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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 Houses.




The low and high lighthouses, 1829

In 1852 a new low lighthouse was built on the Humber foreshore.


The low lighthouse of 1852

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.




Building the lighthouse, 1894

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.

Spurn lighthouse after decommissioning, c. 2000


The Low Lighthouse