The twin towered Lizard lighthouse on Cornwall’s Lizard Point marks the most southerly point of mainland Britain. The coastline in this area is hazardous for ships. In the early days there was local reaction against warnings for ships due to the spoils of shipwrecks. It was also thought that a light would be helpful to enemy vessels and guide them and pirates to a safe landing.
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A patent for a light was put forth by Sir John Killigrew and was granted, provided the light was put out if an enemy was sighted. He decided to erect the lighthouse using his own money and collect revenue from passing ships, similar to a toll except it was voluntary.
The tower was completed by December 25, 1619. Maintenance costs proved too much for Killigrew so James I stepped it and set a compulsory fee of one halfpenny a ton on all ships that passed the light. Needless to say, the ship owners were unhappy over this and refused payment. The light and its tower were demolished.
Nothing further was done until 1748 when Thomas Fonnereau attempted to build another lighthouse. It was finished in 1751 and had two towers (62.34 feet high) with a cottage between them. The light was serviced by bellows-blowers who were kept on their mettle by the lighthouse keeper’s blowing on a cow horn when the light started to dim.
Alterations were made in 1812, and it is this lighthouse which visitors see today. The lighthouse was electrified in 1924. 1998 brought about automation using a compressed air fog signal, which blasts away every 30 seconds when the weather is foggy. The lighthouse and engine room are open for public tours (there are about 50 steps to the top) and is managed by Trinity House and Trevithick Trust.
The Lizard peninsula consists of flat farmland, a few hills, and hedges along the roadside. There are many steep, dead-end roads. Along the cliffs that overlook the ocean the scenery is stunning.
Signposted from Lizard village on the A3083 from Helston, Cornwall.
Tel. 01326 290 065 or 01326 572 607
Open: April, May, June, Sep, Oct, Sun-Thu, 12-5pm; July and Aug, Sun-Fri; phone first as closed for maintenance some days; exterior walks in the location always open.
Parking on site.