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New Eddystone

The Eddystone Lighthouse

Smeaton's Design

Centuries of Civil Engineering

Smeaton, John (1724-1792)
A Narrative of the building and a description of the construction of the Edystone lighthouse with stone. 2nd ed.
London: Printed for G. Nichol,1793.
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Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse was built of Portland stone. To secure the structure to the underlying rock, the lower courses were dovetailed, and set into corresponding dovetails that had been cut into the rock. For higher courses, the stones were carefully interlocked and pinned to the levels above and below. The resulting structure was extremely secure, and it withstood the battering of the sea for one hundred and thirty years. In the end, it was the rock below that began to fail, and not the lighthouse above it, and Smeaton’s tower was replaced in 1882 by a taller lighthouse on a nearby rock.

The illustration is from the second edition of Smeaton’s account of the building of the lighthouse, published two years after the first in 1793. It shows the plans for the six lower courses of the lighthouse, which when completed provided a level foundation for the rest of the tower.


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