Beachy Head and The Belle Tout Lighthouse

(Click on the image for a larger view)

Beachy Head is a chalk headland in East Sussex, England. It is situated close to Eastbourne, immediately east of The Seven Sisters. The name ‘Beachy’ has nothing to do with the word ‘beach’, instead, it is a corruption of the original French words meaning “beautiful headland” (beau chef).

I wanted to do a drawing of Beachy Head from the sea, as it is a view no one ever really sees. With little exception, most paintings and photographs of Beachy Head are from the top of the cliff looking downwards.

The headland has always been considered a danger to shipping. In 1831, construction began on the Belle Tout Lighthouse on the next headland west from Beachy Head. The lighthouse was not as successful as had been hoped, with two significant flaws leading to an alternative being sought. The cliff-top location caused problems when sea mists obscured the light, significantly reducing the distance that it would reach. Vessels that sailed too closely to the rocks would not be able to see the light because it was blocked by the edge of the cliff.

The Belle Tout lighthouse was decommissioned in 1902, after the Beachy Head Lighthouse had been built in the sea below Beachy Head as a replacement.

On 17 March 1999 in a remarkable feat of engineering work the Belle Tout was moved 17 metres (56 ft) away from the cliff face to avoid the constant erosion that takes place. The 850-ton lighthouse was moved using a pioneering system of hydraulic jacks, which pushed the building along four steel-topped concrete beams that were constantly lubricated with grease, work undertaken by the engineering firm Abbey Pynford.