St Mary’s Lighthouse sits on the tiny St Mary’s (or Bait) Island, just north of Whitley. The small rocky tidal island is linked to the mainland by a short concrete causeway which is submerged at high tide. The lighthouse and adjacent keepers’ cottages were built in 1898 on the site of an 11th-century monastic chapel, whose monks maintained a lantern on the tower to warn passing ships of the danger of the rocks.
The lighthouse was fitted with a first-order ‘bi-valve’ rotating optic displaying a group-flashing characteristic, flashing twice every 20 seconds. The lamp was powered by paraffin, and was not electrified until 1977; St Mary’s was by then the last Trinity House lighthouse lit by oil.
The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1984 and a few years later, St Mary’s was opened as a visitor attraction by the local council. In place of the original optic, a smaller one from the decommissioned lighthouse at Withernsea is fitted at the top of the tower
Since 2012 St Mary’s lighthouse has been grade II listed. While it no longer functions as a working lighthouse, it is easily accessible (when the tide is out) and regularly open to visitors; in addition to the lighthouse itself there is a small museum, a visitor’s centre, and a café.
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