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Eddystone Lighthouse, Douglass Tower
Eddystone Rocks, 22.5km southwest of Plymouth, Devon, UK
Eddystone Lighthouse, Douglass Tower
associated engineer
Sir James Nicholas Douglass
date  18th May 1882
era  Victorian  |  category  Lighthouse  |  reference  SX382340
ICE reference number  HEW 74
photo  courtesy ICE
In the 1870s, it was discovered that Smeaton's Eddystone tower (1757) was becoming unstable due to the erosion of the rocks on which it stood. James Douglass, then Engineer-in-Chief at Trinity House, designed a new one for the more stable central ridge of Eddystone Rocks.
The early stages of the building were slow. The new site, 120ft from Smeaton's tower, was underwater even at low tide. A cofferdam therefore had to be built to allow work on the foundations. This took almost a year but once the foudations were secured, work on the rest of the tower progressed quickly.
Like Smeaton, Douglass used pre-dressed granite blocks designed to slot together with minimal on-site work. The average weight of the blocks is 2-3 tons and 2,171 were needed. The finished tower is 168ft high and 44ft in diameter at the base. The bulk of the stone was transported to the site on the tender Hercules, which had been specially design for this kind of work on lighthouses.
This was a high profile build, with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh laying a ceremonial stone on 19th August 1879 and the last stone at a topping out ceremony on 1st June 1881. The light became operational on 18th May 1882.
Thomas Edmonds and William Tregarthen Douglass, James' son, supervised the build. Although Edmonds left early on, leaving William Douglass to complete it, both were rewarded with a £150 gratuity for the tower's speedy construction. It had been forcast to take five years and cost £80,000. In fact it took three and a half and came in around £18,000 under budget.
The light was automated in 1982.
Site engineers: Thomas Edmonds, William Tregarthen Douglass
Optic design: Dr John Hopkins
Optic construction: Chance Brothers & Co., Birmingham
Research: PS
"The New Eddystone Lighthouse"
William Tregarthen Douglass
London, Institution of Civil Engineers, 1883, PRO MT 10/495
"The Lighthouses of Trinity House"
Richard Woodman + Jane Wilson
Bradford on Avon, Thames Reed Publications, 2002
"Lighthouses: their Architecture, History + Archaeology"
Douglas B. Hague + Rosemary Christie
LLandysul, Gomer Press, 1975
reference sources   CEH South

Eddystone Lighthouse, Douglass Tower