The History of the Belle Tout Lighthouse

The Belle Tout Lighthouse early 1900s with lantern still in place
The Belle Tout Lighthouse early 1900s with lantern still in place

Circa 1691, petitions for a lighthouse were made due to the number of shipwrecks and sailors losing their lives at the hands of this dangerous stretch of coastline.

In 1828 as a continuing result of many shipwrecks, a wooden lighthouse was built on the top of the cliffs at Beachy Head. So successful was this that the decision was made to build a permanent lighthouse.

Belle Tout was built in 1832 and the location of the lighthouse was carefully planned so that the light was visible for 20 miles out to sea and that the light would be obscured by the edge of the cliff if sailors were too close to the shore.

Over the years erosion of the cliff reduced the effectiveness of the lighthouse and in 1902 Belle Tout was decommissioned when the new lighthouse built at the base of the cliffs came into service.

Belle Tout Lighthouse lantern removed
Belle Tout Lighthouse lantern removed

In 1903 it was sold by Trinity House and changed hands a number of times.

In 1923 it was bought by a surgeon, Sir James Purves-Stewart.

During the second world war with its owners being evacuated, Belle Tout was damaged due to shelling by Canadian Troops using it as target practice.

In 1948 Sir James offered the building to the council and eventually they took it over due to its historical significance.

In 1956 Belle Tout was leased out to Dr Edward Revill Cullinan who carried out works on the building and installed modern features such as septic tank, mains electricity and water.

In 1962 the lease was sold and changed hands a number of times.

In 1986 it was bought by the BBC who used it in the making of Fay Weldon’s “Life and Loves of a She-Devil”.

Moving the Belle Tout Lighthouse from the eroding cliff edge
Moving the Belle Tout Lighthouse from the eroding cliff edge

In 1996 it was bought by Mark and Louise Roberts to use as a family home.

In 1999, due to continuing erosion threatening the future of the building the lighthouse was moved 17 metres (56 feet) back from the edge of the cliff by the impressive engineering work of Abbey Pynford.

In 2007 the Roberts' put Belle Tout up for sale with the guide price of £850,000.

In 2007 the Belle Tout Lighthouse Preservation Trust campaigned for Belle Tout to be made available to the public so that anyone could visit and stay at the lighthouse.

In April 2008 Belle Tout was purchased by David and Barbara Shaw with the intention of opening it to the public as a bed & breakfast and tourist centre.

Between 2008 and 2010 Belle Tout was lovingly restored to its former glory.

In March 2010, The Belle Tout Lighthouse opens its doors to guests.

Belle Tout Lighthouse Build a New Life in the Country Channel 5
Belle Tout Lighthouse Build a New Life in the Country Channel 5

In January and July 2010, The Belle Tout lighthouse appeared on Build a New Life in the Country.

The Belle Tout Builder Boys charity calendar was released to raise money for Everyman charity.

In July 2020, Belle Tout celebrated ten years of welcoming guests to experience the delights of the historic Belle Tout Lighthouse.

The Belle Tout Lighthouse Unique Bed and Breakfast, a wonderful place to stay

Book your stay at the Belle Tout and experience for yourself the wonder of Beachy Head.


"A magical place, didn’t want to leave"

Check availability

You can check availability using our on-line room availability calendar. When you've found the date and decided what room you would like to book, get in touch to make your booking.
Or call us today on 01323 423 185.

One night stays

We operate a minimum two night stay policy, however, providing there is availability, one night stays may be available within a week of the proposed date of stay.
Contact us a week before to check.

Booking in advance

To avoid disappointment for anniversaries, birthday and honeymoon celebrations, we recommend you book well in advance. We are taking bookings for this year and next year so please book as early as you can.