Old Lower Lighthouse

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Old Lower Lighthouse
Portland, The Lower Lighthouse - geograph.org.uk - 1757489.jpg
The Old Lower Lighthouse in 2009
Old Lower Lighthouse is located in Dorset
Old Lower Lighthouse
Location Isle of Portland
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Year first constructed 1716 (first)
1759 (second)
Year first lit 1869 (current)
Deactivated 1906
Construction stone tower
Tower shape cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern attached to a 2-storey building
Markings / pattern white tower and lantern
Height 25 metres (82 ft)
ARLHS number ENG-109
Managing agent Portland Bird Observatory and Field Centre [1]

The Old Lower Lighthouse is a disused 19th-century lighthouse on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England. The lighthouse is situated close to the currently functioning Portland Bill Lighthouse, and found along the eastern side of Portland Bill. The lighthouse, including its boundary walls and coastguard house, became Grade II Listed in September 1978.[2]

Working alongside the Old Higher Lighthouse from 1716, the lower lighthouse has been rebuilt two times since, once in 1789 and again in 1869. The remaining version of the lighthouse seen today was built in 1869. Since 1961 the lighthouse has been the home of the Portland Bird Observatory.


Original operation as a lighthouse

The surrounding coast of Portland, namely Portland Bill and Chesil Beach, have been notorious for the many vessels that became shipwrecked in the area over the centuries.[3][4] After years of local petitions to Trinity House, the organisation saw a lighthouse at the Bill as being necessary. George I granted Trinity House's patent in 1716.[3][4][5]

Two lighthouses were built at Portland Bill - one at Branscombe Hill, and the other on lower land.[4] The two lighthouses shone out for the first time on 29 September 1716.[3] In 1789, Trinity House hired the Weymouth builder William Johns to demolish and rebuild the lower lighthouse.[3] The new lighthouse, 63 feet high and built of Portland stone, was then installed with a new lens light created by Thomas Rogers. In 1869 Trinity House had both lighthouses rebuilt to allow for better improvements to be made.[3][6]

At the turn of the 20th-century, Trinity House put forward plans for a new lighthouse at Bill Point, to replace both current lighthouses.[6][3][7] The new lighthouse was completed in 1905,[4] leaving the original two lighthouses to be auctioned.[4][8]

During the Great War the lighthouse was "The Longstone Ope Tea Rooms and Gardens", and afterwards it changed hands several times.[9] The lighthouse became a family home for some of this time.[10] After World War II, the lighthouse was empty and derelict.

Establishment of bird observatory

During the 1950s, the studying of bird migration was becoming established on Portland, with many pioneering ornithologists visiting the island, and Portland Bill. Through the generosity of Miss Helen Brotherton and her family, the ornithologists were able to make the lighthouse their permanent base. In March 1961 the conversion and repair work had been completed, and the observatory was officially opened by Sir Peter Scott, as Portland's Bird Observatory and Field Centre.[9]

The observatory later became a registered charity.[11] It caters for naturalists of all persuasions, while hostel-style accommodation is available.[12]

See also


  1. Portland Bill Low The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved May 4, 2016
  2. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1280466)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Portland Bill". trinityhouse.co.uk. Retrieved 13 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Portland – Three Lighthouses Walk". dorsetlife.co.uk. Retrieved 13 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Legg, Rodney (1999). Portland Encyclopaedia. Dorset Publishing Company. p. 68. ISBN 978-0948699566.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Portland Year Book". ancestry.com. Retrieved 13 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Portland Year Book". ancestry.com. Retrieved 13 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Mackenzie, Roy (1999). Portland: A Topographical and Historical Gazetteer. p. 23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Official information board situated inside the bird observatory
  10. "Lower Lighthouse, Portland, Dorset". Geoffkirby.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Keith Pritchard. "Portland Bird Observatory - index". Portlandbirdobs.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Keith Pritchard. "Portland Bird Observatory - introduction". Portlandbirdobs.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links