Repair work starts at Sutton Bridge lighthouse after extreme winter

AN historic lighthouse which was saved from the brink of destruction is undergoing extensive repairs after being battered by winter weather.

Sutton Bridge’s East Lighthouse - once home to well-known conservationist and painter Sir Peter Scott - was saved from dereliction by Commander David Joel 25 years ago.

But Cmdr Joel is again having to splash thousands of pounds on the tranquil building after the ruthless winter weather hammered away at the lighthouse’s exterior and removed large chunks of rendering.

“It was a very bad winter for the lighthouse,” he said. “It was very cold here and lots of water got behind the rendering, froze and caused it to come off.

“It’s never been this bad in all my years here but it’s going to be repaired in the next couple of weeks.”

The commander said the lighthouse, which stands at the mouth of River Nene looking out onto the bare landscape of the Wash, will be put on sale in August.

“The lighthouse will also be opened to the public later this summer,” said Cmdr Joel, who bought the lighthouse in 1985 and shares his time between his home in Hampshire and the East Anglian coast.

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“It was last opened to the public in 2008 and around 2,200 visitors came here in 10 days, which was fantastic, and I am hoping to get a similar response again.”

It has not been all doom and gloom for the lighthouse, however, after a wartime novella loosely based on former owner Sir Peter, the lighthouse and its snow goose residents was brought back to life by national radio.

Paul Gallico’s The Snow Goose was dramatised for BBC Radio 4 after coming top of a neglected classics poll and was broadcast on May 23,

The classic tale is set in the years running up to the evacuation of Dunkirk in the Second World War and tells the story of friendship between an artist living in a lighthouse, a young girl called Fritha and a snow goose.

Cmdr Joel said: “The BBC came and recorded The Snow Goose here and I thought the adaptation was beautifully done.

“The tale is based on a story that Peter Scott told Gallico about a goose that kept returning to this lighthouse and Gallico adapted and expanded Scott’s story to write the book.”

Sir Peter Scott - son of Scott of the Antarctic - lived in the lighthouse from 1933 to 1939, painting dramatic oil paintings of the wildfowl, which flocked to the remote Lincolnshire outpost.

In 1939 he left the lighthouse to work on destroyers in the North Atlantic and command a group of motor torpedo boats. Similarly, Cmdr Joel spent his career at sea as head of seven Royal Navy ships.

Sir Peter was also a championship-class skater and helped set up numerous wildlife conservation societies, including the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the World Wildlife Fund, for which he designed the panda logo.

When Cmdr Joel bought the lighthouse in 1985 it had been derelict for years, having been boarded up in the 1970s by Anglian Water when its last tenant left and no one else could be found to live in it.

But gradually the commander brought the house back to life, with his own paintings and others by Scott.