About Beachy Head

The name Beachy Head has nothing to do with a beach, but is in fact a corruption of the original French words Beauchef (13th Century) and Beaucheif (14th Century) meaning "beautiful head(land)".


In 1929 Eastbourne bought 4,000 acres (16 km2) of land surrounding Beachy Head at a cost of about £100,000. This investment has saved Beachy Head and the surrounding Downland from development and has led to it becoming a part of the new South Downs National Park.


Beachy Head is 530 ft (162m) above sea level and is the highest chalk sea cliff in the UK.


The cliff faces southward and is subjected to fierce gales and erosion from the sea. The constant erosion of the old chalk face helps to maintain the whiteness of the cliffs by revealing the clean white chalk underneath.


Parts of the cliffs are eroding up to a metre every year. Record falls were recorded in January 1999 caused by unusually heavy rain and large waves and believed to be the biggest sudden loss of British coastline in recent years. A further major landslide in April 2001 destroyed the well known local landmark known as the Devils Chimney.



Beachy Head Lighthouse

The present Lighthouse is 43m high, is located about 165m seawards of the cliffs and entered operation in October 1902. It had taken two years to complete and involved building a coffer-dam and a cableway from the top of the cliffs to carry materials, including 3660 tons of Cornish granite, down to the site.


Pictures and information about this remarkable feat of engineering can be seen at the Beachy Head Countryside & Visitor Centre.


The lighthouse was electrified in 1920 and was fully automated in 1983 and is monitored controlled by the Lighthouse owner Trinity House.


In October 2011 a local campaign was started to "Save The Stripes" after Trinity House announced that it could no longer afford to repaint the distinctive read and white stipes, and that it would have to be left to return to it's natural granite grey.


Funds were raised and work started in September 2013 and completed in 4 weeks.

  • Click here to see the "Save The Stripes" campaign website
  • Click here for more information about the Lighthouse and the work involved in cleaning and repainting the Stripes



Belle Tout Lighthouse

Beachy Head has been, and still is, a prominent landmark for sailors passing through the English Channel but it has also been a danger to shipping.


It is said that as early as 1670 a light shone to guide passing vessels from the top of the cliffs, but it wasn't until 1828 that James Walker erected the Belle Tout Lighthouse, a 14 metre high circular tower, on the headland.


Unfortunately the Belle Tout Lighthouse was frequently shrouded in mist and was constantly threatened with collapse as a result of falls of chalk from the cliff.


Belle Tout was finally abandoned as a lighthouse in 1899, although it has had several changes of ownership and use since that time including a period during the Second World War when it was used by Canadian Troops for target practice!


The Lighthouse came to prominence again in the 1980's when it was featured in a BBC television series of the adaptation of Fay Weldon's "Life and Loves of a She Devil".


The Lighthouse is now a unique Bed & Breakfast.

  • Click here for historical information about Belle Tout Lighthouse
  • Click here for information about Belle Tout Lighthouse today, B&B offers and accommodation



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© Beachy Head Countryside Centre, Beachy Head, Eastbourne BN20 7YA. A registered charity in the United Kingdom No. 1121165