New owners of Sir Peter Scott’s lighthouse in Sutton Bridge want to open visitor attraction

In the 1970s, Sutton Bridge's East Lighthouse - once home to well-known conservationist and painter Sir Peter Scott - was on the brink of destruction.

The historic Fens lighthouse had no windows, its Aga was broken by vandals and it had been left derelict for years after it last tenant left.

But the tranquil building was saved and now almost three decades later its new owners have pledged to turn the site into a visitor attraction where people can engage with wildlife.

Doug and Sue Hilton bought the lighthouse, which stands at the mouth of River Nene looking out onto the Wash, last month from Commander David Joel who spent 25 years reviving it.

Mr Hilton, 58, said: 'Everyone loves to visit a lighthouse but this is so much more than just a lighthouse - it is the stating point of global conservation.

'We already have two wildlife reserves in Kent but this is an incredible piece of history here and this is such a fantastic place for people to come to engage with wildlife.'

The 58-year-old said he would like to open a tea room as well as an education facility for families and schools to bring children to learn about the site and Sir Peter Scott.

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'There are a lot of children in London and other big cities who have probably never seen a field before let alone a place like this,' he continued.

'This place is unmissable and I know there was a huge amount of interest when Commander Joel opened the lighthouse a few years ago.

'I would like to let people go up to the top of the lighthouse and I would love to see a statue of Sir Peter Scott put here because this is the place he loved.'

His wife Sue added: 'It would be great to have an area where we can have Sir Peter Scott memorabilia on show.

'Sir Peter and Commander Joel were both artists - as am I - so I would also like to perhaps open up a art gallery here.'

The couple, from Kent, said they were 'very keen' to buy the lighthouse after seeing it had been put up for sale in a Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust magazine.

Mr Hilton added: 'I never thought it my wildest dreams I would be able to buy this.

'We saw it had been put for sale on the Friday, by the Sunday we were up visiting it and we had brought this place two and a half weeks later.'

Speaking about the renovation effort by Cdr Joel, he added: 'I have seen the old photos of what the lighthouse once looked like and how bad it was.

'If Commander Joel hadn't of stepped in when he did this place would have fallen down or been demolished by now. He has done a fantastic job in saving it.'

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.

He left the lighthouse for duty with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve where he became a Lieutenant Commander, captaining small ships and gunboats and was decorated twice for bravery. Similarly, Cmdr Joel spent his career at sea as head of seven Royal Navy ships.

Cdr Joel, who shared his time between his home in Hampshire and the East Anglian coast, opened the lighthouse to the public in 2008 and around 2,200 visitors went along in 10 days.

A wartime novella loosely based on former owner Sir Peter and the lighthouse was also brought back to life by national radio earlier this year.

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.