Although it is said that a guiding light was established as early as 1670, it was not until 1828 that Trinity House engineering consultant James Walker erected Belle Toute Lighthouse, a 14 metre high circular tower, on the headland. This remained in operation till 1899 when it was abandoned due to being frequently shrouded in mist and threatened with collapse because of recurrent falls of chalk from the cliff.
In 1902 under the direction of Sir Thomas Matthews, the Trinity House Engineer-in-Chief, the present lighthouse was brought into service, sited about 165 metres seawards from the base of the cliffs. It took two years to complete and involved building a coffer dam and a cableway from the top of the cliffs to carry materials down to the site. 3,660 tons of Cornish granite were used in the construction of the tower.
Beachy Head Lighthouse was automated and demanned in June 1983. The lighthouse's aids to navigation were converted to solar power operation in 2011 and further upgrades to the navigation light, control system and the solar power system were carried out in 2018.
The lighthouse is now monitored and controlled from Trinity House’s Planning Centre in Harwich, Essex.