As early as 1669 Sir John Clayton was granted a patent to erect a lighthouse on Portland Bill, Dorset, England to warn seafarers of the perilous currents that converge around 'the Bill', but his scheme fell through and it was not until early in the eighteenth century that Captain William Holman, supported by the shipowners and Corporation of Weymouth, put a petition to Trinity House for the building of a lighthouse at Portland Bill. Trinity House opposed it suggesting that lights at this point were needless and shipowners could not bear the burden of their upkeep.
The people of Weymouth continued their petition and on 26th May, 1716 Trinity House obtained a patent from George I. They in turn issued a lease for 61 years to a private consortium who built two lighthouses with enclosed lanterns and coal fires. The lights were badly kept, sometimes not lit at all, and in 1752 an inspection was made by two members of the Board of Trinity House who approached by sea to find "it was nigh two hours after sunset before any light appeared in either of the lighthouses".
With the termination of the lease the lights reverted to Trinity House. In 1789 William Johns, a builder of Weymouth under contract to Trinity House, took down one of the towers and erected a new one at a cost of £2,000. It was sited so that it served as a mark by day or night to direct ships moving up and down Channel or into Portland Roads clear of the Race and Shambles.
This photo shows the older 'lower' lighthouse in the foreground with the new and current 'Portland Bill' lighthouse in the background.