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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Rudyerd's Lighthouse

Rudyerd's Eddystone Lighthouse

An early print

After Winstanley's lighthouse was lost in a terrible storm, nobody was too keen to take on the task of protecting shipping from foundering on the Eddystone reef. Yet just 2 days after the incident, a large Plymouth merchantman foundered on the reef with loss of the crew and all the valuable goods on board. a reminder that a light was badly needed since there had been no accidents to shipping while Winstqnley's light had been there.


In 1706, An Act of Parliament was passed to facilitate the building of  a new lighthouse. A John Rudyerd from London came forward, prepared to put up his own money, since Trinity House wanted nothing to do with the project.  He was a silk merchant who wanted no more wrecks of his own  vessels on the reef.


He began by studying everything Winstanley had done, examining his plans, his working methods and so on, in the greatest detail. Then he worked on a plan of his own on a completely contrary basis. He also went to the shiupyard at Devonport and hired two very expenienced shipbuilders with ideas of their own and, since he had no architectural or engineering training of his own, very wisely took their advice at every turn.


Their first decision was to drill the rock of the reef itself  so that  uprights could be sunk deep into the ground and the structure anchored in this way. They then decided to build a conical shape in stone which tapered towards the top.  This was to be clad in the finest quality timber available to give extra protection against seawater..


During the 3-year  building process, ships from the Royal Navy had to stand   guard because the first thing that happened to the men at work was that they were taken prisoner by a French privateer. A petition to King Louis XIV got them released as he fortunately understood the value of what they were doing and sent them back to continue work.


In 1709, Rudyerd's task was done. To their credit, he and his team had built a lighthouse  which was to last  for 46 years before tragedy struck again. In December 1755, the lantern area caught fire and despite the best efforts of the keepers, the whole structure burnt down until it was completely destroyed. 

A boat arrived at the scene next morning and the crew found the 3 keepers hiding in a cavity of the rock, stupified by terror. One of the men was 94 years oif age, and complained of great pain, saying that he had swallowed some of the molten lead while he was looking up at the burning lantern. He died 12 days later and an inquest revealed a piece of lead weighing over 7 ounces in his stomach. And once again, the Eddystone had no light.



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