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Rye Lighthouse.


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Rye harbour is situated at the mouth of the River Rother and is 1 ½ miles from the town of Rye in Sussex. The harbour is ¾ miles from the sea but the tidal effect was sufficient for the Harbour Master to authorise the building of a tidal lighthouse in 1864 at a few yards distance from his office.

During the hours of daylight the height of water above the harbour entrance bar was signified to incoming sailors by means of a combination of a ball hoisted to the yard arm and a red flag flying from the mast on a separate structure also adjacent to the Harbour Master's office.

At night the lighthouse was used with a red light exhibited from a window at 25 feet above height water level, visible for 3 miles, to indicate 8 feet clearance above the bar. When the level rose to 9 feet an additional bright white light was exhibited from a second window at 12 feet above high water level and finally when the clearance was over 10 feet the red light was extinguished leaving only the white light showing.

This night time lighting system continued for over 100 years with slight alterations made to the signalling arrangements so that by 1968 an automatic electric green light indicated when clearance was 7 to 10 feet over the bar and red when clearance was over 10 feet. By 1971 the lighthouse was gone and modern polycarbonate lights exhibited from a metal tripod served the purpose.

The lighthouse stood ¾ mile inland on the east pier at Rye harbour and from an old postcard that I have it appears that it was a six or eight sided tower with sloping buttresses at each corner. The roof carried a pyramid cap. There was a door in the base for use in the days when the lights were oil fuelled and allowed the keeper to light the top light which may have been attached to the sea facing outside wall and reached from a balcony. From the postcard it appears that at the same height was a large clock on the wall that included the entrance door at the bottom. The lower light was shone through the downstairs window.

I assume the lighthouse was demolished in 1970 and I could see no trace of it when I visited Rye harbour in 2001.

Thanks to Michael from Moray, Scotland for the nice scan of the postcard on the left.

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