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Pakefield Lighthouse.

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The east coast of England is particularly vulnerable to erosion especially parts of East Anglia; and this fact coupled with the changing and shifting channels, has meant that some lights have had a very short life. Those, which have not succumbed to the sea, were soon demolished and those that remain today do so in isolation from the sea.

Pakefield lies 2 miles south of Lowestoft on the Suffolk coast. In July 1831 a committee of Trinity House Elder Brethren recommended the setting up of a secondary light at Pakefield to assist ships through the narrow seaway between Barnard and Newcome sand banks and contracted the London architect, Richard Suter, to design a lighthouse and for local Great Yarmouth builders, Messrs James Taylor, to build it.

The lighthouse and keepers' cottages were erected in the grounds of Pakefield Hall on a sandy cliff 34 feet above sea level. It consisted of a brick built circular tower 30 feet high and placed on top was a lantern containing two Argand lamps which exhibited a fixed red light visible for 9 miles. The total cost of construction was £ 821 9s 4d and the light was first lit on May Day, 1st May 1832.

The land on which the lighthouse was built was owned by Mr. Morse and for the next 18 years Trinity House and Morse, and later his heirs and executors and trustees, exchanged letters through the medium of their solicitors regarding compensation for the compulsory purchase of the site and for a new access road which had to be built to the lighthouse.

By the time that they had resolved the matters in 1850 the seaway that the lighthouse had protected had moved so far south that the light was no longer effective and a new light was built three miles south at Kessingland. The Pakefield light continued to do its duty but it was finally extinguished on 1st December 1864.

The lighthouse then lay derelict for the next 50 years and it was eventually sold back to the owners of Pakefield Hall in 1929 for £ 150. In the late 1920s Howard Barrett, the owner of Pakefield Hall, opened the Pakefield Hall camp which comprised of tents standing in farmland. During the 1930s as the camp became more popular they replaced the tents with wooden chalets and it became known as the Pakefield Holiday Camp and part of the lighthouse and its attached keepers' cottages were used as a bar for the campers.

In April 1938 the Royal Observer Corps were stationed in the lighthouse and the roof and lantern were removed in order that they could observe more easily sea movements and overhead approaching aircraft in the impending threat of war. During the 1939 to 1945 war ATS girls were billeted in the keepers' cottages and the holiday camp was used as a transit camp for troops and refugees.

The lighthouse was hit by machine gun fire during a German air raid on Lowestoft on 12th May 1943 and in October 1944 a V1 flying bomb travelling at 100 feet above the waves and with a faulty gyroscope fell short of any target and ditched into the sea at the foot of the lighthouse cliff.

The lookout was finally closed in 1945 and returned to the holiday camp. In 1958 Pontin's Holiday Centre bought it later in the 1960s as a darkroom for the resident photographer.

Today the building has been restored to much of its former glory and is in use as a Coastal Surveillance Station with the kind permission of Pontin's Holiday Centre who still retain the ownership of the building. The turnpike access road that caused so much heartache from 1832 to 1850 is now the main A12 trunk road.


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