Worldwide Lighthouses

Eddystone 4 (Smeatons Tower) Lighthouse

Eddystone 4 (Smeatons Tower)

General Information


Established: 1698

Current Lighthouse Built: 1759

Height: 22 Metres (72.18 Feet)

Electrified: 1759

Operator: Plymouth City Council

Designer: John Smeaton

Light Information


The Lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe, most commonly refereed to as Smeaton's tower or more correctly the Fourth Eddystone Lighthouse was built in 1759, following 3 previous failed attempts at constructing a strong or durable tower.

The first Lighthouses on the rock we're built of mostly wood, often with a stone foundation or base, but these were either destroyed in storms or burned down, killing the first two tower's designer Henry Winstanley in one occurrence.

The distinctive red and white tower, which is undoubtadly Plymouths most well recognised landmarks was erected roughly 13 miles out to sea on the Eddystone rock to a design by John Smeaton, who based the shape of the tower on the base of an oak tree, claiming it would deflect waves; which it did. The structure remained strong and this design proved to be the most affective - a huge advance in Lighthouse building technology. Each stone was interlocked using a method called Dovetailing, meaning that the structure could not be torn apart in storms, as one block of stone could not move freely without removing a whole layer of stonework in the tower, which would be almost impossible.

Inside the lantern hung a large chandelier of candles; a replica of this is still in place in the tower. A Fresnel lens was also used in the tower's last years in service, but whether this is still in existence is unknown.

In the 1870s it was found that the rock on which the tower stood had started to crack under the weight of the structure, which had stood for over 120 years and so it was decided that Trinity House should build a replacement.

By 1882, James Douglass had constructed a larger and more impressive tower than Smeaton's to stand on the rock - it used the same curved shape that was used on the original tower to keep it strong and also used the interlocking stones technique, which had hardly changed since the 1750s.

The red and white striped building stood on the Eddystone alongside the new replacement tower for a short tower, but had proved vital in protecting Plymouth's shipping, so residents of the city decided to pay for the whole building to be disassembled stone-by-stone and rebuilt on the Hoe, overlooking the city's large harbour, where it stands today.

'Smeaton's Tower' as it is best known, is open to the public regularly and unlike many lighthouses is climbed using wooden ladders; not a spiral staircase - it is fitted with curved furniture to fit the rooms and is fairly cramped. A small door gives access to the circular gallery.

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