gun ship of the line struck Hammonds Knoll just east of Haisborough Sand and was lost.
Out of a crew of 590 men, 400 drowned, including the Captain (very few seamen could swim in those days). During the next few days bodies were washed ashore at Happisburgh. They were taken to a mass grave in the churchyard. The loss of lives from HMS Invincible was greater than the casualties at the entire Battle of Copenhagen. The grave is now marked with a plaque in the Happisburgh church, which you can visit at the same time as the lighthouse visit.
Visiting Happisburgh Lighthouse
If you’d like to visit, the 2018 Open Day schedule is as follows:
- 1st April (Easter Sunday) 10:30am-4pm
- 2nd April (Easter Monday) 10:30am-4pm
- 6th May (Sunday) 10:30am-4pm
- 7th May (May Bank Holiday) 10:30am-4pm
- 27th May (Sunday) 10:30am-4pm
- 28th May (Bank Holiday Monday) 10:30am-4pm
- 21st July (Saturday) 10:30am-4pm
- 22nd July (Sunday) 10:30am-4pm
- 29th July (Sunday) 10:30am-4pm
- 5th August (Sunday) 10:30am-4pm
- 12th August (Sunday) 10:30am-4pm
- 19th August (Sunday – International Lighthouse Heritage Weekend) 10:30am-4pm
- 26th August (Sunday) 10:30am-4pm
- 27th August (Bank Holiday Monday) 10:30am-4pm
- 2nd September (Sunday) 10:30am-4pm
Finally, for more information please visit their website here.