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