The Ed­dy­s­tone light­house

14 miles from Ply­mouth lies the Ed­dy­s­tone Reef, a no­to­ri­ous col­lec­tion of deadly jagged rocks

Your Family History - - Case Study -

Henry Win­stan­ley of Saf­fron Walden was an en­graver and en­gi­neer who had built some amaz­ing and en­ter­tain­ing clock­work at­trac­tions. He in­vested in five sail­ing ships, and in 1695 re­ceived the news that a sec­ond of his ships had been lost at Ed­dy­s­tone. His re­ac­tion was to go there and de­clare his in­ten­tion to build a light­house.

Work be­gan in 1696. It is hard to com­pre­hend the dif­fi­cul­ties the builders had to over­come to com­plete the first light­house at sea. The 60 tal­low can­dles to light it were first lit on 14 Novem­ber 1698.

Not con­tent with this first at­tempt, Henry set about im­prove­ments, which were com­pleted by 1699. An ob­ject of beauty and prac­ti­cal­ity, this light­house was a tri­umph of in­ge­nu­ity that truly changed the lives of sailors nav­i­gat­ing around Ply­mouth.

Doubters claimed that the light­house would never with­stand a heavy storm, so in 1703, Henry re­turned to carry out re­pairs be­fore the on­set of win­ter. Dur­ing the night of 26 Novem­ber, the ‘Great Storm’ wreaked havoc across the south of Eng­land. By the morn­ing, the Ed­dy­s­tone light­house was gone – and with it, Henry Win­stan­ley.

Win­stan­ley’s Ed­dy­s­tone Light­house, built in 1698 and de­stroyed in 1703

Henry Win­stan­ley of Saf­fron Walden

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