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Around the Old Lower Lighthouse

Portland, Dorset


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The above image is copyright Dorset County Council 2000 and is reproduced here with permission

This part of the Portland Coastal path includes the Lower Lighthouse which is now a bird observatory.

Another feature is a rock stack which has been significantly eroded by the force of nature such that it is half destroyed and could well finally fall at the next violent Easterly storm.

Please click here for a detailed map. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

Please click here to visit the satellite image of this area on Google Maps. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

Please click here for old pictures of the lighthouse. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

The area is now visible of Google Street View - please click here.


The lower lighthouse was opened on 29th September 1716 but was rebuilt several times during which the coal fire was replaced as the first lighthouse lamp with an Argand Lens - basically the same as used today in lighthouses worldwide.

Here is the lower lighthouse seen in 1990.

Please click here to see the lighthouse as it was over a century ago, here to see it in ruins early in the 20th century and here to see it as a family home in about the 1920s. To return here use your browser BACK button.

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In 1961 the lower lighthouse was opened by Sir Peter Scott as a bird observatory.

By carefully positioning myself relative to the sun for the left-hand photograph I was able to make it appear as if the lighthouse was once more shining out to guide navigators.


Beach huts change hands at quite surprising prices. This is because of the modern strict planning regulations which were not in force when the owners originally placed their huts at Portland Bill. For example, in February 2010 a beach hut was offered for sale at 45,000.


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I once asked an old local why so much rubbish was dumped into old quarries - like this one close to the Lower Lighthouse.

"What else can you do with old quarries?" 

was the answer.

Why do some people go to so much trouble to transport beds, mattresses and machinery to remote beauty spots and dump them when it would be cheaper and easier to go to the local community rubbish tip?


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As you stand looking at the broken rock stack you may turn left and see a hole in the strata. 

This is where a fossilised tree trunk has fallen out in pre-historic times.

This picture illustrates the difference in nature of the Portland Beds which exist to about 18 inches (half a metre) above the hole.

Above this boundary is the Purbeck Beds - a much more fragmented jumble of rocks at this point.


There is a solitary rock about 500 metres north-east of Portland Bill which has, over the past two decades, provided a rare opportunity to see coastal erosion at work on this relatively stable coastline.

This picture shows the power of a storm in 1989 when this tower of rock split apart. Since then it has been breaking further into pieces.

The following pictures record its demise.

 For an even more boring sequence of pictures (Yes! That's possible!) please click here.

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Enormous waves pound the pinnacle of rock which stands about 20 feet (7 metres) high. How much longer will it stand against this awesome force of the sea?

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The above left picture shows the rock in February 1989 just after the upper left-hand part had been smashed away by a storm. (Does anyone have a picture of this rock before it broke?) The 'bridge' at the base had broken by early 1990 (above right picture) leaving no easy way to climb across to the remaining tower of rock.

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In 2002 (above left) the tower of rock was isolated and cracked through at the base. Every time I visit this pinnacle after a storm I expect to that see that it has crashed over.

Above right - October 2004 and still standing! The large boulder nearby has moved however.

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In May 2006 (above left) a very low tide shows that the stack is completely isolated from the cliff nearby. The stack is further eroded and looks distinctly top heavy later in late 2006 (above right). 

February 2010 and the stack is still standing! There are extensive cracks about one-third of the way up and the top appears to be detached. What are the chances of me actually seeing it fall?!


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