Little Bits of History

Safe Sailing

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 2, 2015
Eddystone Lighthouse

Rudyard Lighthouse at the Eddystone Rocks

December 2, 1755: The Eddystone Lighthouse is destroyed. The Eddystone Rocks are a rather large reef about 12 miles SSW of Plymouth Sound, an important naval harbor for England. It is located offshore from Devon and lies in the English Channel. During high tide, the reef is completely covered by water, but the likelihood of running aground remains. Because of the danger, ships often hugged the north cost of France and wrecked either there or near the Channel Islands. Something needed to be done to protect the ships from being ripped apart on the reef itself or on the shore rocks when trying to avoid it. It was decided to build a lighthouse even though the task was quite daunting.

Henry Winstanley built the first lighthouse there. The octagonal wooden structure was first lit on November 14, 1689. While building the original lighthouse was difficult, it became even more treacherous when a privateer captured Winstanley. King Louis XIV was forced to intercede and demanded the builder’s release. While France was at war with England, the lighthouse was a gift to all sailors and the King recognized the fact. The wooden structure survived the first winter but needed repaired. It was changed to a 12 sided stone clad structure. The lighthouse lasted until the Great Storm of 1703 but nearly all traces vanished on November 27 along with the five men who ran it.

After the first lighthouse was destroyed, Captain John Lovett was given, by an Act of Parliament, a lease to the rock which allowed him to build again and charge a toll of one penny per ton for all passing ships. Lovett had John Rudyard design a new lighthouse. Rudyard designed and built a conical wooden lighthouse around a core of brick and concrete. A temporary light was first available in 1708 and the building was completed in 1709. This second lighthouse was more durable but on this night, the top of the lantern caught fire, assumed to have come from a spark from one of the candles used to illuminate it. The three keepers attempted to extinguish the blaze but were unsuccessful. They were rescued by boat.

New construction began in 1756 with the first lighting in 1759. The tower lasted for much longer and in 1841, major renovations were done. It lasted until 1877 when erosion of the rocks under the lighthouse were damaged enough the entire structure shook when hit by waves. The fourth and current lighthouse was first lit in 1882 and remains in use today. The lighthouse is operated by Trinity House and was the first of its offshore lighthouses to be converted. It was automated in 1982 and a helipad was built above the lantern so that maintenance crews can have access. It is 161 feet tall and a white light flashes twice every 10 seconds. It is visible for 25 miles and there is also a foghorn which gives three blasts every 62 seconds.

Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. – Anne Lamott

Anythin’ for a quiet life, as the man said wen he took the situation at the lighthouse. – Charles Dickens

Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all others were making ships. – Charles Simic

A fallen lighthouse is more dangerous than a reef. – Navjot Singh Sidhu

Also on this day: Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness – In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency opened for business.
Colombian Coke – In 1993, Pablo Escobar was killed in a shootout.
Power Run – In 1956, Fiedel Castro and Che Guevara arrived in Cuba.
Prayer – In 1763, the Touro Synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in the US, was dedicated.
Separate – In 1823, the Monroe Doctrine was announced to Congress.


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