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Freshwater Lighthouse.

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On the summit of High Down, overlooking Scratchell's Bay on the Western extremity of the Isle of Wight is a chalk hill extending from Freshwater Gate to the Needles, where once stood a lighthouse.

In 1781 merchant and ship owners petitioned Trinity House for a lighthouse and permission was granted in January 1782. Earlier proposals did not come to fruition and it was not until 1785 that Samuel Wyatt, Trinity House's Consultant Engineer and Architect, advised the Corporation to obtain the services of Richard Jupp, a surveyor to the East India Company for 30 years, to erect a lighthouse.

Freshwater lighthouse, more commonly known as Needles tower, was lighted on 29th September 1786. It consisted of a squat tower with a lamp room on top and a small keeper's cottage attached. In 1818 Stevenson noted that Needles lighthouse was built of brick and was about 22 feet high. The light was lit with ten argand lamps with metal reflectors of 18 inches in diameter forming the light. The light was visible for 11 miles and consumed 700 gallons of oil annually.

As the tower was situated on top of the cliff overlooking Scratchell's Bay at 496 feet above sea level, it was often obscured by sea mist and fog and was therefore of limited used to mariners. In 1858 Trinity House planned a new lighthouse to be built on the outermost of the chalk rocks known as the Needles, at sea level, and the Freshwater lighthouse was discontinued on 1st January 1859.

The 1859 Pilot's Guide to the British Channel indicates that the old lighthouse was to be demolished as soon as the new lighthouse was built. This seems unlikely as Davenport Adams in 1875 speaks of it being abandoned; Kelly's 1886 Directory of the Isle of Wight records the beautiful views from the lighthouse on the summit, and J. Saxby Wryde in 1913 says it is a landmark only. However all trace of the old lighthouse has now gone leaving the current Needles lighthouse to continue its duty as guardian of the western extremities of the Isle of Wight as it has done for almost 1 ½ centuries.

After the building was eventually demolished the living quarters were rebuilt in Summers Lane as 'Sunny Cottage' and then finally pulled down in 1985 after a total of 200 years of service. The flag stone floor and the chimney pot were the only items worth salvaging for a second time. The curved lighthouse door was installed at 3 Weston Terrace in the Broadway, Totland, but I rather suspect that it is now gone as well.

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