Future looking bright for lighthouse as funding bid is approved

St Mary's Island, lighthouse, causeway. GM032943
St Mary's Island, lighthouse, causeway. GM032943

The future is looking bright for one of North Tyneside’s most popular landmarks.

Efforts to secure vital funding to ensure the survival of St Mary’s Lighthouse, off Whitley Bay, have taken a major step forward.

North Tyneside Council has been successful in gaining initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop plans to refurbish and safeguard the Grade II-listed building.

Over the next 12 months, Capita – one of the council’s partners – will carry out investigative surveys, including structural investigations and paint analysis of the tower.

Ecological surveys will also be undertaken along with further public engagement.

Development funding of £164,300 has been awarded to progress the plans and a Stage Two application will be submitted to the HLF next year. If successful, the council will secure £2.2m of funding meaning crucial works to ensure the survival of the lighthouse tower and former keepers’ cottages can be carried out.

It would mean the original lighthouse optic at the base of the tower can be rebuilt.

The council has committed nearly £700,000 to the scheme.

Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for Whitley Bay with all the positive developments taking place.

“I am really pleased that our bid for funding from the HLF has made such significant progress – we will now continue the hard work to make sure our Stage Two application is equally as strong so we are able to secure this vital funding.

“The lighthouse is extremely popular with so much to offer and the funding will not only mean its long-term future is secure but will also allow us to create a valuable community and educational resource.

“We have listened to what people have told us they would like to see at the lighthouse and these improvements will draw more visitors to the area and remind everyone in the borough how lucky we are to have this wonderful attraction on our doorstep.”

The project includes repairing and repainting the walls and roof of the lighthouse tower and replacing damaged glazing.

The layout of the interior of the former keepers’ cottages, now the visitor centre, will be altered to allow for improved toilet facilities.

There will also be a new internal lift to the first floor.

A new lightweight ground floor extension will be built to the south west, sea-facing side, of the lighthouse to be used as a classroom and for exhibitions.

An outdoor timber viewing deck will be built above the new extension giving visitors spectacular views of the sea and coastline.

Extensions will also be built on both the south east and north east sides of the lighthouse.

The new south east development includes a covered timber frame structure providing indoor and outdoor learning and exhibition space.

A renewed shop will feature in the new ground floor extension on the north east, sea-facing side, of the visitor centre.

As part of the project, a number of educational and heritage activities as well as events to mark the 120th anniversary of the lighthouse in 2018 are also proposed.

Patrick Melia, chief executive at North Tyneside Council, said: “A great deal of hard work has gone into our submission for HLF funding for St Mary’s Lighthouse so it is extremely positive news that we have been successful in the first stage of the process.

“We will do all we can now to ensure we submit a robust and thorough application in the second round to enable us to secure the funding to carry out this vital work.”