Plans get go-ahead for changes to Grade II listed Souter Lighthouse
Fresh light is to be cast on an internationally recognised South Tyneside coastal monument through a redesign that will better reveal its original workings – and save it from damp.
Bosses at Victorian-era Souter Lighthouse are to remove a 30-year-old ceiling in the base of its 23m-tall tower which will allow for skyward views to the lower lantern room above.
But they admit the alteration – and the taking down of a partition wall – are not solely to give visitors a better panorama and greater understanding of lighthouse technology.
They say the ground floor space, which was hemmed in by the wall and ceiling in 1989, is suffering from damp, which has become an issue that must be resolved.
The National Trust, which has operated the 1871-built Grade II listed site for 30 years, plans to carry out the alterations in January.
Lighthouse steward Kate Devlin said: “The base of the tower is not well ventilated, and paint is peeling, so there is a conservation element to this.
“The tower is in an exposed coastal location and gets hit by water and salt, and it was not designed to be heated. Opening this space up should resolve the damp issue.
“In addition, doing so will add to the visitor experience by improving the aesthetic value of the tower.
“Visitors will be able to see all the way up to the lower lantern room, and also see the weight column that goes all the way up the tower.
“We are hoping to do the work in January when Souter is closed, and have it completed in February.”
Souter Lighthouse, the world’s first to be purpose built to use electricity, was decommissioned in 1988 but served as a radio navigation beacon until 1999.
The radio navigation system is housed in the ground floor, and the wall and ceiling were installed to separate it from the rest of the site.
Due to the beacon now being decommissioned, the trust says the partition can be safely removed, and the tower restored to its original internal layout.
When completed, visitors will also be better able to see the weights column, which powered the light and runs the full height of the tower, and the internal spiral staircase.
South Tyneside Council, the local planning authority, agreed to the trust’s application for listed building consent to make the alterations.
In a report, case officer Joshua Kenolty said: “None of the walling to be removed is structural so there is no requirement for propping or any other alteration works.
“The works would be internal and would comprise the removal of a non-original feature.
“The removal of the partition walls and ceiling would allow views from the base of the tower to the lantern room above, restoring the original appearance of the lighthouse tower which existed from 1871 until 1989, and improving visitors understanding of the historic lighthouse technology.
“For these reasons, it is judged that the works would preserve the historic, cultural and architectural character of the listed building.”