Although it is said that a light was shown on Hurst Point as early as 1733, the first Trinity House record relates to a meeting of shipmasters and merchants in 1781 to approve the terms of a formal petition to Trinity House for lights in the neighbourhood of the Isle of Wight.
As a result a patent was obtained in January 1782 which stated that “ships and vessels have been lost... and the lives, ships and goods of His Majesty's subjects as well as the King's Royal Navy continue to be exposed to the like calamities more especially in the night time and in hard southerly gales”. The patent directed that the lights should be "kept burning in the night season whereby seafaring men and mariners might take notice of and avoid dangers… and ships and other vessels of war might safely cruise during the night season in the British Channel".
In 1785 negotiations with Tatnell fell through and Trinity House erected to the designs of R Jupp three lighthouses at the Needles, St. Catherine's Point and Hurst. The tower at Hurst, sited to the south west of Hurst Castle, was lit for the first time on 29 September 1786.
In due course, however, shipping found that this light was obscured from certain directions and the Corporation constructed in 1812 an additional and higher light, both to remedy this defect and to give a guiding line to vessels.
Extensive additions were made to the castle between 1865 and 1873 necessitating the repositioning of the lights. In 1866 a new lighthouse—the Low Light—was built to replace the old Hurst tower. The new lighthouse consisted of a white circular granite tower with a red lantern. This light was replaced in 1911 with a new low light, a red square metal structure standing on a framework of steel joists attached to the wall of Hurst Castle. The low lighthouse was decommissioned and painted grey to match the surrounding background colours in order to eliminate navigational confusion.
The 1812 high light was replaced in 1867 by the 26 metre tower which is the operational light known today as Hurst Point Lighthouse.
A major modernisation of Hurst Point High Lighthouse was completed in July 1997; prompted by the growth in volume and diversity of traffic using the Needles Channel and following extensive consultation with the marine community, high intensity projectors were installed in Hurst Point Lighthouse. These are exhibited day and night to mark the channel between the Needles and the Shingles Bank. The projectors, sited in the service room below the lantern of the lighthouse, provide an accurate system of red, green and white directional lights giving precise cut offs over narrow arcs of visibility which can be realigned in the event of movement of the Shingles Bank.
The main navigation light still uses the unusual First Order lens which is separated into sectors of different focal lengths with a red sector provided by shades inside the lantern.
The lighthouse is now monitored and controlled from Trinity House’s Planning Centre in Harwich, Essex.