How Happisburgh Lighthouse was saved

With the development of more sophisticated navigational aids, Trinity House began the process of reducing the number of number of traditional lighthouses. Houses. In 1987 Happisburgh Lighthouse was one of five lighthouses declared redundant. Decommissioning was scheduled for 13 June 1988.

Kay Swann, a Marine Geophysicist and local resident, knew of the dangers of working offshore without a guiding light in this treacherous southern area of the North Sea.   She set about organising a petition to oppose the closure and the Friends of Happisburgh Lighthouse was born to promote the campaign.   As a result Trinity House agreed to postpone the closure date.

Under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 Trinity House can only dispose of a working Lighthouse to an Established Lighthouse Authority.   A vigorous fund-raising campaign was therefore mounted to promote the necessary Private Bill through Parliament.   NatWest Bank, when asked for an interest free loan, donated the £15,000 needed to cover the legal costs.

On 25th April 1990 the Bill received the Royal Assent.  The passing of the Bill made Happisburgh the UK’s only independently operated working lighthouse and the Happisburgh Lighthouse Trust was established as a local light authority.  The Trust is a registered Charity governed by six appointed Trustees who are responsible under the Act of Parliament for operating and maintaining the Light.

On July 20th 1990 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, visited the Lighthouse.  

The Lighthouse was repainted inside and out on August 30/31st 1990 during filming for the BBC programme “Challenge Anneka”.

In 1991 Happisburgh Lighthouse celebrated its bi-centennial anniversary on New Year’s Day.  It is the oldest working light in East Anglia and the only independently operated Lighthouse in the UK.