On This Day in Trinity House History – 16 October

1759

John Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse is lit for the first time

When John Rudyerd’s Eddystone Lighthouse burned down in 1755, mariners were anxious to have it replaced as soon as possible. Trinity House placed a light vessel to guard the position until a permanent light could be built. In 1756 a Yorkshireman, John Smeaton, who had been recommended by the Royal Society, travelled to Plymouth on an assignment which was to capture the imagination of the world. He had decided to construct a tower based on the shape of an English Oak tree for strength but made of stone rather than wood. For such a task he needed the toughest labourers, and many of the men employed had been Cornish Tin Miners. Press ganging had become a problem amongst the workforce, so to ensure that the men would be exempt from Naval Service, Trinity House arranged with the Admiralty at Plymouth to have a medal struck for each labourer to prove that they were working on the lighthouse.

Local granite was used for the foundations and facing, and Smeaton invented a quick drying cement, essential in the wet conditions on the rock, the formula for which is still used today. An ingenious method of securing each block of stone to its neighbour, using dovetail joints and marble dowels was employed, together with a device for lifting large blocks of stone from ships at sea to considerable heights which has never been improved upon. Using all these innovations, Smeaton’s tower was completed and lit by 24 candles on 16 October 1759.

Smeaton watched from Plymouth, and remarked that “it is very strong and bright to the naked eye, much like a star in the fourth magnitude.” The light source was was a candle-burning chandelier. The lighthouse was built by a private consortium under lease from Trinity House.

In the 1870’s cracks appeared in the rock upon which Smeaton’s lighthouse had stood for 120 years, so the top half of the tower was dismantled and re-erected on Plymouth Hoe as a monument to the builder. The remaining stump still stands on the Eddystone Rock.

Smeaton's Eddystone Lighthouse

Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse


1826

Birthday of Sir James Nicholas Douglass

Sir James Douglass Engineer-in-Chief

Sir James Douglass Engineer-in-Chief

 

James Nicholas Douglass was an English civil engineer, the first to hold the permanent Engineer-in-Chief role for Trinity House; he is perhaps most famous for the design and construction of the fourth Eddystone Lighthouse, for which he was knighted.

Died 19 June 1898.


1962

Trinity House Vessel Winston Churchill enters service

THV Winston Churchill is commissioned into service as the East Cowes District Tender, replacing THV Siren, which was transferred to Harwich district.

THV Winston Churchill 1979

THV Winston Churchill 1979

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