Located just East of the now disused Coast Guard station, within the grounds of an old Napoleonic fort which dates back to 1793, Berry Head Lighthouse holds the claim to being the highest, deepest and shortest Lighthouse in Britain.
The small lantern and its attached service buildings were built in 1906 and are only 5 meters in height. Standing atop a 58 metre limestone cliff, there is no need for a tower. Despite the size of this unusual lighthouse, it is still considered one of the south coast's major aids to navigation.
Until 2019 the lantern room was occupied by a square four-sided rotating optic made up of 8 panels. As the lenses turned throughout their 1 minute clockwise rotation, they gave two flashes of white light every 15 seconds, visible for 19 nautical miles. The light's rotation was originally driven by a clockwork motor, powered by a weight on a wire, which, once wound, would gradually descend down a 45 metre long tube, which made the lighthouse the deepest in Britain.
The station never had a resident keeper, but instead an attendant who visited the light twice daily, to draw the curtains open and closed, as well as lighting and fueling the lamp, rewinding the clockwork mechanism, and carrying out general maintenance. The light was automated and went fully unwatched in 1921, and was later converted to electric operation in 1994, at which point a backup lamp was installed on the roof of one of the service buildings.
In 2019 Trinity House carried out what they described as their first upgrade under the 'simple lighthouse' scheme, whereby older and more complex optical apparatus such as rotating optics driven by motors are to be replaced with modern self-contained LED units where seen fit. These works required the removal of the original 1906 optics, and now two LED beacons are mounted in the lantern room, one as the primary light source, and one as a backup. The character of the light has been retained, although the old visibility range of 19 nautical miles has been reduced to 18.
Large ships can usually be seen moored a few miles off Berry Head, awaiting pilots to guide them through the English Channel. From here you can also see Brixham's breakwater lighthouse, which is only a short 5 minute drive away.