image smeaton, j_narrative of edystone lighthouse_1791_pl13
Image number: RS.10381
Credit: © The Royal Society
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Ideas for Smeaton’s Lighthouse on the Eddystone Rocks




James Record (active 1768-1790s, British), Engraver

Object type

Library reference





height (print): 500mm
width (print): 340mm


Content object


Depiction of the third lighthouse built upon the Eddystone Rocks, near Plymouth.

Figures 1 and 2 show observations by the civil engineer John Smeaton (1724-1792) on how his lighthouse (shown in figure 6) should be modelled on the trunk and boughs of an oak tree; figures 3 and 4 show Smeaton’s technique of dovetailing masonry for added strength; and figure 5 shows the dovetailing technique from a vertical perspective.

The third lighthouse was built following the destruction of earlier versions designed by Henry Winstanley (1644-1703), and John Rudyard (or Rudyerd; 1650- ca.1718). The Royal Society recommended the civil engineer John Smeaton (1724-1792) for the job; his lighthouse was completed in 1759.

Plate 13 of A narrative of the building and a description of the construction of the Edystone lighthouse with stone, by John Smeaton (London, 1791). The Royal Society’s copy was donated by the author on 20 January 1791.

The plate is inscribed: ‘Original IDEAS, HINTS, & SKETCHES, from where the FORM of the PRESENT BUILDING was taken.’

Includes scale: 1 inch = 12 feet

Object history

The lighthouse remained in use until 1877, and was then re-erected on Plymouth Hoe, where it still stands as a tourist attraction. It can be seen in the background in the Royal Society’s two portraits of John Smeaton.

Associated place

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