A helping hand in Heysham

As well as being something really handy to refer back to if I’m wondering when I visited a particular lighthouse, this blog has brought me into contact with some really helpful folk. Earlier this month I heard from a follower who had previously contacted me about access to the lighthouse on the south pier in Heysham, which I had previously only seen from the ferry to the Isle of Man.

Heysham South Pier Lighthouse as seen from the ferry in 2015

I’d been informed by this follower in late 2020 that it was no longer possible to view the lighthouse from the north side of the harbour as the road had been blocked off. Fast forward 17 months to early April this year and he very kindly sent me an email saying that he’d found another way to get to it.

With a ferry booked from Heysham for the forthcoming Association of Lighthouse Keepers’ Isle of Man event, it seemed the perfect opportunity to check out the route for myself. Thanks to his excellent directions it was easy enough, approaching from close to the holiday park to the south of the harbour, first using a footpath from the end of Money Close Lane to reach the coast and then heading north, following the sea wall around the outside of Heysham Power Station.

The route follows the coast northbound from this point, alongside the Power Station fence

On the way there I spotted an old pier ahead looking like it had seen far better days. Towards the end of what remained of this pier was a small round tower with an access door. Obviously this kind of structure on the end of an old pier is always going to pique my interest. I did some research and discovered that it’s actually an old fog signal tower. In my experience, this is quite an unusual location for a fog signal. The old breakwater was part of the original harbour which opened in September 1904.

The remains of the old pier with the small, round fog signal tower visible
A closer (and much poorer quality) view of the old fog signal tower

The South Pier light soon came into view, the top of its lantern appearing above the upper level of the sea wall. I was really pleased to see it looking in considerably better nick than when I’d viewed it before and in others’ pictures. This occasionally happens and it really does make you feel very grateful to the local harbour authorities who, in most cases, are responsible for these smaller harbour lights.

Approaching the lighthouse
Heysham South Pier Lighthouse with the old pier remains in the background
Heysham South Pier Lighthouse looking much improved
The lighthouse marks the southern entrance to Heysham Docks

It’s clearly a well trodden route for locals. It may not be the most picturesque (although the power station buildings are quite colourful in comparison to most others – I feel like I’m rather unwillingly beginning to bag power stations after this one and the recent Bristol Channel and River Severn outing), but it’s great to have had a closer look at this small but important tower. Many thanks go to Howard who considerably reduced the time it took me to find it with his very clear directions 🙂

The Near Naze puzzle

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.

Near Naze distance
The Near Naze lights (or what remains of them)

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.

Near Naze stump close
The Near Naze stump

 

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.

Near Naze upper
The Near Naze tower closest to the road

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!

Near Naze lights

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. 🙂