The old lighthouse, Flamborough


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TA 24966 70811

Reasons for Designation

Lighthouses, constructed to alert shipping to dangerous shorelines, have a history as early as maritime trade itself. The earliest examples are noted mainly in the Mediterranean where they were a relatively common feature in Roman times. Medieval lighthouses took the form of towers with areas, or `oratories', for the burning of coals or faggots, the light from which warned passing shipping. At Tynemouth, for example, a light was burnt on the turret at the east end of the priory church. Other early lighthouses were probably founded at chapels sited on dangerous headlands. There are few surviving remains of early lighthouses and much of the evidence used to reconstruct their architecture comes from ecclesiastical records. Documentary sources also confirm the existence of medieval `secular lights', such as those related to the Cinque Ports where local barons had the right to levy dues for the upkeep of the lights. Other private lighthouses were also raised from time to time, an example being the old lighthouse at Flamborough Head, erected in 1674 as a business venture but never used because suitable donations were not forthcoming from passing shipping. Many of the `ecclesiastical lights' were lost when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, although some responsibility for the safety of shipping had by then been passed to the Corporation of Trinity House established in 1514. In the beginning the corporation was charged with safeguarding the coastline simply by providing a supply of efficient pilots. It was much later in its history that its duties included the erection and supervision of lighthouses, the role for which it retains responsibility and remains famous. Lighthouse structures ranged from the use of a simple fire lever, known as a swape, for the elevation of a fire basket, through to masonry towers supporting a brazier or fire basket. Purpose-built masonry towers eventually became the norm and housed a range of equipment of increasing complexity. Oil was used as a fuel from the 17th century, and by the 1850's the first electric lights were being introduced. Lighthouses are found throughout the coastline of the British Isles. Often they form groups specifically placed to guide seafarers along a difficult coast. Their numbers varied over time and are difficult to reconstruct accurately as many were short-lived or largely unrecorded in documentary sources. Only two certain examples of Roman lighthouses have been recorded, the best of which still stands at Castle Hill, Dover. During the medieval period they were more common, although few survive in a recognisable form. By 1875 there were around 100 major lights around the British mainland, supported by a plethora of minor lights, some of which were located on seagoing vessels. By the 1970's the Trinity House Lighthouse Service was maintaining 90 major lighthouses, 30 manned light vessels and around 700 light buoys. A number of other privately owned and maintained lighthouses also existed. All identified Roman and medieval lighthouses are nationally important. Post- medieval examples retaining significant original or early equipment and fittings are also considered likely to merit statutory protection.

The old lighthouse, Flamborough, although never used, is in good condition and represents a unique survival of a 17th century monument lighthouse in England in an unaltered state. There is good historical data on its conception and construction, giving insights into the maritime economy of the period.


The monument is the former Flamborough Head lighthouse and includes an octagonal tower constructed of coursed chalk rubble with stone dressings. It was built in 1674 as a business venture by Sir John Clayton, but never used. The lighthouse comprises an octagonal tower of four stages and a brick parapet, all marked by moulded string-courses. There is a boarded door with a pointed red brick surround and another blocked door in pointed yellow brick to the landward side. On the cardinal and seaward facing sides there are rectangular windows to the three upper levels having stone surrounds with plain chamfers to the reveals, sills and lintels. Behind the parapet there is a low roof. The interior contains 20th century wooden stairs and floors. The cliffs around the headland have long been recognised as dangerous for passing shipping, including Flamborough's own fishing vessels. This lighthouse proved uneconomical to run as voluntary dues from passing ships proved inadequate. From around 1840 until the turn of the century it was used as a marine telegraph station. Since its construction it has always been a navigational landmark for vessels entering Bridlington Bay, and is still considered to be a useful guide to local fishermen. The monument is also a Listed Grade II* building. Modern post and wire fences bounding the monument and separating it from the golf course in which it is situated are excluded from the scheduling, as are all modern fixtures and fittings, although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Information from Humberside SMR, Various, (1994)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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