The Eddystone Light
The Douglass Tower on the Eddystone Reef (Credit: Helen Nance/Plymouth University)
  • Devonport Lecture Theatre, Portland Square Building

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This free lecture is organised by the Institution of Civil Engineers South West.

The last of the pioneering lighthouses to have been built on the Eddystone, 14 miles south west of Plymouth, was completed nearly 140 years ago. It is still in service.

The seemingly impossible was achieved in 1698 when the world's first rock lighthouse was built off Plymouth on the treacherous sea-swept Eddystone Reef. Quickly enlarged, it did its job well until swept away by the Great Storm of 1703. Its replacement stood for nearly 50 years before it too met its fate, being destroyed by fire. Next came John Smeaton's pioneering and world famous stone built lighthouse, the template for later rock lighthouses. Smeaton's Tower was replaced after 123 years' service by the present Douglass Light - now the longest serving on the Eddystone.

Building on the Eddystone led the way for the evolution in the design of rock lighthouses. It has also led the way for the ongoing STORMLAMP Project. The design of our historic rock lighthouses evolved through a combination of trial, error and experience and most of the buildings are now well over 100 years old. They still do their job, but in an age of satellite navigation are they still needed and how much longer will they last? Civil engineers from the University are leading the STORMLAMP team, applying modern measuring and modelling techniques to study the effects of wave impacts on the rock lighthouses of the British Isles and Ireland.

Nigel Overton will look at some of the challenges that faced the men that designed, built and served in the lighthouses that have marked the Eddystone since the 1690s. Nigel, a Curator with Plymouth City Council's Arts and Heritage team, will outline the history of the four - or five - lighthouses that have stood on the Eddystone, highlighting some key aspects of their design and build.

Dr Alison Raby from the University's School of Engineering, will explain how today's civil engineers are contributing to the scientific studies that, for the very first time, are recording, analysing and helping us to have a much more detailed understanding of the effects of wave impact upon our historic rock lighthouses. Alison will then focus on the work of the STORMLAMP project, which began with the detailed monitoring of wave impacts on the Eddystone Light but has since investigated many others.

Register your place via the ICE South West event page or contact the event administrator Charlotte Pascoe (email: if you experience any issues or would like further information.

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