Picture Postcard Parade: Beachy Head Lighthouse and Devils Chimney

17 May

Here is another postcard of Beachy Head Lighthouse, near Eastbourne, East Sussex. This one includes part of the cliff as well, Devils Chimney, the pinnacle of chalk with two seagulls perched on top.

Beachy Head Lighthouse and Devils Chimney

The view on the front of the card is not that outstanding, aside from the typo in the caption the most interesting thing for me about this card was the cachet on the back.

Beachy Head Lighthouse and Devils Chimney (back)

A cachet is a printed or stamped design, not the same as the cancellation (or postmark) that it gets when it passes through the postal system, which was added to the piece of mail for some special reason.

In this case the cachet indicates that the card was sold at the Watch Tower, Beachy Head. According to the book Beachy Head by John Surtees (S.B. Publications, 1997) an alternative use had been found for the Watch Tower.

Between the wars, when the Watch Tower was no longer needed for its original purpose, it was transformed into a kiosk selling postcards to holidaymakers. The octagonal building was lantern-shaped with a weathervane on the roof, and each of the eight walls had a window. Postcards (some of which showed the semaphore masts) could be sent from the kiosk and bore the cachets “Watch Tower, Beachy Head” within a double-line diamond (1920), or an oval (1935). This correspondence was sent en-masse to the Eastbourne sorting office and cancelled there in the usual way.

The book illustrates three other different styles of Watch Tower cachet which I will have to look out for. I don’t imagine that they are that rare given the number of visitors that must have made their way up to Beachy Head.

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