The iconic St Catherine’s Lighthouse has closed its doors to visitors and is unlikely to reopen.
The Trinity House General Lighthouse Authority, who are responsible for the St Catherine’s Lighthouse, said it was not economically viabile to keep the visitor centre open.
A loss for Isle of Wight tourism
The news follows the retirement of tour operator, Andrew Booth, a successor of whom, Trinity House say, could not be found.
Almost 20 volunteers previously ran the tours, once of whom has expressed their dismay at the decision, saying Isle of Wight tourism would be poorer for the loss.
All visitor centres reviewed
Trinity House say they have recently reviewed all of their visitor centres, and that taking into account a range of factors, the decision to focus their efforts into “fewer, more accessible and economically viable” locations has been made.
Therefore St Catherine’s Lighthouse will no longer be open to the visiting public as a tourist attraction.
It will, of course, continue as an operating lighthouse.
Visit Isle of Wight: “Surprised and disappointed”
A spokesperson for Visit Isle of Wight told OnTheWight,
“Visit Isle of Wight have been made aware of the commercial decision by Trinity House to close St Catherine’s Lighthouse as a visitor destination.
“We were surprised and disappointed by the decision, however the building itself will remain an remarkable landmark, offering the opportunity to create many memories.
“Visit Isle of Wight hopes that Trinity House will, in time, reverse the decision – allowing visitors to delve further in to the history of this popular destination.”
‘Buoys, Beacons and Bananas’
Local schools may also be interested in a recent initiative by Trinity House — aimed at young learners — to teach Key Stage 1, 2 and 3 learners about shipping, seafaring and safety.
The ‘Buoys, Beacons and Bananas’ education resources can be downloaded for free from the Website.
Background to the decision
A spokesperson for Trinity House told OnTheWight,
“Trinity House is responsible for the provision of reliable and cost effective aids to navigation and sees visitor centres as a means of communicating our role in providing for the safe navigation of shipping and facilitating the safe flow of trade by sea. A review of our visitor centres has been conducted, taking into account a range of factors, and the decision has been made to focus effort into fewer, more accessible and economically viable locations, where maximum exposure can be achieved.
“St. Catherine’s Lighthouse has had to close its doors to the visiting public as a tourist attraction; the lighthouse remains fully operational but long-standing tour operator Andrew Booth has retired and a successor could not be identified; as such there are currently no plans to re-open the lighthouse as a visitor centre. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Andrew for his excellent work in opening the lighthouse to the public on behalf of Trinity House, and we wish him every happiness in his retirement.”
They went on to add,
“It is very much appreciated that islanders may feel a close affinity with St. Catherine’s Lighthouse. They can be assured that the station itself remains a key operational asset and continues to play a vital role in the safety of navigation for vessels in and passing through the area. The visitor centre decision therefore in no way detracts from the operational role of the station.”
12.59pm 7 Jan 2020 – Statement from Visit Isle of Wight added
Source: County Press
Image: © Jeff Morgan – Elm Studio