The iso­lated off­shore light­houses dot­ted around our shores are bea­cons to en­gi­neer­ing in­ge­nu­ity

Countryfile Magazine - - Lazy Days - TOM NANCOLLAS, PAR­TIC­U­LAR BOOKS, £16.99 (HB)

“Be­yond the ap­par­ent fi­nal­ity of Bri­tain and Ire­land’s coast­lines are a series of out­posts raised off per­ilous footholds of ma­rine rock,” says au­thor Tom Nancollas. Oc­ca­sion­ally glimpsed from a dis­tant ferry, light­houses have names we might recog­nise – Wolf Rock or Fast­net – but of­ten that’s where our knowl­edge ends.

In this in­trigu­ing book, build­ing con­ser­va­tion­ist Tom Nancollas vis­its seven of the 20 sur­viv­ing off­shore light­houses. His goal is to un­der­stand the au­dac­ity and in­ge­nu­ity of their creators; those bold pi­o­neers who risked ev­ery­thing – lives, labour and ma­te­ri­als – to build on dan­ger­ous reefs. Take, for ex­am­ple, the con­struc­tion of the third Ed­dy­s­tone light­house. Af­ter the first was swept away in a storm and the sec­ond burned down, this task was as­signed to York­shire­man John Smeaton. Smeaton ob­served that, thanks to their wide bases, old oak trees can with­stand the worst storms, so de­signed his light­house on the same prin­ci­ple: as an el­e­gant, ta­per­ing tower. Built with gran­ite, it re­quired a task force of tin min­ers to shift each five-tonne block 50 miles from the quarry to a slip­pery reef.

Elo­quent and well re­searched, Seashaken Houses com­bines the au­thor’s ob­ser­va­tions with ar­chi­tec­tural know-how and his­tor­i­cal anec­dotes. Light­houses will never look the same again. Ali Wood, travel writer

It took three at­tempts to build a light­house that would suc­cess­fully with­stand the sea at Ed­dy­s­tone Rocks

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