Royal Sovereign lighthouse, located 11 km (6.8 mi) offshore from Eastbourne, is a lighthouse marking the Royal Sovereign shoal, a sandbank named after HMS Royal Sovereign. Its distinctive shape is easily recognised as it comprises a large platform (which functions as a helicopter deck) supported by a single pillar rising out of the water. Originally, the platform was manned by three full-time keepers, accommodation being contained in the ‘cabin section’ immediately below the platform. Additional accommodation was provided for up to four visiting maintenance workers.
The lighthouse replaced a lightship that had marked the Royal Sovereign Shoal since 1875. The structure was built, in two parts, on Newhaven beach, and put into position in 1970. First, the base and attached column were floated out to the shoal, where the hollow base was flooded and allowed to sink into position. Then the cabin section and superstructure were floated out, positioned over the base and allowed to settle on to the column as the tide fell. Afterwards the telescopic inner section of the column was jacked up, increasing its height by 13 metres (43 ft).
In June 2019, Trinity House announced that the lighthouse would be decommissioned, and then removed, because of the platform’s structural condition. Beachy Head light, the “principal aid to navigation in the area”, will be upgraded. Having undertaken a site inspection in 2021, representatives of the Trinity House Board made it known that they intended to award the contract for removal in 2022 (once all necessary permissions had been sought), after which it was envisaged that the decommissioning would take place progressively over the course of three summers.
The lighthouse was permanently taken out of service on March 21, 2022
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