As lighthouses go, Eddystone lighthouse is really quite different than most. The first Eddystone lighthouse was completed in 1699, and was the world’s first open ocean lighthouse, although the Cordouan lighthouse preceded it as the first offshore lighthouse. The Eddystone Lighthouse is on the dangerous Eddystone Rocks, 9 statute miles south of Rame Head, England, United Kingdom. While Rame Head is in Cornwall, the rocks are in Devon. Putting a lighthouse in the open ocean was a rather dangerous undertaking, but it was also an important lighthouse, because of the rocks it sat on. Without a lighthouse there, ships would run aground on the rocks.
The Eddystone lighthouse fell to disaster three times, and was rebuilt threes times. The first disaster came just four years later, when the Great Storm of 1703 took with it, the first Eddystone lighthouse. The first and second lighthouses were constructed of wood. This was the material available at the time. It was also the wooden construction that made the lighthouse susceptible to the distructive storm and the fire that destroyed the first and second lighthouses…the storm in 1703 and the fire in 1755. The third lighthouse is often called Smeaton’s lighthouse. It was recommended by the Royal Society, civil engineer John Smeaton and was modeled in the shape on an oak tree, and built of granite blocks. He pioneered hydraulic lime, a concrete that cured under water, and developed a technique of securing the granite blocks using dovetail joints and marble dowels. Construction started in 1756 at Millbay and the light was first lit on October 16, 1759. It was state of the art in its time. It stood until 1877, when the rocks eroded enough to cause the lighthouse to rock from side to side in the waves, so it was deemed unsafe. The fourth and current lighthouse was built in April of 1879, and was designed by James Douglass, using Robert Stevenson’s developments of Smeaton’s techniques. By April 1879 the new site, on the South Rock was being prepared during the 3½ hours between ebb and flood tide. This current lighthouse is shorter and has a flat top, that is used to land helicopters.