North Devon Coast

National Landscape

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Braunton Burrows Lighthouses

Braunton Burrows Lighthouses

The entrance to the Taw and Torridge Estuary lies between Northam Burrows and Braunton Burrows and the entrance to the Estuary is marked by a bar of course sand and gravel known as Bideford Bar.

This it shallow, with a depth of less than 1 metre at low tide. In addition there are additional sandbanks that guard the entrance to the Estuary.
In order to guide ships to across the Bideford Bar an inner lighthouse was constructed in 1822 at Airy Point. This consisted of a white wooden tower roughly 28 metres in height which remained visible for 14 miles out to sea.
In addition a lower lighthouse roughly 12 metres high was constructed some 300 m to the north of the inner lighthouse. The idea was that mariners would line up their boats on the two lights before proceeding into the Estuary. In addition, to advise on the state of the tide a large “wicker ball” was raised between the two lights during half to low tide, and at night the low light shone red rather than white when the tide was out. This lower light could also traverse on rails according to the shift of the sands.
In 1908 a further light was constructed, officially known as the Bideford Bar Light, this light was affectionately known as “Blinking Billy”. This light was intended to give cross bearings to the bar at night
During the war the Bideford Bar Light was switched off and in 1957 the inner light was closed due to the structure becoming unsafe.

The lights were then replaced with new lights being installed on the hills above Instow on the opposite side of the Estuary. To mark the southernmost extent of Braunton Burrows, an automated lighthouse was also constructed on the tip of Crow Point.