The Royal Sovereign Lighthouse Tower has been saved for the people of Bexhill.
It is hoped to install it on the seafront as part of a new Maritime Centre.
The iconic Royal Sovereign Lighthouse has been visible on Bexhill’s horizon since 1971. It replaced a series of lightvessels, the first being stationed there in 1875.
The lighthouse was decommissioned by Trinity House, the organisation which runs the lighthouses in England and Wales, in March 2022. Demolition has started.
A group of local environmentally-minded people have been working with Trinity House to secure the unique lantern tower – the red and white lighthouse on top of the platform – as an asset for the town.
The plan is to build a Maritime Centre at the end of East Parade. Thanks to the generosity of Trinity House and subject to final contracts, the lighthouse will be the focal point of the centre.
The centre will be run by a registered charity called Bexhill Maritime. Its founder and chairman is Raymond Konyn, the man who founded the hugely successful Bexhill Heritage charity.
He said: “We are so pleased we have been able to secure this piece of history for the town which has until now remained in the consciousness of the local community.
“Not only will we have the lantern tower, the vision encompasses a maritime centre which will focus on the present and the future as well as containing some lighthouse artefacts and memorabilia.”
The idea, subject to planning permission, is for the centre to be at the site of the Bexhill Sea Angling Club building at the bottom of Galley Hill. The club, formed in 1912, will have a new, larger home within the centre.
Ward councillors from Rother District Council and Bexhill Town Council have also been involved.
The charity’s aims are to advance the public’s education in the subjects of climate change and the marine environment. The subjects will form part of the displays in the centre. It will also showcase the various forms of renewable energy.
The display space will have maritime artefacts and will include tributes to those who have connections to the sea – fishermen, coastguards, RNLI, lifeguards and lighthouse keepers.
The centre would include a community room for local organisations and a refreshments area.
Mr Konyn said: “This will be something special and different for the town, driven by local people. It will be Bexhill centred but with a regional and even global message when it comes to climate and the environment.”
Bexhill Maritime is a charity run entirely by local people. It has five trustees who live in Bexhill and a committee almost entirely made up of local people with a track record of service to the town, including former councillors.
Lynn Langlands, a former Mayor of Bexhill and former Rother District Councillor, said: “’Bexhill Maritime will be an exciting and innovative asset to the town of Bexhill.
“It will engage, inform and educate all those who pass through its doors. We are in a climate emergency and this community asset will be crucial in helping us all to celebrate and preserve the wonderful marine ecology that we currently enjoy.
“It will have the bonus of being a guardian to the much-loved Sovereign Light Lantern, that has served the safety of our shipping for more than 50 years. This heritage asset will make the maritime centre a ‘go to’ destination for all our lighthouse lovers and also will help to bring much needed tourism to our seaside town.”
People will be able to become members of Bexhill Maritime to help support its aims.
The team is hard at work making the final plans for the centre. More details will be announced as the planning application progresses.