Saturday, September 5, 2009

Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset

Attention all shipping

I normally leave this kind of thing to Peter Ashley, over at the excellent Unmitigated England, a fine photographer of lighthouses as of much else. He would not have parked at the far end of the sea front, leaving himself with a twenty-minute walk across a deserted beach in a stiff wind blowing tons of dry sand in a landward direction. A few hundredweight of this sand lodged itself in my nostrils and ears, more of it sandblasting my face and probably my camera lens too.

But in the end, buffeted and battered, I made it to the Low Light, Burnham’s sea-shore lighthouse on poles. This unusual structure was built in 1832. It was the third lighthouse in the town, replacing the Round Tower slightly inland, which now survives at half its original height, and complementing the High Light, a more conventional pillar lighthouse not far away.

On its nine timber posts it has held up very well, surviving both the Round Tower and the High Light, which blinked its last in 1993. The staircase is a recent replacement in galvanized steel. It takes the same form as the original wooden stair, but has openwork treads so that the load of water pressure on the structure is not so great at high tide. A light is still displayed through the window at the side of the Low Light, so it remains useful to shipping as well as a notable landmark for those walkers who are rash enough to brave the Burnham breeze.


Vinogirl said...

There are some fabulous lighthouses in California (Point Reyes, where Francis Drake landed in 1579 before he was knighted, is the closest to me), but this Burnham one is delightful.

martin said...

I know I said I would't,but its a beautiful photograph,and I couldn't resist it. Thanks for braving the inclement weather to take it.
It seems,thankfully,to be in good condition-but then a lighthouse is always going to be a more salvageable proposition than something like a pier.

Hels said...

Stark photo!!

I was never fascinated with lighthouses either until I came across one that had a truckload of money spent on its renovation and a new career as a tourist centre:

But then, we have to ask, why was Burnham built? Is the sea there rocky and dangerous? Were ships often damaged before the lighthouse was built? Was the lighthouse even big enough for ships at sea to detect in enough time?

Many thanks for your painful schlepp,
Art and Architecture, mainly

Philip Wilkinson said...

Helen: Thanks for the link to the Wilson's Promontory Lighthouse. Fascinating, and I especially like the granite walls.

Burnham seems to have been built as a leading light - to indicate the way along the coast rather than to warn of rocks. There's more to say about this and I plan to do another post, featuring one of the other Burnham lighthouses, shortly.

Peter Ashley said...

Oh Mr.Wilkinson, one of my very favourite lighthouses. I did indeed park nearer, in a little almost suburban street that by happy chance also contained the previous light. It looked like a monstrous garden ornament rising above the rooftops. And the light on the beach was being used as a turning point by sand yachters racing down from Berrow.

Philip Wilkinson said...

No sand yachts when I visited. Just a lot of sand. Stand by for the garden ornament.

CarolineLD said...

Ah, childhood memories - I did that walk many times, usually in December in a howling wind. Makes my ears ache just to think of it.