The History of the Belle Tout Lighthouse
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.
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”.
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.
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.
The Belle Tout Lighthouse Unique Bed and Breakfast, a wonderful place to stay