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Gallery 1 > North-East of England > Souter Lighthouse, Whitburn
Souter Lighthouse (grid reference NZ408642) is a lighthouse located in the village of Marsden in South Tyneside, Tyne and Wear, England. Souter was the first lighthouse in the world to be actually designed and built specifically to use alternating electric current, the most advanced lighthouse technology of its day. The lighthouse was a much needed aid to navigation due to the number of wrecks on the dangerous reefs of Whitburn Steel, which lay directly under the water in the surrounding area. In one year alone - 1860 - there were 20 shipwrecks. This contributed to making this coastline the most dangerous in the country, with an average of around 44 shipwrecks per every mile of coastline.
The lighthouse is located on Lizard Point, but takes its name from Souter Point, which is located a mile to the south. This was the intended site for the lighthouse, but it was felt that Lizard Point offered better visibility, as the cliffs there are higher, so the lighthouse was built there instead. The Souter Lighthouse name was retained in order to avoid confusion with the then recently built Lizard Lighthouse in Cornwall. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1988, but continued to serve as a radio navigation beacon up until 1999 when it was finally closed. As Souter was never automated, it remains much in its original operational state except for updates during it lifespan to its lantern and electrical apparatus.
Today the decommissioned lighthouse is owned by the National Trust and open to the public; the engine room, light tower and keeper's living quarters are all on view. There is also an outdoor play area, Trusty Club and indoor activities to accommodate young visitors. Two of the former lighthouse keepers' cottages are used as National Trust holiday cottages. The lighthouse is said to be haunted, and has even featured on British TV's Most Haunted ghost-hunting programme.
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