Heritage Locations

Flamborough Lighthouse

Lighthouse dating from 1806, hard by a tower believed to be the oldest complete surviving lighthouse in England

London, Midland & Scottish Railway

Period of construction:
1800 - 1849

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:

Lighthouse Road, Flamborough, Bridlington Y015 1AR

YO15 1AR

Nearest Town:

Heritage Centre:

Flamborough Head, an eight mile long promontory, is one of the most spectacular areas of chalk cliffs in Britain, standing 122 m (400 ft) high.

A lighthouse was first established at Flamborough by Sir John Clayton in 1669, but was never kindled. In about 1674, an octagonal chalk tower was built and is alleged to be the oldest complete lighthouse in England. It is believed to have been lit by coal burning fires, although recent restoration work found no evidence of coal fires at the top of the tower, cast doubts over whether it was merely a landmark (see entry).

The present lighthouse, designed by architect Samuel Wyatt, was built by John Matson of Bridlington in 1806 at a cost of £8,000. It was first lit on 1st December of that year. The original lighting apparatus was designed by George Robinson and consisted of a rotating vertical shaft to which was fixed twenty one parabolic reflectors, seven on each of the three sides of the frame. Red glass covered reflectors on each side, giving for the first time in lighthouse characteristics two white flashes followed by one red flash. This was an innovation quickly adopted elsewhere. The lighthouse was oil-burning, with an equivalent candle power of 13,860.

The following description of Flamborough Lighthouse is taken from Joseph Cotton's 'Memoir on the Origin and Incorporation of the Trinity House of Deptford Strond' written in 1818. ‘The site of Flamborough Head was of all others the most calculated for a lighthouse, either for coasters or for vessels from the Baltic and North Sea, but it was not concurred in by the trade until lately, when its utility having been admitted, the present lighthouse was erected, and the light exhibited upon the principle of the Scilly light, but with coloured red glass in front of the burners, by which it is distinguished from Cromer. The lighthouse has continued its role as a waypoint for deep sea vessels and coastal traffic as well as marking the headland for vessels heading for the ports of Scarborough and Bridlington.'

In 1940 the Flamborough Lighthouse was electrified and further modifications took place in 1974. An electric fog signal was installed in 1975 replacing diaphone apparatus. In former times a rocket was discharged every 5 minutes in foggy weather reaching an altitude of 183 m (600 ft).

Flamborough Lighthouse was automated in early 1996, the keepers leaving on 8 May. The existing aids to navigation were retained with standard Trinity House equipment replacing the lampchanger and optic drive. The fog signal was refurbished and a standard fog detector fitted. The lighthouse is now controlled and monitored from the Trinity House Depot at Harwich. 


Bowen, J.P., British Lighthouses, British Council, ASIN: B001A8HS24 (1947)

Denton, A. & Leach, Nicholas, Lighthouses of England and Wales: A Complete Guide, Landmark Publishing, ISBN-10: 1843063190 (2007)

Hague, Douglas and Christie, Rosemary, Lighthouses, Their Architecture, History and Archaeology, Gomer Press, ISBN-0850883245(1975)

Naish, John, Seamarks, Their History and Development Adlard Coles Nautical, ISBN-10: 0540073091 (1985)

Nicholson, Christopher, Rock lighthouses of Britain; The end of an era?, Whittles Publishing, ISBN 1870325419. (1995)

Payton, Charles, Lighthouses: Towers of the Sea, National Trust Books, ISBN-10: 1905400128 (2006)

Woodman, Richard & Wilson, Jane, The Lighthouses of Trinity House, ISBN 1 904050 00 X (2002)

Opening Times:

Opening times vary - visit website, email sewerby.hall@eastriding.gov.uk or telephone 01262 673769

How To Find:
By road: Off A1038, via B1255, at the end of Lighthouse Road


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