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eddystone lighthouse

John Smeaton (architect) and Josias Jessop (model maker), Model for the Eddystone Lighthouse, off Plymouth, England, 1757-1759, Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh

plan/section drawing
disassembled model
stone-course model


The dangerous Eddystone reef in the English Channel posed a constant threat to ships traveling along the southwestern coast of England. When the second lighthouse to stand on the site was destroyed by fire in 1755, a third was designed and built by a civil engineer, John Smeaton. His ingenious and influential structure became the model for all subsequent rock lighthouses.

Two models were made for Smeaton's lighthouse. The first, a sectional model, can be taken apart in sections to reveal the lighthouse's internal construction and arrangement of rooms, including the staircase, storerooms, kitchen and bedroom. Each of these rooms had a chain set into the wall head, which helped to distribute the load of the floor. Around the balcony at the top of the lighthouse Smeaton set a rounded cornice to deflect the waves that battered the side of the lighthouse during stormy weather. The second model represents the seventh level of stonework at the base of the structure. It shows how the lighthouse was constructed of interlocking stonework secured by metal pins.

Eddystone Lighthouse stood until the1880s when the reef below it began to crumble. A similar lighthouse was then built on an adjacent site. The most famous lighthouse of modern time, Eddystone Lighthouse demonstrates the triumph of engineering and enterprise over the destructive forces of the sea.

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