Sunday, 18 October 2009

Smeaton's Lighthouse lit by candles again

Our local media have been faithfully reporting the anniversary of the first lighting of Smeaton's Lighthouse on the treacherous Eddystone Reef. To be precise it was 250 years ago from this last Friday that 24 candles were first lit in the lighthouse and on Thursday evening the great and good congregated at the lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe to re-enact the lighting of those candles. I won't repeat here the riveting story of the Eddystone Lights as it has been well recorded in many places. However I will mention the fact, I think well known, that the reason that his tower had to be replaced out there was because the section of rock on which it stood was getting undermined by the waves - there was nothing basically wrong with the design. What we now see on the land is the upper part of the construction on a new base: the bottom of it was just too well attached to the underlying rock as I understand it for the good folk of Plymouth to bring the whole of it back.

Look out to sea now, and providing it's a clear day, the stump is visible alongside today's Douglass Lighthouse. What I've not seen mentioned is the fact that on the old pre-decimal coinage, when the penny was much bigger, the Eddystone Lighthouse featured on it in a small way. If my memory serves me right it was on the 'tails' side of the penny and down at the bottom... Not particularly obvious but still great that it was embossed on it.. It really is an iconic structure and joins Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge linking Devon and Cornwall, and Exeter's fabulous cathedral as the three most magnificent structures in my two counties, in my opinion at least!

Well done to the 'Western Morning News' who have cleverly linked this latest lighting of Smeaton's tower with another "candles" story. This was about the lovely rustic church of Rame on the peninsula of the same name which celebrated it's 750th anniversary with a candlelit service, the only means of lighting in this sweet little building. The whole peninsula is really special and for me Rame Church is one of its jewels. So two buildings in the one WMN story that couldn't be more different from each other. And one final point that the paper didn't mention - Rame is the closest point on the mainland to the Eddystone reef so another connection there.

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