An iconic North East lighthouse’s historic Lantern Room is set for a £120,000 facelift, just in time for its landmark 100th birthday and specialist restoration company MGM Ltd have been appointed to carry out the work.
Souter Lighthouse has stood tall and proud on the North East coast between South Shields and Sunderland for the past 144 years. Famed as the world’s first purpose build electrically powered lighthouse when it opened in 1871, it was the wonder of its age. But the metal and glass domed Lantern Room, added in 1915 when Souter was converted from electricity to high pressure oil which saw the light’s range increased from 17 to over 20 miles, is in need of urgent repair.
The original diamond shaped bespoke glass panes will be restored and conserved or replaced with historically accurate replicas where necessary, corroded metalwork renovated and the whole lantern room painted inside and out.
Work, which began in September, is expected to take around ten weeks with scaffolding being built up the exterior length of the red and white painted round tower before the dome itself is covered in a protective layer of plastic.
It will mean visitors will, for a time at least, be denied the spectacular 45 mile view north and south along the coast currently afforded to them on a good day.
Simon Colvine, Souter Lighthouse’s visitor experience manager, said: “This vital conservation project will start with the erection of the scaffold up the full length of the tower – a job which will take a little over two weeks to complete.
“We’re open throughout the 10 week project and visitors will have full access to the tower except for a couple of weeks at the start of October when the work of stripping back decades of paint is due to take place.”
This is the first time any major work has been carried out on the Lantern Room since 1915 but the rest of the lighthouse has undergone some quite dramatic changes in its near century-and-a-half’s existence.
The current renovation work is being funded by the National Trust’s Neptune campaign, the charity’s most successful fundraising campaign ever which for the past 50 years has helped to save some of our most beautiful, dramatic and diverse shorelines.
Souter was bought with Neptune fund money 25 years ago after being decommissioned by Trinity House in 1988.
While the lighthouse perched high on the cliffs above the North Sea is no longer operational, all the machinery still works and is on show to visitors along with the tower and a reconstructed Victorian keeper’s cottage. There is also an open air play area complete with a small beach with deck chairs, fun activity trails and regular hands-on events.
Last year was Souter Lighthouse’s most successful, with more than 28,000 visitors attracted by a diverse programme of family-friendly events.