Light of Hope: Belle Tout Lighthouse

History Facts

Where: Beachy Head, Eastbourne, Sussex, south coast of England
When: 1850
History: Lighthouse to protect seafaring mariners from crashing into the cliffs of Beachy Head
Go there for: Admire Britain’s greatest sea vistas – don’t take an unfortunate tumble to an early sea grave!

The Belle Tout lighthouse at Beachy Head is over 150 years old, and although it no longer works to warn ships that the cliffs are close by, it’s a famous landmark with a peculiar history.

What the history here?

In the early 19th century a local rector was so distraught by the death toll of unwitting mariners on the rocks below Beachy Head that he made it his mission to single-handedly carve out a chamber in the cliff face, connected to the beach below by a tunnel and a staircase. Every night he hung his lamp outside and lay awake, listening for the cries of shipwrecked sailors. He saved the lives of at least 30 people, but sadly the sea air did him no favours and he died of pneumonia.

Subsequently a local man named ‘Mad Jack Fuller’ constructed a wooden lighthouse on the cliff top, which so successfully diverted ships from the course of disaster that the decision was made to build a permanent lighthouse in 1832.

The cliffs at Beachy Head are crumbing fast and in spring 1999 the present owner Mark Roberts saved the structure from tumbling into the sea by moving it back from the cliff-edge.

What’s there to see and do?

Belle Tout is the only lighthouse in private occupation in Britain. Selected guests have the opportunity to spend the night in the lighthouse and watch the sun set from the Lantern, where the light used to be.

The coastal vistas from the top of Beachy Head are breathtaking, though sadly some visitors don’t come here just to admire the view: the 300 ft high cliffs are the most popular suicide spot in the world.



Eastbourne Tourism, Leisure & Amenities
College Road
East Sussex
BN21 4JJ
Tel: 01323 415400

Belle Tout Lighthouse
Tel: + 44 1323 423520

The Samaritans
Registered charity based in the UK and Republic of Ireland that provides confidential emotional support to any person who is suicidal or despairing, and that increases public awareness of issues around suicide and depression.


By Jess Halliday