Visitors are often surprised to discover that the landscape of Portland Bill is dominated by not one but three lighthouses within an area of less than one square mile. Sandbanks and strong currents (races) have always made this stretch of coast dangerous, particularly so in the past for vessels dependent on sails and lacking modern navigation aids. Early records refer to beacons being lit to warn approaching ships of the hazards.
Eventually, in 1716, two lighthouses were built – one at shore level and one on a hill a short distance away But in 1752 the lease on the lighthouses was terminated when inspectors judged that the lights were being inadequately maintained. In 1844 Trinity House erected a white stone obelisk as a daymark and in 1869 had both lighthouses rebuilt
In 1906 the new red and white lighthouse (pictured above) was built and the original two fell into disuse. The Old Lower Lighthouse was eventually converted into a bird observatory and field centre, and the Old Higher Lighthouse became the home of Marie Stopes, the pioneer of birth control. It has now been developed as a holiday let. All three lighthouses are Grade II listed buildings.
Old Lower Lighthouse
Old Higher Lighthouse