A lighthouse was first established at Flamborough by Sir John Clayton in 1669, but was never kindled. The name Flamborough was first thought to be derived from it being the place of the flame, but in the doomsday book the word is spelt “Flaneberg”, possibly from the Saxon “Flaen” meaning a dart, which the shape of the headland resembles.
John Matson of Bridlington built the present lighthouse, designed by architect Samuel Wyatt, in 1806 at a cost of £8,000. It was first lit on 1st December of that year. The original lighting apparatus was designed by George Robinson and consisted of a rotating vertical shaft to which was fixed twenty one parabolic reflectors, seven on each of the three sides of the frame. Red glass covered reflectors on each side, giving for the first time in lighthouse characteristics two white flashes followed by one red flash. This was an innovation quickly adopted elsewhere. The lighthouse was oil-burning, with an equivalent candlepower of 13,860.
The following description of Flamborough Lighthouse is taken from Joseph Cotton’s “Memoir on the Origin and Incorporation of the Trinity House of Deptford Strond” written in 1818.
The site of Flamborough Head was of all others the most calculated for a lighthouse, either for coasters or for vessels from the Baltic and North Sea, but it was not concurred in by the trade until lately, when its utility having been admitted, the present lighthouse was erected, and the light exhibited upon the principle of the Scilly light, but with coloured red glass in front of the burners, by which it is distinguished from Cromer.
The lighthouse has continued its role as a waypoint for deep sea vessels and coastal traffic as well as marking the headland for vessels heading for the ports of Scarborough and Bridlington.
In 1940 the Flamborough Lighthouse was electrified and further modifications took place in 1974. An electric fog signal was installed in 1975 replacing diaphone apparatus. In former times a rocket was discharged every 5 minutes in foggy weather reaching an altitude of 600 feet.
Flamborough Lighthouse was automated in early 1996, the keepers leaving on 8 May. The existing aids to navigation were retained with standard Trinity House equipment replacing the lampchanger and optic drive. The fog signal was refurbished and a standard fog detector fitted. The lighthouse is now controlled and monitored from the Trinity House Operations and Planning Centre at Harwich.