Aerial Photo by Marinas.com more images available
Photo by David Stowell
Postcard view from just after
Designed by Messrs Walker and Burgess and built in white granite from Luxulyan in Cornwall.
Work started 22nd February 1841.
Work Completed 9th November 1842.
Height 78ft on top of breakwater 126ft from sea bed.
Lantern 8ft high and with 18 mirrors in.
First lit on June 1844.
There was originally to be a matching lighthouse at the other end of the breakwater, but a simpler beacon was put there instead. The beacon is a globe on a 17ft oak pole on a 25ft high stepped plinth. This was built in 1845.
On the 23rd July 1844 they took out a bus pulled by two horses, and ran trips up the breakwater and around the lighthouse and beacon for a day.
It's been said that the top of the tower is a good 38m (125ft) above the water, casting some doubt on the listed focal plane heights, which I had already started to suspect. The problem is that this is on a detached section of the breakwater 2.5 miles out. So what does the date say about the focal plane (height the light is above high sea level).
Photo by Mick Lobb
This was a major construction project of its day, with a number of famous architects involved, as well as a lot of funding. The plans were produced by John Rennie (1761-1821), and completed by his sons, Sir John (1794-1874) and George (1791-1866). Others were also involved.
The breakwater is around 2.5 miles out to sea and the central section is about a 1000yds (300ft) long. Two arms come out from the shore at 350ft long and are at an angle of 120 degrees to the central section. There are gaps allowing two entrances. The breakwater is 80ft deep and 45ft wide. The top of the breakwater is paved. The breakwater cost £1.5 million to produce and used over 4 million tones of stone. 765 men were employed in the construction. Plans to build this started in 1788, and after preparatory work the first stone was put on the sea bed in August 1812. Some of the massive block weighed 7 tones each. They had 10 specially converted sailing barges for the large blocks and 45 smaller vessels.
The paving on the top of the breakwater shows it as being completed 17th July 1837, but some work on the arms was still completed after this. Its said this was 70 yards of the eastern section and required a further 500 tones of stone.
In 1871 a concrete wave breaker was added. From 1928, a further 100 wave breakers were added.
The result of all of this was to convert what was an anchorage which could be subject to bad storms and danger into a large safe area for ships to anchor.
Photo by David Stowell
In 1862 they started the build of a fort, known as the Shovel fort, 32yds or 94ft from the breakwater. The walls of the fort are 14ft thick and each of the three floors had fifteen guns. Storage was provided to hold 1,500 barrels of gunpowder, in addition to coal and water storage.
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