Remembering the day our red-and-white lighthouse got a makeover

Happisburgh Lighthouse was painted in black bitumen 50 years ago. It was intended to be a sealant

Happisburgh Lighthouse was painted in black bitumen 50 years ago. It was intended to be a sealant before the red and white stripes were painted over it a day later. - Credit: Supplied by Happisburgh Lighthouse

Its red and white stripes make it one of Norfolk's most recognisable landmarks - but 50 years ago today Happisburgh Lighthouse had a distinctly gloomier cast. 

On September 6, 1971 - for one day only - the lighthouse tower wore a coat of jet black bitumen. 

Patrick Tubby, chairman of Happisburgh Lighthouse Trust, said the tower was painted black when it was run by Trinity House in a not-too successful effort at sealing its surface, when John 'Jack' Siely was lighthouse keeper.

Mr Tubby said: "In 1971 he was asked to assist in painting a layer of black bitumen which was discovered in a later scrape-down. The black was only visible for a day before the completion of that repaint.

Happisburgh Lighthouse was painted in black bitumen 50 years ago. It was intended to be a sealant

Happisburgh Lighthouse was painted in black bitumen 50 years ago. It was intended to be a sealant before the red and white stripes were painted over it a day later. - Credit: Supplied by Happisburgh Lighthouse

"The coat of bitumen was no doubt an attempt to waterproof the tower, but this seemed to create a non-permeable seal that water trapped in the masonry could not escape.

"This was a common practice with Trinity House lighthouses at the time."