Think of a lighthouse and for most people the image will be of a tall white cylindrical tower on a rocky outcrop with a light at the top. However, the ‘Low Lighthouse’, standing 11 meters high on nine wooden pillars built with plate metal reinforcements, is anything but typical in design.
In fact at first glance it could be taken for a wooden shed on stilts – perhaps the venue for ‘Punch and Judy’ or some other seaside entertainment – rather than a building designed to save lives. The white building is one of three lighthouses that stand in Burnham-on-Sea and the only one that remains in use today (2014). Burnham-on-Sea is a small seaside town just a few miles along the coast from its much bigger and better known cousin Weston-super-Mare. It is close to the estuary of the River Parrett where it flows into the Bristol Channel. This location has the second highest tidal range in the world reaching 15 meters, meaning it is second only to the Bay of Fundy in Canada. Its constantly shifting sands have always been extremely hazardous to both shipping and bathers in the area.
The ‘Low Lighthouse’ is a Grade II listed building. It was built by Joseph Nelson, in 1832, in partnership with the ‘High Lighthouse’ that was built to replace the original ‘Round Tower Lighthouse’, which they built after the local Vicar of the time raised funds amongst his parishioners to replace the old small light that was kept burning in the tower of St Andrews Church to guide fishing boats into the harbour.
Joseph Nelson was a respected engineer of his time and specialised in the design and construction of lighthouses. Both the ‘High Lighthouse’ and the ‘Low Lighthouse’ share the same characteristic ‘Red Stripe’ in its design. This ‘Low Lighthouse’ is an interesting piece of engineering and because of its unique size and shape it is not like any other lighthouse you will see. It is operated by Sedgemoor District Council and has all the modern-day technology needed to keep it in suitable working order.
The ‘Low Lighthouse’ looked to have ended its activity when the lights were turned off at the end of the 1960’s, but it was given a reprieve in 1993 after the ‘High Lighthouse’ became redundant.
This is a hazardous part of the coastline and whilst the lighthouse can be viewed from the beach, visitors must make sure they adhere to all the safety notices along the beach and shoreline as the mudflats act like sinking sand. In 2002 a five-year-old girl died on the mudflats before help could reach her, which resulted in a successful campaign to fund an in-shore Hovercraft. Caution is advised when visiting this destination.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Mendip Heights, Townsend Lane, Priddy Wells
Somerset, England, BA5 3BP
+44 (0)1749 870 241
- Address: (Path through Dunes) Pizey Avenue, Burnham-on-sea, Somerset, England, UK, TA8 2HS
- GPS: 51.24839444,-3.005822222
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: TA8 2HS
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: Poor. No firm path to lighthouse across mud flats
- Visibility from Road: Reasonable - but from a distance.
- Image Credits: Header Image: Ian Woolcock