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There is a word for it, there is a word for almost everything (apart from the back of the knee apparently). I have a rather strange fear of all things unseen beneath the waves. Actually it is a bit more complex than that.

Underwater objects are fine. What really give me the creeps are man-made objects which disappear below the waves but have a physical location above the waves. Prime examples are anchor chains. Submarines are fine, rocks are fine.

Fishing nets, not fine. Don't ask me why, it is just unpleasant. What really makes my skin crawl are those marker buoys that clank all alone in the water, bobbing up and down on a dark slimey chain anchoring it to the cold bleak sea bed in the darkness below.

They are out there now, cold, lonely, unlit. It really is unpleasant even from where I am sitting now. They are terrifying up close. Odd.

..Cliff erosion means it will eventually fall into the sea

I digress for no real reason. About 2 miles away is a navigational aid called the Naze Tower. Although not strictly a lighthouse it fulfils a similar function. Cliff erosion means it will eventually fall into the sea (unless something drastic is done, which has not been done for a few million years). Henry VIII will not be pleased when it does fall into the sea as it was built during his reign.

Few subjects were missed by the creators of cigarette cards and this is no exception. RJ Hill, Lighthouse Series [1903]was probably the first set issued in the twentieth century. Wills and BAT issued sets of 50 Lighthouses [1926].

As far as I know this was the only foray into the world of lighthouses during the twentieth century until Societe Job, 25 British Lighthouses.[1925] The subject had been covered previously by Duke & Son, Lighthouses [1890] Lighthouses do appear on other cards such as Wills, Wonders of the Past has the Pharos of Alexandria as card no.6 As one of the seven wonders of the world it also appears in other sets with this theme.

Built in about 280BC exactly what it looked like is unsure (although you can be reasonably sure it is not as exciting as 95% of the illustrations you see of it). The card tells us the structure survived in a basic form until an earthquake in the 14th century.

In 1900 a ship passing the Flannan Isles (West of Outer Hebrides) reported a lack of light from the lighthouse. When investigated they found all was as it should be and the light was filled and ready to light. However there was no sign of occupation and too this day there has never been any sign of the three light-house keepers.  

Moving back to the UK the Romans raised a number of lighthouses about the coast but no coastal lights were maintained after the fall of the Roman Empire.

This is a slight simplification as a number were kept running by the church and hermits but the dissolution of the monasteries saw an end to most of these. Interesting to note Henry VIII closed down the monasteries and then erected navigational aids such as the Naze Tower.

Adam Smith (Scottish Economist that discovered the Market Economy) rather put his thumb, or some such digit, on the problem when he explained that it was in the interests of everyone to have lighthouses but in the interests of no-one to provide them. An example of a good which is free to the user so really only government could supply it.  

The coast was dark (and it would have been dark, electricity was not an option) until around the middle of the sixteenth century when 'lighthouses' began to appear on the northern coast. North Shields and Tynemouth seem to have claim to the earliest structures which were no more than wood or coal fires on top of a tower.

Card 23 Wills Famous Inventions reminds us that these were the only methods by which illumination was available until 1759 when tallow candles were first used in the Eddystone lighthouse.

Before that time life could not have been easy for the lighthouse keeper given the amount of coal which was needed to run a light for the night (several tons is a reasonable estimate). The lantern illustrated on the card is the vaporised oil lamp. Invented in 1782 by Aime Argaud this ingenious Swiss invented a light that was hardly modified until 1901. This burner was still in use at some locations as recently as twenty years ago.

Wills/BAT, Lighthouses [1926]

Obviously nowadays electricity is the driving force behind the lamps. This was introduced experimentally at Dungeness in 1862. However because of the remoteness of some of the lights and the general expense of electricity this labour saving power was slow to be introduced into lighthouses.

Although Henry VIII gave Trinity House its charter its early history was peculiar in the sense that the organisation often opposed early petitions to erect lighthouses. This was partly due to the fact local economies often required a steady flow of shipwrecks.

Although 'Whiskey Galore' might be a slightly excessive example of profiteering (although by no means totally unrealistic) there was plenty of money to be had in salvage. It took till the 1780's before Trinity House actually took on a more mature set of values concerning the creation and maintenance of lighthouses.

I have already mentioned the Eddystone lighthouse which is possibly the most famous of all British Lighthouses. It is situated 14 miles off the Plymouth coast on a rather bleak rock outcrop.

In the late 1940's Wills ran series of adverts and one was of the Eddystone lighthouse. It adds the following information to the story. Winstanton was actually captured by a French privateer during the work on the lighthouse but Louis XIV reprimanded the French captain and set Winstanton free adding that the French were at war with England not with humanity and that a light house on the Eddy stone would benefit mankind.  

In total 4 lighthouses were constructed on this outcrop. Work began on the first in 1696. Henry Winstanley built a tower of wood and stone which reached a height of 100 feet. When completed it looked more like a Chinese pagoda with a lantern gallery rather than a lighthouse. As a matter of faith he decided to remain in the structure during a storm.

With the sort of luck only I imagined only I was prone to he chose November 26th 1703. The storm became known as the Great Storm removing the lighthouse, Winstanley and the lighthouse keepers from the outcrop.

Societe Job, British Lighthouses

By 1709 the second lighthouse was completed. This time it was the work of John Rudyerd. Learning from his predecessors experience the base was made of sixteen layers of stone separated by wooden timbers. This rose to a height of 23 feet. Bored into the rock were 36 holes to anchor the structure to the rock. The basic structure was keyed and jointed for extra strength. Having done this a wooden structure was added to a height of 92 feet.

Over the next 50 years much of the timber had to be replaced but the basic structure stood the test of time. Unfortunately water was not the element which destroyed the structure. That was left to fire when on the 2nd December 1755 it was destroyed.

Despite this disaster the third structure was much criticised because it was entirely built of stone. The consensus of opinion was that stone would not be flexible enough to withstand the storms. However John Smeaton was confident of the structure and work began in 1756.

The stone structure was made of granite extracted from Dartmoor and Exmoor. Three years and 1493 granite blocks later a structure weighing 988 tons was erected.

In trying to put out the flames the 94 year old light-keeper swallowed a stream of molten lead from the roof. Living for a further 12 days he finally died and a 7.5 ounce lead ingot was removed from his stomach which now sits in Edinburgh museum.  

This tower stood for 120 years before it finally became unsafe by to erosion of its base. The top of the structure as removed and rebuilt on Plymouth Hoe. This is depicted in card 18 of Lighthouses.

Sir James Douglass built the final tower in 1882. Stone had proved its worth and so a vast structure was built to a height of 168 feet. The base being 44 feet in diameter. 2171 dovetailed stones were used weighing an incredible 4668 tons. This lighthouse is number 41.

Move on 2 cards to number 43 and you see the lighthouse situated on Wolf Rock. This was designed by Nicholas Douglass (Father to Sir James). The cost of the lighthouse was £62,736.

Bishop Rock has a certain appeal being one of the most exposed of lighthouses. Seen on Card 16 the first structure was built on iron legs. The theory was the waves would roll around it.

Work began in 1849 but it was not completed due to it being destroyed. James Walker decided to make the second attempt out of granite. The rock was frequently covered by sea water which added to the difficulties of building. The light was first switched on 1st September 1858.

Wills/BAT,Lighthouses [1926] Chapman Lighthouse

Mentioned earlier was the introduction of electricity. In fact the first lighthouse to get this modern wonder was Dungeness in Kent. The structure shown on card 11 was superseded by the lighthouse opened in 1961.

Bamborough also had a lighthouse, shown on card 46 this was actually completed on iron legs in 1910.

Card 37 shows one of the more photographed lighthouses. Situated on the Isle of Man Douglas Head is a white stone tower situated in a fine courtyard.

Cards 30:
Chapman Lighthouse
At one time it was thought a tower built on skeleton framework would be stronger than a solid tower owing to the fact waves could move freely between the legs. Experience proved otherwise, all similair constructs being dashed to pieces by the waves. The Chpman Light standing in the Thames estuary in shallow water does not need the same strength, and is therfore one of the few remaining towers of this type.

Card 20 shows the lighthouse at Godrevy Island and has the distinction of being powered by a wind generator (this was first tested on at Dungeness) This became an unmanned light as early as 1939.

This of course was to become the fate of all but a select few lighthouses and those that are left manned will be automated in the near future.