Travelling up the M6 today, we were diverted off of the motorway for a junction due to roadworks, and this diversion just happened to coincide with Heysham, which is somewhere I’ve been meaning to stop off at for some time now. Having previously seen the rather run-down lighthouse on the end of the south pier in Heysham, I just had to stop off to see the Near Naze tower and the nearby base of an old light.
Our visit was rather well timed as the tide was out and the sun was still low, so a golden glow lit up the tower. Although the more lighthouse-looking tower was my top priority, I wanted to get closer to the stump (as I call it). The rocks were nice and grippy to begin with, but as soon as I started to walk across the tidal section the rocks became greener and more slippery. I made it there safely, but there wasn’t a lot to see. You can actually see more from further away with the metal posts sticking up from the stone section, which were presumably what the top section of the light was attached to.
The return journey was a little more exciting with the sun in my eyes and I ended up with a wet foot, but it’s all part of the experience. The taller tower is in fairly good condition, although the inside has a lot of rubbish laying around. It’s a nice spot, especially when you keep your back to the industrial buildings.
After the visit I did some research into the buildings here as it didn’t make sense for them to be a pair of leading lights. It turns out it’s all quite confusing. A number of sources say that the tower closest to the road is the oldest, built at some point between 1896 and 1904 as part of the construction of the harbour at Heysham. This is reinforced by Ordnance Survey maps from 1892-5 showing no lighthouse at Near Naze and a 1915 map showing a “North Lighthouse”. That all seems ok. Then you have conflicting explanations with some sources saying the light on the south pier in Heysham replacing the 1904 Near Naze light and others stating that the south pier light was also built in 1904. Some say that the tower and south pier lights were range lights, and elsewhere it claims that the other range light has now been demolished. There is even the suggestion that the tower next to the road was not a lighthouse at all as it was marked on an Ordnance Survey map as an anemometer station!
The year 1916 seems to make a regular appearance in write-ups on lights in the area. It looks like the Near Naze tower next to the road was discontinued in that year. Whether it was replaced by the light on the stump (we’ll call it “Stumpy” as that’s what I’ve been referring to it as all day) remains to be seen. Having checked one of my “go to” books, it seems to suggest (although it’s not really very clear) that the stump pre-dates the tower next to the road, but I can see no evidence of that elsewhere. It seems fairly certain that the structure on top of Stumpy was a cast iron skeletal tower at some point in the 20th century. The British Islands Pilot Volume 2, dated 1924, refers to a 70ft fixed white light shown on Near Naze and explains that when the Near Naze is in range with the light on the south pier it will lead vessels safely into the harbour.
The Admiralty List of Lights from 1959 also describes a 67ft white iron framework tower bearing a fixed white light. So that seems fairly clear and both from reliable sources too. As to when the light on Stumpy was turned off I don’t know. I’ve not found anything to indicate when the light was turned off or the skeletal tower removed. I’ve also found no pictures of this tower.
It’s a puzzle, but I feel like I understand a little bit now. I had anticipated this being a fairly straightforward and short post, but clearly it was not to be. If you happen to know any more about these lights then please do leave a comment at the bottom of this post. 🙂