Lighthouses have been located on Spurn for over five hundred years. The first reference
to a lighthouse on Spurn dates back to 1427, when a hermit, William Reedbarrow, was
granted dues from passing ships to complete a lighthouse which he had begun to build
there, though little further is known about it. In the late seventeenth century a
high and a low light were erected on what was then the tip of the spit, probably
about two miles north of the present tip. The low light had to be rebuilt several
times, but the high light lasted until the late eighteenth century, when John Smeaton,
the celebrated engineer who had built the Eddystone lighthouse in 1759, designed
and built two new lighthouses, under the direction of the Hull and London Trinity
In 1852 a new low lighthouse was built on the Humber foreshore.
In 1895, because there was evidence that the foundations of Smeaton’s lighthouse
were giving way, the present lighthouse was erected, designed by Thomas Matthews.
The low lighthouse then became unnecessary because lights shone out at several levels
from the new one, and it became a store for explosives, and later was topped by a
water storage tank.
The high lighthouse (the Matthews lighthouse) shone out over Spurn (apart from during
war-time) for 90 years, until in 1985 modern technology made it redundant. Recently
the YWT was successful in obtaining a Heritage Lottery Grant, and work began on the
renovation of the lighthouse in March 2015.