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Looking back: Belle tolls for lighthouse as cliffs crumble into sea
7:00pm Thursday 8th August 2013 in News
It was November 1998 when the family who lived in the converted Belle Tout Lighthouse near Eastbourne were forced to flee their home when 30ft of the cliff suddenly crumbled into the sea.
The dramatic loss left the lighthouse vulnerable and now standing just 12ft away from the cliff edge.
The lighthouse was home to Australian-born Mark Roberts, 33, his wife Louise, 29, and their nine-month-old baby girl Haven.
Mr Roberts told The Argus at the time of the “eerie feeling” he and his wife felt when the cliff began to fall.
He said: “It was our worst nightmare coming true. To hear the cliff crashing into the sea was terrible.
"We got the baby, jumped into the car and drove away as quickly as we possibly could."
It was the second of two major landfalls at Birling Gap within a six week period.
Plans to move the lighthouse back were brought forward by several months due to the risk. Experts have blamed global warming on the increased threat to the famous building.
The 600-tonne granite structure was moved inland by 50ft.
However, it is not the only home that has been threatened by mother nature over the decades.
The residents of the terrace of six cottages at Birling Gap, near Eastbourne, also lived in fear that one day their beloved homes would be washed away by the sea, as year upon year it crept 3ft closer.
One house at the end of the Crangon Cottages had already crumbled into the ocean and another had to be demolished because it was unsafe.
The villagers called upon Wealden council to take action and prevent their homes from succumbing to the same fate, but they were dealt a bitter blow when their fight was lost in 2001.
Four empty cottages remain there today, but only time will tell how long they last.
ON THIS DAY
117: Hadrian became Emperor of Rome.
1834: The Poor Law Amendment Act was passed, abandoning the system of outdoor relief by which parishes looked after their poor and replacing it with the workhouse.
1876: Frank Richards, author and creator of fat schoolboy Billy Bunter, was born in London as Charles Hamilton.
1900: The Davis Cup for tennis was contested for the first time at Brookline, Massachusetts, and won by th USA.
1940: The Battle of Britain began.
1958: Columbia Records signed up a 17-year-old singer called Cliff Richard.
1963: The Great Train Robbery took place at Sears Crossing, Buckinghamshire, when a gang of 15 men, including Ronnie Biggs and Buster Edwards, stole more than £2.6 million.
1974: Richard Nixon announced his resignation as US president, the first to do so, because of his implication in the Watergate scandal.
1991: Hostage John McCarthy came home, five years and three months after being kidnapped and held hostage in Beirut.
The Argus’ popular “Looking Back” feature has been compiled into an A4, soft back book which catalogues the events that have made their mark on the people of Sussex. The fascinating archive of “Looking Back” images dates back to the 1930s when The Argus first started to print photographs. The book costs £6.99 including postage and packing. To order please visit theargus.co.uk/store
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