Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Chapter I: Ancient and modern...
 Chapter II: The Eddystone...
 Chapter III: How John Smeaton rose...
 Chapter IV: Smeaton in private...
 The Lighthouse
 Back Cover

Group Title: Story of John Smeaton and the Eddystone Lighthouse
Title: The story of John Smeaton and the Eddystone Lighthouse
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00028352/00001
 Material Information
Title: The story of John Smeaton and the Eddystone Lighthouse
Physical Description: 117, 2 p., 2 leaves of plates : ill. (some col,) ; 19 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Thomas Nelson & Sons ( Publisher )
Publisher: T. Nelson and Sons
Place of Publication: London ;
Edinburgh ;
New York
Publication Date: 1876
Subject: Lighthouses -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Engineers -- Biography -- Juvenile literature -- England   ( lcsh )
Biographies -- 1876   ( rbgenr )
Publishers' advertisements -- 1876   ( rbgenr )
Bldn -- 1876
Genre: Biographies   ( rbgenr )
Publishers' advertisements   ( rbgenr )
individual biography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
Scotland -- Edinburgh
United States -- New York -- New York
General Note: Added title page and frontispiece printed in colors.
General Note: Publisher's advertisements follow text.
Funding: Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00028352
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002238009
notis - ALH8504
oclc - 61164819

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Front Matter
    Half Title
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Title Page
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Table of Contents
        Page 6
    Chapter I: Ancient and modern lighthouses
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
    Chapter II: The Eddystone lighthouse
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
    Chapter III: How John Smeaton rose in life
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
    Chapter IV: Smeaton in private life - his last years and character
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
    The Lighthouse
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
Full Text

:-.... 1 W.


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The Story of

: j -

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And as the evening darkens, lo how bright,
Through the deep purple of the twilight air,
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light
y ith strange, unearthly splendour in its glare !
"And the great ships sail outward and return,
Bending and bowing o'er the billowy swells
And ever joyful, as they see it burn,
They wave their silent welcomes and farewells."



The following pages are founded on Mr. Smiles' "Lives of the Engineers,"
vol. ii. ; "Smeaton and Lighthouses" (edition 1844) ; Les Phares ;" "Light-
houses and Lightships," by W. H. Davenport Adams ; and Smeaton's own
account of the "Eddystone Lighthouse." Some minor authorities have also
been consulted.

Ton te t8.





i -' .v .. '. .t 71.



S soon as man began to go down to the
deep in ships, and to extend his enter-
prise from sea to sea, so soon must he
have recognized the necessity of lighthouses; or,
at least, of some system of signals by which he
might guide his course at night when approach-
ing a perilous coast, or seeking to enter the
wished-for harbour.
His first attempt in this direction was prob-
ably nothing more than the kindling of a huge
fire on some elevated promontory or headland, or
on the summit of some lofty hill, whence its
warning glare could be seen for miles around.


But as, on windy nights, much difficulty would
be experienced in keeping up the blown and
scattered flames, no doubt he would soon con-
ceive the idea of providing a sufficient shelter.
So obvious was the value of these fiery beacons,
and so impossible did it seem to the ancient
mariner to navigate the dangerous seas without
their help, that he was led to ascribe their origin
to supernatural wisdom. According to the Greeks,
they were invented by Hercules. There is good
reason to believe, however, that long before the
ocean was furrowed by a Greek keel, light-towers
or fire-beacons had been erected by the Libyans
and the Cuthites along the low and perilous
shores of Lower Egypt. During the day they
served as landmarks, and during the night as
beacons. Their purpose being essentially sacred,
they were also used as temples, and dedicated to
the gods. Regarded by the seaman with rever-
ence as well as gratitude, he enriched them with
costly offerings. Some authorities suppose that
charts of the Mediterranean coast and of the
channels of the Nile were painted on their walls,
and that these charts were afterwards transferred
to sheets of papyrus. The priests in charge of
them taught the sciences of hydrography and


pilotage, and how to steer a vessel's course by the
aid of the stars and planets. On the summit a
fire was ever burning; the fuel being placed in a
machine of iron or bronze, composed of three or
four! branches, each representing a dolphin or
some other marine animal, and all connected by
decorative work. The machine was fastened to
the extremity of a strong pole or shaft, like a
mast, and so placed that its radiance was mainly
directed seaward.
The impression which the fire-towers produced
on the mind is finely described by Homer in a
well-known passage of the "Iliad:"-

As to seamen o'er the wave is borne
The watch-fire's light, which, high among the hills,
Some shepherd kindles in his lonely fold."

It is said that the first regular pharos, or light-
tower, was erected by one Lesches, on the Sigsean
promontory, at the mouth of the Hellespont.
Though the most ancient, the honour was not
reserved to it of bequeathing its name to its
successors. This honour was bestowed on the
celebrated tower erected on the island of Pharos,
off the harbour of Alexandria, which served as a
model for some of the noblest lighthouses built in
later ages. Thus, it was the type followed by the


Emperor Claudius in the pharos raised at Ostia,
near the mouth of the Tiber, which appears to
have been the completes of any on the Italian
coast. This pharos was situated upon a break-
water, or artificial island, which occupied the mid
channel between the two massive piers that formed
the harbour, and its ruins were extant as late as
the fifteenth century, when they were visited by
Pope Pius II. Scarcely inferior in architectural
excellence was the pharos which conducted the
homeward-bound into the prosperous harbour of
Puteoli; or that which Augustus erected at
Ravenna; or that which from the mole of Mes-
sina poured its useful splendour over the seething
waters of Charybdis; or that which embellished
the island of Capreae, the favourite retreat of
Tiberius, and was destroyed by an earthquake
shortly before the emperor's death.

We read of a famous lighthouse at the mouth
of the river Chrysorrhoas, which flows into the
Thracian Bosporus (that is, the Strait of Con-
stantinople). On the crest of the hill washed by
this river may be seen, says an old writer, the
Timean Tower, a tower of extraordinary height,
from whose summit the spectator may survey a


wide expanse of sea. It has been built for the
safety of the navigator, and fires are kindled
upon it for his guidance; a precaution all the
more necessary because the shores of this strait
are without ports, and no anchor can reach the
bottom. But the barbarians in the neighbour-
hood light other fires upon elevated points of the
coast, in order to deceive the mariner, and profit
by his shipwreck.

The pharos, or lighthouse, at Alexandria, to
which we have referred, was built by an architect
named Sostrates, in the reign, it is said, of
Ptolemoeus Philadelphus. The island on which
it stood lay in front of the wealthy city of
Alexandria, so as to protect both its harbours, the
Greater Harbour and the Haven of Happy Re-
turn, from the northern gales, and the inrush of
the Mediterranean.
It forms a ledge of dazzlingly white calcareous
rock, the northern slope of which is fringed with
islets, which, in the fourth and fifth centuries of
our era, were inhabited by Christian hermits. A
deep inlet on that side was called the Pirates'
Creek, because, in very early times, it had been
the resort of the Carian and Samian sea-rovers.


The island was connected with the mainland
by an artificial mound, or causeway, which, from
its extent, seven stadia (about three-quarters of a
mile), was called the Heptastadium. In its
whole length a couple of breaks occurred, to
allow of the passage of the waters, and each break
was spanned by a drawbridge. At the island-
extremity stood a temple dedicated to Hephaestos,
the god of fire, and, at the other, the great
Gate of the Moon. The lighthouse was erected
at the eastern end, on a kind of rocky peninsula;
and as it was built of white stone, and of a very
considerable elevation, it was equally a notable
landmark from the low sandy Egyptian plains
and from the surrounding waters.
It is generally believed that this splendid
erection, which is estimated to have measured
from 550 to 580 feet in height, fell into decay
between 1200 and 1300, and was finally destroyed
by the Turkish conquerors of Egypt. That it
existed in the twelfth century, we know from the
description given by an Arab writer, named
Edrisi; a description which our readers will prob-
ably be pleased to peruse :-
This pharos, he says, has not its equal in the
world, for skill of construction or for solidity;


since, to say nothing of the fact that it is built
of the best stone, its separate layers of masonry
are cemented together by molten lead, and this
so firmly, that the whole is indissoluble, though
the northern waves incessantly beat against it.
From the rock to the middle gallery or stage the
measurement is exactly seventy fathoms; and from
this gallery to the summit, twenty-six fathoms.
We ascend to the gallery by an inner staircase
of sufficient width. This staircase goes no further,
and the building, from the gallery upwards, de-
creases considerably in diameter. In the interior,
and under the staircase, some chambers have
been built. From the gallery we continue our
ascent by a very narrow flight of steps: in every
part" it is pierced with loopholes, to give light to
persons making use of it, and to assist them in
obtaining a proper footing.
This edifice, adds our authority, is singularly
remarkable, as much on account of its height as
of its massiveness. It is of exceeding usefulness,
its fire burning night and day for the guidance
of navigators. They are well acquainted with
its light, and steer their course accordingly, for it
is visible at the distance of a day's sail.* During
There is, of course, some exaggeration here.


the night it shines like a star; by day you can
distinguish it by its smoke.

Lighthouses or beacons were first introduced
into England by the Romans, to whom we are
indebted for so much that is valuable and useful.
On the crest of the high hill at Dover still
stands the pharos, which is supposed to have
been built for the guidance of vessels from the
coasts of France to the Roman station at Portus
Rutupie (now Richborough) near Sandwich, or
to Regulbium (now known as the Reculvers) on
the Thames.
At the present day it is nothing more than a
massive shell. In the inside the walls are vertical
and squared; on the outside, they incline to as-
sume a conical form. Of the building, as we now
see it, only the basement is of Roman work; the
octagonal chamber above was constructed in the
reign of Henry VIII. The dimensions are about
fourteen feet square.
The English beacons were of a ruder and more
primitive construction than the Roman. We read
in Lambarde, the old topographer, that before
the time of King Edward III. they were made of
great stacks of wood; but about the eleventh


year of his reign it was ordained that in one shire
[Kent] they should be high standards, with their
pitch-pots "-that is, tall masts, to whose summit
was fastened a vessel full of burning pitch. Those
beacons, however, were more frequently used to
warn the country on the approach of a hostile
fleet than for the purpose of lighting the coasts,
though, doubtlessly, they answered both objects.
Professor Faraday suggests that the first idea of
a lighthouse was the candle' in the cottage
window, guiding the husband across the water or
the pathless moor. The main point to be secured
was a steady light, and it mattered not whether
this was obtained from pitch-pots, coals, or oil.
Wood, however, as the material readiest at hand,
was most generally used.
The Tour de Cordouan, situated at the mouth
of the Gironde, was long lit up by fires of wood;
while, until a comparatively recent period, the
lighthouses at Spurn Head, north of the Humber,
and on the Isle of May, at the entrance to the
Firth of Forth, were lighted by braziers of burn-
ing coal.
Our English Kings were quick to perceive the
importance of insuring greater safety to the
vessels composing their commercial navy; and in


1525, Henry VIII. granted a charter to the
" brotherhood of the Holy Trinity" (now known
.as the Trinity House), for the purpose of assist-
ing and protecting navigation by licensing and
regulating pilots, and planting beacons, light-
houses, and buoys along the British coasts. But,
as Mr. Smiles remarks, the only step taken to
carry out objects of such national interest was the
granting of leases by the Crown, for a definite
number of ears, to private persons willing to
find the means of building and maintaining
lights, in return for permission to levy tolls on all
passing shipping. Yet not much was done to
render our dangerous coasts easier of approach by
means of well-supplied lights. The first erected
was on Dungeness in the reign of James I.
About the same time some parts of the Cornish
,coast were lighted up; for we read in the Travels
of the Grand Duke Cosmo," about two centuries
ago, that the Plymouth shipping paid fourpence
per ton for the lights which were in the light-
houses at night." Fourpence in those days was
worth about as much as five shillings in our own,
so that the tax must have fallen very heavily on
merchantmen. It is also recorded, in the annals
of the old town of Rye, that a light was hung


out from the south-east angle of the Ypres Tower,
as a guide for vessels entering the harbour in the
night time; and that this proving insufficient, an-
other light was ordered by the corporation to
be hung out o' nights on the south-west corner of
the church, for a guide to vessels entering the
port." A pitch-pot was formerly hung from the
spire of old Arundel Church, as a beacon for
vessels which wished to enter the port of Little
Hampton, and the iron support of the apparatus
is still to be seen.
It is obvious that lights such as these were
exceedingly imperfect. It was difficult to main-
tain an equable radiance; they were not visible
far out at sea; and they were easily affected by
variations of weather, great gales, tempests, or
thick mists. Moreover, as navigation increased,
and ships more frequently threaded the narrow
pass or dangerous channel, more lights became
necessary, and thus the old system of lights had
to give way to a more regular and extensive
lighthouse system.
The first modern lighthouse of a solid and per-
manent character erected on the shores of England
was built, it is said, at Lowestoft in Suffolk, in 160 9.
In 1665 one was erected at Hunstanton Point;
(521) 2


and in 1680, a third on the Scilly Isles. About
the same time were established the lighthouses at
Dungeness and Orfordness. But all these were of
clumsy construction, of very slight elevation, and
of inconsiderable illuminating power. To in-
augurate the modern lighthouse the genius of John
Smeaton was needed; and from the date of his
marvellous monument on the Eddystone Rock up
to the present time, nearly every dangerous point
of our coasts, every harbour and every river-
mouth, has been included in the system of de-
fence which guards our imperial commerce, and
enables the seaman to navigate the British waters
in almost perfect safety.

1- 7
I.-^., -' ". -* ^:^ ,at-' .- .' '' .*.-* '" r' .--



BOUT fourteen miles to the south-west
of Plymouth harbour, and out in the
deep and billowy channel, lies a reef
or ledge of rocks, known, in allusion to the swirl
of currents always tossing and seething around
it, by the name of the Eddystone.
This reef is situated in a line with Lizard Head
in Cornwall, and Start Point in Devonshire.
Consequently, it forms a perilous obstruction,
not only in the water-way which leads to the great
arsenal and haven of South Devon, but in the
track of all vessels entering or leaving the Eng-
lish Channel; which, we may add, is frequented
by a greater number of ships than any other part
of the wide ocean.
When the tide is up, its hoary crest is scarcely
visible, but its position is shown by the eddy


which washes to and fro above it; at low tide,
several low, jagged, and dreary ridges of gneiss lift
their heads from the boiling waves. During a
stiff breeze from the south-west, these form the
centre, the focus, as it were, of a boiling caldron
of waters, and no ship enticed within their vortex
can escape destruction.
As may be supposed, the erection of a light-
house on rocks so perilous came to be regarded
as an urgent need soon after men had learned the
value of commercial enterprise. The task, how-
ever, seemed so dangerous, not to say impossible,
that no one ventured to attempt it, until 1696,
when it was undertaken by a noble and patriotic
gentleman, named Henry Winstanley, who was
much grieved by the loss of life which annually
occurred there.
Winstanley is described as one of those eccentric
but ingenious men who find a peculiar pleasure
in mystifying their friends, and in throwing a
kind of glamour or magical atmosphere over our
daily, commonplace, realistic life. He made use
of his scientific knowledge to play the most ex-
traordinary practical jokes. You went to spend
a night or two at his old Essex manor-house. On
entering your bed-room, you nearly tripped over


an old slipper. You kicked it aside, and, lo, a
ghost immediately started from the floor. In your
sudden alarm you flung yourself into the nearest
chair: out sprang a couple of arms, and clasped
you and held you a prisoner. You went into the
garden, and sought repose in a woodbine-trellised
arbour. Your seat and yourself shot away from
the pleasant alcove, and were quickly floating in
the middle of the adjoining canal!
The author of such devices as these might be,
and was, a noble and chivalrous gentleman, but.
he was also, unquestionably, a very eccentric char-
acter! His eccentricity displayed itself in the
lighthouse which his chivalrous humanity insti-
gated him to build on the Eddystone Rock. On
first glancing at an engraving of it, you hardly
know whether you see before you a Chinese
pagoda or a Turkish minaret, grafted on a circular
tower, and ornamented with cranes and chains
like a London warehouse !
Winstanley began his work in 1696.
The first summer-and, of course, it was in
summer only that men could labour on that wind-
swept, wave-worn rock-was occupied in ex-
cavating twelve holes, and fastening as many irons
in them, to serve for the superstructure.


Very slowly and drearily did the work go on;
for though it was the "sweet summer-time," out
in the wild channel the weather would frequently
prove of such terrible violence that, for ten or
fourteen days in succession, the waters would boil
and toss about the rocks-vexed by contrary winds,
and by the inrush of the swelling billows from the
main ocean-and mount one upon another, like
maddened horses, and leap and bound to such a
height as completely to bury the reef and all upon
it, and effectually prevent any vessel or boat from
drawing near. On such days the men, you may
be sure, thanked God that they were housed
safely on the green shores of Devon.

The second summer was spent in building up a
solid circular mass of masonry, twelve feet high
and fourteen feet in diameter. In the third sum-
mer this huge pillar was enlarged two feet at the
base, and the superstructure was carried up to a
height of sixty feet. "Being all finished," says
the engineer, with the lantern, and all the rooms
that were in it, we ventured to lodge in the work.
But the first night the weather became bad, and
so continued, that it was eleven days before any
boats could come near us again; and not being


acquainted with the height of the sea's rising, we
were almost drowned with wet, and our provisions
in as bad a condition, though we worked day and
night as much as possible to make shelter for our-
selves. In this storm we lost some of our materials,
although we did what we could to save them;
but the boat then returning, we all left the house,
to be refreshed on shore: and as soon as the
weather did permit we returned and finished all,
and put up the light on the 14th November 16 9 8 ;
which being so late in the year, it was three days
before Christmas before we had relief to go on
shore again, and were almost at the last extremity
for want of provisions; but, by good Providence,
then two boats came with provisions and the
family that was to take care of the light; and so
ended this year's work."
In the course of the fourth summer the founda-
tions were considerably strengthened, and the re-
mainder of the work appertaining to the fabric
itself was completed. We are told, and the ex-
tant engravings show us, that it bore, in its
finished condition, a close resemblance to "a
Chinese pagoda, with open galleries and fantastic
projections." Round the lantern ran a wide open
gallery; so wide and open, indeed, that it was


possible, when the sea ran high, for a six-oared
boat to be lifted up by the waves and driven
through it. Such an edifice could not long with-
stand the violence of the gale or the fury of
the waters; but this much was gained by its con-
struction,-it was shown that a lighthouse could
be erected on this sea-girt rock, and, therefore,
the achievement deserves to be described as "one
of the most laudable enterprises which any heroic
mind could undertake, for it filled the breast of
the mariner with new hope."

Winstanley was very proud of his work, and
so convinced, it is said, of its thorough stability,
that he frequently expressed a wish to be under
its roof in the fiercest hurricane that ever blew
beneath the face of heaven, assured that it would
not shake one joist or beam. Heaven sometimes
takes the presumptuous at their word Win-
stanley, with his workmen and light-keepers, had
fixed his residence in the tower, when a tremendous
storm arose, which, on the 2 6th of November, 1702,
blew a hurricane of unprecedented violence. The
sea rolled its billows heavily, and the wind raged,
and masses of cloud darkened the horizon, and all
Nature seemed convulsed by the elemental strife.


When the dawn broke, the people of Plymouth
hastened to the beach, and turned their anxious
gaze towards the Eddystone. The waters swirled
and seethed around and about the rock; but
where was the lighthouse, the fantastic structure
raised by the ready brain and daring soul of
Winstanley ?
During the night it had been swept away, and
not a memorial remained of its ill-fated occupants.
The melancholy incident forms the theme of a
striking ballad by Jean Ingelow, which concludes
in the following manner:-
And it fell out, fell out at last,
That he would put to sea,
To scan once more his lighthouse-tower
On the rock o' destiny.
"And the winds woke, and the storm broke,
And wrecks came plunging in;
None in the town that night lay down
Or sleep or rest to win.
The great mad waves were rolling graves,
And each flung up its dead;
The seething flow was white below,
And black the sky o'erhead.
"And when the dawn, the dull gray dawn.
Broke on the trembling town,
And men looked south to the harbour mouth,
The lighthouse-tower was down!
"Down in the deep where he doth sleep
Who made it shine afar,
And then in the night that drowned its light,
Set, with his pilot star."


The usefulness of a beacon on the Eddystone
Rock had been so abundantly proved that it was
not long before an attempt was made to replace
Winstanley's unfortunate structure. A Captain
Lovet obtained a ninety-nine years' lease of the
rock from the Trinity House Corporation, and en-
gaged as his architect a silk-mercer on Ludgate
Hill, named John Rudyerd. The reasons that led
him to make so curious a choice are unknown,
but the event proved that it was a sensible one.
Rudyerd designed a graceful and even elegant
building, choosing a circle for the outline, and
studying the greatest simplicity, so as to offer the
least possible resistance to wind and wave.
In order to obtain a firm foundation, he divided
the surface of the rock into seven slightly unequal
stages, and in these he dug or excavated six and
thirty holes, varying in depth from twenty to thirty
inches. Each hole was six inches square at the
top, gradually narrowing to five inches, and then
again expanding and flattening to nine inches by
three at the bottom. Into these dove-tailed
cavities or sockets were inserted strong iron bolts,
weighing from two to five hundredweight, accord-
ing to length and structure.
These bolts held fast a course of squared oak-


timbers laid lengthwise on the lowest of the seven
stages, so as to reach the level of the stage or step
immediately above it. Another set of beams was
then laid diagonally covering those already laid, and
raising the level surface to the height of the third
stage. The next course was deposited longitudin-
ally, and the fourth diagonally, and so on alternately,
until a basement of solid timber was erected, two
courses higher than the highest point of the rock.
Rudyerd's lighthouse is generally described as
a fabric of wood; but this is incorrect. To obtain
the necessary solidity, and a sufficient weight to.
counteract the weight of the waters of the Channel,
he combined courses of Cornish granite with his
courses of timber, in the proportion of five to two,
so far as the basement went: that is, he laid two
courses of timber, and then five of granite, and
then two more of timber; all being firmly secured
by iron bolts and cramps. On this substructure,
which measured 63 feet in height, with a base of
23 feet, he raised four stories of timber, crowned
by an octagonal lantern, 10 feet 6 inches in
diameter, and a ball of 2 feet 3 inches in
diameter. The total elevation, from the lowest
surface of the rock to the top of this ball, was 92
feet. Rudyerd completed his work in 1709.


For a long period of years, nearly half a century,
it withstood the attacks of wind and wave, and
many a vessel was kept from destruction by its
warning light. On the 2nd of December 1755,
it was fated to fall before an unexpected enemy.
There were three keepers resident in the light-
house at the time. One of them, whose turn it
was to watch, entered the lantern, at about two
o'clock A.M., to snuff the candles, and, to his
horror, discovered it to be filled with smoke. On
opening the door which led to the balcony, to
permit of its escape, a flame instantly leaped from
the interior of the cupola. He hastened to alarm
his companions, and vigorous efforts were made
to extinguish the fire; but these proved ineffectual,
owing to the dryness of the woodwork, and the
difficulty of raising a sufficient supply of water to
the top of the building. Fortunately for the
keepers, the flames were described from the shore,
and a well-manned boat put off to their relief.
It reached the Eddystone about ten o'clock, when
the fire had been raging for eight hours. The build-
ing was wholly destroyed; and the keepers, who
had been driven away by the falling beams, the
red-hot iron, and molten lead, were found, in a
panic-stricken condition, crouching in a recess or


cavern on the east side of the rock. They were
carried into the boat, and conveyed ashore. Curi-
ous to relate, they were no sooner landed than
one of them stole away, and was never afterwards
heard of. His flight gave rise to a suspicion that
the fire was not accidental; yet, when we remem-
ber that a lighthouse rock affords no means of
escape for its inmates, we can hardly suppose it
to be the place an incendiary would select for
the scene of his wicked attempt. It is possible
that the man's nerves had been so tried by the
terrible nature of the peril he had undergone, that
he knew not what he did.
Of the other two light-keepers, one, named
Henry Hall, met with a singular fate. While
engaged in dashing some buckets of water on the
burning roof of the cupola, he chanced to look
upwards, and a mass of molten lead fell down
upon his head, face, and shoulders, burning him
severely. On his arrival ashore, he persisted in
asserting that a portion of the liquefied metal had
gone down his throat. His medical attendant
regarded the assertion as the offspring of a dis-
ordered imagination; but the man rapidly grew
worse, and on the twelfth day of his illness, after
an attack of violent convulsions, expired. A


post-mortem examination of his body then took
place, and Hall's story was found to be true; for
in the stomach lay a flat, oval piece of lead, seven
ounces and five drachms in weight!

Acting on the old maxim of "Try, try, and
try again," the Trinity House Corporation deter-
mined to erect another light-tower on the Eddy-
stone, and intrusted the work to a mathematical
instrument maker, named John Smeaton, who had
already acquired a reputation as an ingenious
Smeaton at this time was thirty-two years of
age. As we shall tell the story of his brave and
industrious life hereafter, it will suffice us now to
state that he had shown himself, in a variety of
experiences, skilful, prompt, patient, and inde-
fatigable; never baffled by a difficulty, fertile in
resource, and incapable of faltering in any enter-
prise he had deliberately undertaken.
On examining into the conditions of the task
which had devolved upon him, he came to the
conclusion that the structures of his predecessors
had both been deficient in weight; and that if
Rudyerd's had not been destroyed by fire, it would
not much longer have resisted the fury of the


tempest. He announced his intention, therefore,
of raising a fabric of such solidity that the sea
should give way to it, and not it to the sea; and
he determined to build it entirely of stone. More-
over, Winstanley and Rudyerd had wasted much
valuable time, from the difficulty of landing on
the rock, and the impossibility of working on it
continuously for any length of time. But Smea-
ton proposed to moor a vessel within a quarter of
a mile of the scene of action, which should ac-
commodate his company of workmen; and thus
they would be prepared to seize every opportunity
of launching their boat, and carrying their ma-
terials to the rock, instead of making a long
voyage from Plymouth on each occasion.
So far as concerned the design of his intended
erection, he was ready to adopt Rudyerd's idea of
a cone, but he proposed to enlarge its diameter
considerably; and the type he kept constantly
before his eye was the trunk of an oak tree, which
is equally remarkable for gracefulness and strength,
and withstands successfully the most furious gales,
when other forest trees are bent or broken.
The autumn of 1756 was occupied in the
transport of the granite and other materials to
the rock, in their preparation, and in the excava-


tion of the steps or stages on which the founda-
tion was to be laid.
Early in June 1757 the work of erection
began. The first stone, weighing two tons five
hundredweight, was laid on the 12th. On the
next day was finished the first course, consisting
of four stones, so ingeniously dove-tailed into one
another and into the rock as to form a single
compact mass. The sloping form of the rock, to
which the foundation was, of course, adapted, re-
quired only this small number of stones for the
first course; the diameter of the masonry gradually
increasing until the highest level surface was
reached. Thus :

4tt .. .... .
3rd C c ,,; "
2ndCoit >
1st Cour.

The second course, completed on the 30th of
June, consisted of thirteen blocks of granite; the
third course, completed on the 11th of July, of
twenty-five; the fourth, on the 31st, of thirty-
three.. The sixth course was laid down by the
11th of August; and as it rose above the high-


water mark, Smeaton was entitled to consider
that he had conquered the greatest difficulties of
his task.
Up to this point the mode of procedure in lay-
ing and fixing each great block of granite was as
follows :-
The stone to be set being hung in the tackle,
and its bed of mortar spread, was then lowered
into its place, beaten with a heavy wooden mall,
and levelled with a spirit-level.; and the stone
being accurately brought to its marks, was con-
sidered as set in its proper position. The next
thing was to keep it there, notwithstanding the
utmost violence of the sea might beat upon it
before the mortar was thoroughly hard and dry.
Therefore the carpenter dropped into a couple of
vertical grooves, which had been previously cut in
"the waist" of the stone, each an inch deep and
three inches wide, two oaken wedges, one upon
its head, the other with its point downwards, so
that the two in each groove would lie heads and
points. 7 With an iron bar, about two inches
and a A half broad, a quarter of an inch
thick, and two feet and a half long, he then drove
down one wedge upon the other-very gently
at first, so that the opposite pairs of wedges,
(521) 3


being equally tightened, would equally resist each
other, and the stone would therefore keep its
place. In like manner, a couple of wedges were
pitched at the top of each groove; the dormant
wedge (i.e., the one with the point upward)
being held in the hand, while the drift wedge
(i.e., the one with the point downward) was
driven with a hammer. So much as remained
above the upper surface of the stone was cut
away with saw or chisel; and, generally, a couple
of thin wedges were driven very moderately at
the butt-end of the stone, whose tendency being
to force it out of its dove-tail, they would, by
moderate driving, assist in preserving the steadi-
ness of the entire mass, in opposition to any vio-
lent agitation arising from the sea.
The stone thus firmly secured, a certain portion
of mortar was liquefied, and the joints having
been carefully "pointed," this liquid cement was
poured in with iron ladles, so as to occupy every
vacant space. The heavier part of the cement
naturally fell to the bottom, while the fluid was
absorbed by the stone. The vacancy thus left at
the top was repeatedly refilled, until all remained
solid; then the top was pointed, and, where ne-
cessary, defended by a layer of plaster.


The whole of the foundation having thus been
brought to a proper level, some other means were
required to secure a similar degree of solidity for
the superstructure.
A hole, one foot square, was accordingly cut
right through the middle of the central stone in
the sixth course; and at equal distances in the
circumference were sunk eight other sockets, each
one foot square, and six inches deep. A strong
plug of hard marble, also one foot square, but
twenty-two inches long, was driven into the afore-
mentioned central cavity, and set fast with mortar
and wedges. This course, however, was only
thirteen inches in depth; consequently the marble
plug rose nine inches above the surface.
Upon the block thus prepared was set the
central stone of the next course, having a similar
hole in the middle, so as to receive the upper
portion of the marble plug. Hence it is clear that
no force or pressure of the sea, acting horizontally
on any one of these central stones, could move it
from its position, unless it were able to cut in two
the marble plug; and to prevent the upper stone
from being lifted, in case its mortar was destroyed,
it was fixed down by four trenails. The blocks
surrounding the central were dove-tailed together


as before; and thus one course rose above another
without any interruption, except from the occa-
sional inrush of the waves or violence of the weather.
In his superintendence of the difficult and la-
borious work, Smeaton's activity and perseverance
were unwearied. As soon as it had been so far
accomplished as to present the appearance of a
level platform, he could not deny himself the
pleasure of a promenade upon it; but making a
false step, and being unable to recover himself, he
fell over the brink of the masonry, and among
the rocks on the west side. As it was low water
at the time, he received no serious injury. He
dislocated his thumb, however, and as medical as-
sistance was not available, he set it himself,-after-
wards returning to his work. The incident is
characteristic of the firmness and resolution which
Smeaton exhibited throughout his busy career.
The ninth course was laid on the 30th of Sep-
tember, and concluded the operations for the year.
On the 12th of May 1758, Smeaton and his
" merry men returned to the lonely wave-washed
rock, and were delighted to find their work in-
tact. The cement seemed to have become as hard
as the stone itself, from which, indeed, it was
scarcely distinguishable.


Lusty arms and willing hearts made rapid pro-
gress; and by September, the twenty-fourth course
was reached and laid. It completed the solid"
part of the building, and was designed to form
the floor of the store-room; so that Smeaton had
good reason to be satisfied with the progress
made. But he knew how great an advantage it
would be to exhibit a light in the coming winter;
and therefore he resolved on completing the store-
room, if within the range of the possible, and
planting a light above it.
The building had hitherto been carried up as a
solid mass of masonry, like a breakwater or sea-
wall, to a height of 35 feet 4 inches above its
base, and 27 feet above the summit of the rock.
It was now reduced to 16 feet in diameter. Of
this limited space it was needful to make good
use, so far as was consistent with the primary
and indispensable condition of strength. The
rooms were built with a diameter of 12 feet 4
inches, the walls being 2 feet 2 inches thick.
These walls were built up of single blocks, and so
shaped that a complete circle was formed by six-
teen pieces, which- were bound together with
strong iron clamps, and secured to the lower
courses by marble plugs in the fashion already


described. That no damp might make its way
through the vertical joints, flat stones were in-
troduced into each, in such a manner as to be
lodged partly in one block and partly in another.
With all these careful and ingenious contrivances,
the twenty-eighth course was completely set by
the 30th of September.
This and the next course received the vaulted
flooring, which answered the double purpose of
the ceiling of the lower and the floor of the upper
store-rooms. For additional security, a deep groove
was here cut into the outer surface of the course,
in which a massive iron chain was embedded in
molten lead. The next course was laid and set
after the same pattern; and by the 10th of October
Smeaton had nearly completed his arrangements
for establishing a light and lightkeepers at the
Eddystone, when they were interrupted by legal
difficulties, which had arisen between the lessee
of the rock and the Trinity House Corporation.
These were not settled until the following year,
so that Smeaton was unable to resume operations
before the 5th of July. He worked, however,
with so much vigour that the second stage was
finished by the 21st; and on the 29th the fortieth
course was set, and the third floor finished.


The main column, or body, of the lighthouse
was completed on the 17th of August, consisting
of forty-six courses of masonry, and attaining an
elevation of 70 feet. The last work done was
singularly appropriate : the masons carved the
words "Lais Deo" (Praise be to God!) on the last
stone set above the lantern. All honest work
should thus be dedicated to Him through whose
infinite goodness we are permitted to achieve it.
And, at an earlier date, Smeaton, in devout re-
cognition of ihe Eternal Power, had inscribed on
the course of masonry beneath the ceiling of the
upper store-rcom, "Except the LORD build the
house, they lalour in vain that build it." It was
in this spirit flat the great engineer entered upon
and accomplished his wonderful enterprises; and
it is in this )irit that each of us should go
through our daiy toil, as if feeling ourselves ever
in the immediate presence of our Father, and
knowing that ve strive, and endure, and hope,
and suffer beforehis all-seeing eye.
The iron-work of the balcony and lantern were
next erected, ana the gracefully strong and mas-
sive structure wa, crowned by a gilded ball.
The interior of Smeaton's lighthouse was (and
is) arranged as folows:-


On the ground-floor-Store-room, with a door-
way, but no windows.
First stage, or story-Upper store-room, with
two loopholed-windows.
Second stage-Kitchen, with fire-place and
sink; two settles, with lockers; a dresser, with
drawers; two cupboards; and a rack for dishes.
Four windows.
Third stage-Bedroom, with three cabin-beds,
each large enough for an adult; tree drawers,
and two lockers in each, to receive the clothing
and other property of the light-keepers. Four
Fourth-Lantern, with circular )ench, or seat.
In fixing the window-bars, Smetton met with
an accident which might easily have been attended
with fatal results. He thus describes the circum-
stances :-
"After the boat was gone, an[ it became so
dark that we could not see any longer to pursue
our occupations, I ordered a charcoal-fire to be
made in the upper store-room, in one of the iron
pots we used for melting lead, fc the purpose of
annealing the blank ends of thi bars; and they
were made hot all together in th charcoal. Most
of the workmen were set round he fire; and by


way of making ourselves comfortable, by screen-
ing ourselves and the fire from the wind, the
windows were shut, and, as well as I remember,
the copper cover or hatch put over the man-hole
of the floor of the room where the fire was-the
hatch above being left open for the heated vapour
to ascend. I remember to have looked into the
fire attentively to see that the iron was made hot
enough, but not overheated. I also remember I
felt my head a very little giddy; but the next
thing of which I had any sensation or idea was
finding myself upon the floor of the room below,
half drowned with water. It seems that, without
being further sensible of anything to give me
warning, the effluvia of the charcoal so suddenly
overcame all sensation, that I dropped down upon
the floor; and had not the people hauled me down
to the room below, where they did not spare for
cold water to throw in my face and upon me, I
certainly should have expired upon the spot."
Smeaton, however, was reserved for useful ser-
vice; and on the 16th of October the welcome
light shone once more from the dreaded Eddy-
stone Rock. And the storm-tossed mariner, as
he saw in the distance its helpful ray, and was
guided by it how to steer his course, gratefully


acknowledged the genius and resolution of the
man who had raised it above the whirl of waters,
and planted it in a tower so fair and strong.
For more than a century it has withstood the
storm, an enduring monument to the fame of its
great architect. At times, when the billows roll
in from the Atlantic with more than ordinary
fury, and the white-crested waters come up the
Channel under the impulse of a south-west gale,
the lighthouse is shrouded in spray, and its flame
for a moment obscured. But the shadow passes
away, and again across the wild waves it shines
like a signal-star. Occasionally, when a mighty
wave strikes it, the central mass of water runs up
the tall, shapely column, and leaps quite over the
lantern; or it beats against the masonry, as if to
topple it from its foundation, and the windows
rattle, and the building seems smitten with a
sharp shudder. But the wind dies down, and
the sea grows calm, leaving the lighthouse firmly
planted on its rock.

^**^-. :.

i^^ I
,- ; "- .- ".. .- ". *



OHN SMEATON, one of the most dis-
tinguished of British engineers, was
born at Austhorpe Lodge, near Leeds,
on the 8th of June 1724.
His father was a respectable attorney, who
came of an old Yorkshire family; his mother, a
quick-witted, firm, gentle-mannered woman, was
not unworthy of such a son. He was taught at
home during his earlier years, and a happy home
it was. Leeds, in those days, had not attained to
its present immense proportions, and Austhorpe
was completely in the country, sheltered by the
noble park and overhanging woods of Temple-
Newsham. There was ample scope for the healthy,
active boy, to indulge himself in his favourite pur-
suits, which had all of them a mechanical char-
acter. He was never so happy, says one of his


biographers, as when put in possession of any cut-
ting tool, by which he could make his little imi-
tations of houses, pumps, and wind-mills. Even
while still in petticoats, he was continually divid-
ing circles and squares; and the only playthings
in which he took a genuine pleasure were his
working models. If any carpenters or masons
chanced to be employed in the neighbourhood of
Austhorpe, the boy was sure to find his way
amongst them; and there he would spend hour
after hour, watching the men at work, and ob-
serving how they handled their tools. Holmes
tells us that, having one day taken due note of
the operations of some mill-wrights, shortly after-
wards, to the terror of his family, he was seen
fixing a rude likeness of a wind-mill on the top
of his father's barn.
Another time, when watching the procedure of
a party of men engaged in refixing the village
pump, he was fortunate enough to obtain from
them a piece of bored pipe, which he succeeded in
fastening into a working-pump that actually raised
At a proper age, the boy was sent to the Leeds
grammar-school, where he received, it is supposed,
the largest part of his school instruction. In geo-


metry and arithmetic he made very rapid pro-
gress; but, as is the case with most clever and
industrious boys, he learned more at home than
at school. Every leisure moment was occupied
by his tools and machines. He acquired, in time,
a mechanical dexterity and ingenuity which were
really surprising, and availed him in the per-
formance of some amusing surprises. Thus, it
happened that some mechanics came into the
neighbourhood to erect a "fire-engine," as the
steam-engine was then called, for the purpose of
pumping water from the Garforth coal-mines, and
day after day Smeaton visited the spot for the
purpose of watching their operations.
Carefully examining their methods, he made
use of the knowledge so acquired to construct a
miniature engine at home, appropriately equipped
with pumps and other apparatus; and he even
succeeded in setting it in motion before the col-
liery engine was completed. He first tried its
powers upon one of the fish-ponds in front of the
house at Austhorpe, which he quickly contrived
to pump dry, and so killed all the fish in it, greatly
to the surprise as well as the annoyance of his
Working on in this way, with assiduous appli-


cation, young Smeaton, by the time he had arrived.
at his fifteenth year, had made a turning-lathe, on
which he turned wood and ivory; and it was his
delight to make presents of little boxes and other
articles of his own manufacture to his friends.
He also learned to work in metals, which he fused
and forged without any assistance; and by the
age of eighteen he handled his tools as dexterously
as any regular smith or joiner.
"In the year 1742," says Mr. Holmes, his
biographer and friend, "I spent a month at his
father's house; and being intended myself for a
mechanical employment, and a few years younger
than he was, I could not but view his works with
astonishment. He forged his iron and steel, and
melted his metal. He had tools of every sort for
working in wood, ivory, and metals. He had
made a lathe, by which he cut a perpetual screw
in brass-a thing little known at that day, and
which, I believe, was the invention of Mr. Henry
Hindley of york, with whom I served my appren-
ticeship. Mr. Smeaton soon became acquainted
with him, and spent many a night at Mr. Hind-
ley's house till daylight, conversing on these sub-
In his sixteenth year, our hero-for every


biographer must have a hero-was removed from
school to his father's office, where he was engaged
in the uncongenial task of copying dreary legal
folios, and acquiring as much knowledge of law
as might fit him for an attorney's profession.
As Mr. Smeaton had a good connection in Leeds,
he not unnaturally wished his son to profit by it;
but the future engineer revolted from Black-
stone's Commentaries" and "Coke upon Little-
ton;" and though, like a good son, he attended
'assiduously to his office duties, every day he
found the burden of a detested occupation heavier
to bear. Towards the end of 1742, partly with
the view of furthering his professional duties, and
partly for the sake of taking him away from his
all-engrossing mechanical pursuits, Mr. Smeaton
sent him to London. Here he made a vigorous
attempt to subdue his tastes to his father's wishes;
but utterly failing, he wrote to him an earnest
appeal for permission to follow what was clearly
an unconquerable bias.
With equal kindness and wisdom, his father
consented, and young Smeaton immediately en-
tered the service of a philosophical instrument-
maker. He applied himself to his new vocation
with such admirable energy, and it was so entirely


fitted to the measure of his talents, that in a very
short time he was able to relieve his father from
all expenses connected with his maintenance.
It is not to be supposed that a young man with
so much strength of purpose and clearness of in-
tellect would devote himself only to the mechanical
part of his profession. He read industriously and
methodically, so as to obtain a knowledge of the
principles of theoretical science; he sought the
society of educated men; he regularly attended
the meetings and lectures of the Royal Society.
He started in business on his own account in
1750, when he was only twenty-six; and in the
same year he read a paper before the Royal
Society on certain improvements effected by him-
self and Dr. Knight in the mariner's compass.
In 1751 he invented a machine to measure a
ship's way at sea, and experimented with it in a
voyage down the Thames, and in a short cruise
on board the Fortune sloop-of-war.
The activity and fertility of his mind are abun-
dantly demonstrated by the nature of the work
which occupied him in the following year. In
April we read of a paper from his pen detailing
certain improvements which he had contrived in
the air-pump; in June he describes an ingenious


modification in ship-tackle by means of pulleys,
so arranged that one man might easily raise a ton
weight; in November he describes certain expe-
riments which had been made with Captain
Savary's steam-engine, the precursor of James
Watt's. Meantime he was engaged in researches
into the Natural Powers of Water and Wind to
Turn Mills and other Machines depending on a
Circular Motion;" which afterwards gained him
the Royal Society's gold medal-almost the
highest honour a man of science can receive in
England. Now, it is obvious that to accomplish
so much honest and valuable work, and at the
same time to carry on his business, required great
application, great energy, great method. And it
must be conceded that throughout life Smeaton
was an unwearied seeker after knowledge; that his
two main objects were, self-improvement and the
public welfare; self-improvement being necessary
that he might render the gifts he possessed of the
highest possible usefulness to society. One of his
maxims," says Smiles, "was, that 'the abilities
of the individual are a debt due to the common
stock of public happiness;' and the steadfastness
with which he devoted himself to useful work,
in which he at the same time found his own true
(521) 4


happiness, shows that the maxim was no mere
lip-utterance on his part, but formed the very
mainspring of his life. From an early period he
carefully laid out his time with a view to getting
the most good out of it: so much for study, so
much for practical experiments, so much for busi-
ness, and so much for rest and relaxation."
Let the young reader take note of this, and in
like manner find for everything its fitting and
sufficient time. There is much wisdom in the
adage, "A place for everything, and everything
in its place;" but it is equally necessary that
there should be "an hour for everything, and
everything in its hour." The best talents, the
best opportunities, will be wholly wasted, unless
their possessor can recognize the value of method.
The man who does not systematize his time, who
does not economize it so as to accomplish in each
day the largest possible amount of work, with-
out haste or unhealthy pressure, will make but an
indifferent use of his gifts, and will assuredly lose
many precious hours. He will be always too
late; always endeavouring to overtake the lost
moments, and never succeeding in doing so; until
at length such a weight will accumulate upon him
of work undone and opportunities neglected, that,


in his exhaustion and discontent, he will lose all
hope, and sink into the idleness of apathy. Method
is the secret of success : the methodical student
will get out of the twenty-four hours all that it
is possible to get out of them; while the irregular
and disorderly will lose a more or less consider-
able portion of them, according to the degree of
his want of system.
Smeaton devoted a portion of his time to the
study of French, in order that he might be able
to read the valuable scientific treatises contained in
that language, and also that he might be able to
take a journey which he contemplated into the
Low Countries, for the purpose of inspecting the
great canal works of the Dutch engineers.
He carried out his intention in 1754, when he
traversed Holland and Belgium-mostly on foot,
or in the truclcschuyts or canal boats, which form
the national conveyance of those countries-and
carefully inspected the most remarkable achieve-
ments of mechanical science in the districts through
which he passed.
It was with no little interest he found him-
self in a land which has been literally rescued
from the sea by the efforts of human skill and
industry; a great portion of which, even in com-


paratively modern times, was buried deep beneath
the waters of ocean; a land to which nature has
been so unkindly, and for which man has done so
much. In a certain sense, Holland is the crea-
tion, as well as the trophy, of the engineer; and
wherever Smeaton went, he found himself in the
engineer's track. From Rotterdam he travelled
by Delft, famous for its pottery, and the Hague,
to the great commercial emporium of Amsterdam,
and thence, as far north as Helder, examining
with critical attention the huge dikes and em-
bankments raised by the labour of man to prevent
the sea from recovering its own.
At Amsterdam he saw with delight and sur-
prise its admirable harbour and spacious docks.
In Smeaton's time, London had no accommoda-
tion of this description, and the numerous fleets
which flocked to the British metropolis dropped
anchor in the Thames, and loaded and unloaded
at the river quays.
Passing round the country by Utrecht, he pro-
ceeded to inspect the great sea-sluices at Brill
and Helvoetsluys, through which the inland
waters found a channel of egress, while the bil-
lows of ocean were prevented from forcing an
entrance. During this journey he made copious


notes of all he saw, and the information thus
acquired was of great use to him in his after-
labours as a canal and harbour engineer.
He returned to England in 1755 ; and shortly
afterwards the opportunity came to him which,
we believe, comes to every man of industrious
habits and steadfast purpose-the opportunity,
by a prudent employment of which, we may place
ourselves in a position to turn our gifts to good
account, and do something for the advantage of
our fellows. The lighthouse erected by Rudyerd
on the Eddystone Rock, of which we have already
given a description, was swept away by a destruc-
tive fire on the 2nd of December, and it became
necessary to replace it by a new one. The pro-
prietors applied to the President of the Royal
Society to recommend to them an engineer who
might be safely intrusted with a work so im-
portant. The then President, the Earl of Mac-
clesfield, replied that there was one of their own
body whom he could venture to recommend for
the work; yet that the most material part of
what he knew of him was his having, within the
compass of the last seven years, recommended
himself to the Society by the communication of
several mechanical contrivances and improvements;


and though he had at first made it his business to
execute things in the instrument way (without
ever having been bred to the trade), yet, on ac-
count of the merit of his performances, he had
been chosen a member of the Society; and that,
for about three years past, having found the busi-
ness of a philosophical instrument-maker not likely
to afford an adequate recompense, he had wholly
applied himself to various branches of mechanics."
Upon this recommendation the proprietors acted,
and Smeaton was engaged to erect the Eddystone
The subject was wholly new to him, and there-
fore, as was his custom, he began to investigate
it in all its bearings before he took any decisive
step. One of the earliest conclusions at which
he arrived was, that the new lighthouse ought to
be built of stone, as the most durable and the
safest material. He came to this decision from a
careful examination of the plans and models of the
two former lighthouses, which showed him that
their leading defect was want of weight; of weight
sufficient not only to resist the sea, but to compel
the sea to yield to the building, so that it might
neither rock in the winds nor tremble before the


As soon as he had made up his mind as to the
principles on which the lighthouse should be con-
structed, he paid a visit to its intended site. He
arrived at Plymouth about the end of March, but
it was the 2nd of April before he could embark
for the Eddystone, owing to the violence of the
wind and the heavy sea that was running in the
Channel. On reaching the rock, the billows beat
upon it with so much fury that it was impossible
to land. All that Smeaton could do was to view
the rocky cone-" the mere crest of the mountain
whose base was laid so far down in the sea-deeps
beneath-over which the waves were lashing, and
to form a more adequate idea of the very narrow
as well as turbulent site on which he was expected
to erect his building."
Three days later, however, he ventured on a
second trip, when he succeeded in landing on the
rock, and thoroughly examining it. The only
traces he could find of the lighthouses erected by
his predecessors were the iron branches fixed by
Rudyerd, and remains of those fixed by Win-
On a third voyage to the rock, Smeaton was
baffled by the wind, which compelled him to
return to harbour without even obtaining a sight


of it. After five more days, during which the
engineer was employed in looking out a proper
site for a work-yard, and examining the granite
in the neighbourhood for the purposes of the
building, he made a fourth voyage, and although
the vessel reached the rock, the wind blew so
freshly and the breakers dashed so furiously that
it was again found impossible to land. He could
only direct the boat to lie off and on, while he
watched the breaking of the sea and its action on
the reef. A fifth trial, after the lapse of a week,
proved equally unsuccessful. After rowing about
all day with the wind ahead, the party found
themselves at night about four miles from the
Eddystone, near which they anchored until morn-
ing; but a storm of wind and rain arising, they
were compelled to return to Plymouth without
succeeding in their object.
The sixth attempt-we record these minute
particulars because they give such a vivid illustra-
tion of Smeaton's persevering energy-was suc-
cessful, and on the 22nd of April, after the lapse
of seventeen days, Mr. Smeaton landed a second
After a careful inspection, the party retired to
their sloop, which lay off until the tide had fallen,


when Smeaton again landed, and the night being
very calm, he continued on the rock until nine in
the evening.
On the 23rd he again landed, and pursued his
operations; but this time he was interrupted by
the ground-swell, which dashed the waves upon
the reef, and, the wind rising, the sloop was forced
to put back to Plymouth. During this visit, how-
ever, our engineer had secured some fifteen hours'
occupation on the rock, and taken the dimen-
sions of all its parts, to enable him to construct
an accurate model of the foundation of the pro-
posed structure. To correct the drawing, how-
ever, and to insure the utmost exactness, he deter-
mined upon attempting an eighth and final voyage
of inspection on the 28th of April.
Again the violence of the sea foiled him in his
Another fortnight passed, a fortnight of un-
favourable weather; but the time was not wasted.
The engineer elaborated his design, and made all
the preliminary arrangements to proceed with the
work. He also drew up a careful code of regula-
tions for the instruction and government of the
artificers and others who were to be employed
upon it. And this being done, he arranged for a


journey to London, but not until he had paid three
more visits to the rock for the purpose of correct-
ing his measurements.
In August 1756, as we have already related,
the erection of the lighthouse was begun, and
operations were continued until the end of Novem-
ber, in spite of the obstacles offered by a violent
sea and unfavourable winds.
The return of the workmen to port, in their
store-vessel the Neptune, was safely accomplished,
though the voyage was not unattended with
Unable, in consequence of the violence of the
gale, to make Plymouth harbour, the Neptune
was steered for Fowey, on the coast of Cornwall.
Higher and higher rose the wind, until it blew
quite a storm; and in the night Mr. Smeaton,
hearing a sudden alarm and outcry amongst the
crew overhead, ran upon deck half-dressed to
learn the cause. It was raining heavily, and the
hurricane lashed the waters into a whirlpool of
spray and foam. "It being very dark," says
Smeaton, "the first thing I saw was the horrible
appearance of breakers almost surrounding us;
John Bowden, one of the seamen, crying out,
'For God's sake, heave hard at that rope, if you


mean to save your lives !' I immediately laid
hold of the rope, at which he himself was hauling
as well as the other seamen, though he was also
managing the helm. I not only hauled with all
my strength, but called to and encouraged the
workmen to do the same thing." The sea was
dashing with terrible fury, and with a roar which
drowned all other sounds, upon the rocks. The
Neptune's jib-sail was all at once rent into a
thousand shreds; and to save the main-sail, it
was lowered, when, happily, the vessel obeyed her
helm, swung round, and put out to sea. At day-
break her crew found themselves out of sight of
land, and driving towards the Bay of Biscay.
But as the gale had abated, they soon got the
vessel's head round again, and stood for the coast.
Before night they sighted the Land's End, but
could not then make the shore. For another night
and day they were tossed to and fro, almost help-
lessly. A vessel coming in sight, they exhibited
signals of distress; she bore down, and directed
them how to steer for the Scilly Islands. The
wind veering round, however, they bore up again
for the Land's End, passed the Lizard and Rame
Head, and, finally, after being blown about at sea
for four days, dropped anchor in Plymouth Sound,


much to their own contentment and to the satis-
faction of their friends, who were despairing of
their reappearance.
Having fully described the gradual erection of
the Eddystone lighthouse in a previous chapter,
we will not weary the reader with a repetition of
details with which he is already acquainted. But
reference may appropriately be made to the energy
and restless activity with which Smeaton watched
the progress of the enterprise. If there was any
position of danger his men hesitated to occupy, he
immediately stepped forward and took the foremost
place. One morning, in the summer of 1757,
when heaving up the moorings of the store-ship,
preparatory to starting for the rock, the links of
the buoy chain were exposed to a considerable
strain upon the davit-roll, which was of cast-iron,
and began to bend upon its convex surface. To
remedy this, Smeaton ordered the carpenter to
cut some trenails into small pieces, and split each
length into two, with the view of applying them
between the chain and the roll at the flexure of
each link, so as to relieve the strain. One of the
men remarked that if the chain should break any-
where between the roll and the tackle, the person
engaged in inserting the wooden wedges might be


cut in two by the chain, or carried overboard
along with it. Smeaton, who never required
others to undertake what he would not do him-
self, immediately put aside his men, took the
" post of honour," as he called it, and superintended
the getting in of the chain, link by link, until it
was all on board.
We borrow the following interesting sketch
from Mr Smiles:-
While living at Plymouth, he says, the restless,
enthusiastic engineer was accustomed every morn-
ing to take his post on the grassy summit of the
Hoe, and with his telescope to survey the famous
The Hoe is an elevated promenade, occupying
a high ridge of land between Mill Bay and the
entrance to the harbour, with the citadel at its
eastern extremity. It forms the seaport of Ply-
mouth, and commands the beautiful and varied
scenery of the Sound. In front of it lies St.
Nicholas's Island, bristling with fortifications;
beyond, rising in verdurous slopes and terraces
from the water's edge, is Mount Edgcumbe Park,
with its masses of luxuriant foliage backed by
green hills. The land juts out on either side the
bay in rocky points, which are crowned with forts


and batteries; while in the distance now, though
not in Smeaton's time, extends the nobly massive
rampart of the breakwater, midway between the
bluffs of Redding and Staddon Points, so as to
arrest the long roll of the Atlantic waves, and
protect the placid expanse of the great harbour.
It was from the Hoe that our ancestors first de-
scried the immense array of the Spanish Armada
advancing threateningly toward the English coast.
It was the favourite watch-tower, so to speak, of
Sir Francis Drake in those times of difficulty and
peril, as it was now of Smeaton in less critical
circumstances: and it may be added, that these
two men, each so illustrious in his special vocation,
possessed many characteristic qualities in common;
perseverance, patience, heroic endurance, indomit-
able resolution; the qualities, in fact, by which
great deeds are accomplished.
Smeaton, when he ascended the Hoe after a
stormy night at sea, had neither eye nor thought
for the picturesque beauties or historical associa-
tions of the scene before him. All he could think
of was his lighthouse on the rock. He knew that
he had brought the fullest resources of skill, and
care, and prevision to bear upon its erection, yet
he could not avoid a feeling of anxiety as to the


security of the foundation. Many there were who
still went about asserting that no fabric of stone
could possibly stand upon the wave-worn, wind-
beaten rock; and again and again the engineer,
in the first dim light of morning, came to see if
their ill-omened predictions had been fulfilled.
Sometimes he had to wait long, until he could see
a tall white column of spray rise aloft into the
morning air. Then he breathed freely, and shut
up his telescope, and thanked God that his labour
had not been undone. And as the morning
advanced, and the light ,grew fuller and stronger,
he was able to discern his shapely light-tower,
standing, erect and firm, above the whirl of

The Eddystone lighthouse, as Mr. Smiles re-
marks, has now withstood the storms of a century,
and at the moment we write it still occupies its
advanced position, in front of the dangerous south-
western coast, a remarkable monument to the
genius and perseverance of its architect. At
times, when the swell of the Atlantic rushes up
the Channel with more than ordinary violence,
impelled by a south-west wind, its tall pillar is
shrouded in thick wreaths of spray, and its keen


light-star for a moment is obscured. But the
cloud passes, and again the welcome radiance
streams across the waters, at once a guide and a
warning to the homeward-bound. Occasionally
a strong wave will strike full upon it, and its
central portion, swiftly gliding up the perpendicular
shaft, leaps, with one tremendous bound, over the
lantern. At other times, a billow will break
against it with a fury which seems to menace the
security of its foundation. To those within, the
report is like that of heavy artillery, and the
windows rattle, and the whole building quivers
from top to base. But the shudder which then
runs throughout the lighthouse, instead of being a
sign of weakness, is the strongest proof of the
unity and close connection of the fabric in all its

"Many a heart has leapt with gladness at the
cry of 'The Eddystone in sight!' sung out from
the main-top. Homeward-bound ships, from far-
off ports, no longer avoid the dreaded rock, but
eagerly run for its light as the harbinger of safety.
It might even seem as if Providence had placed
the reef so far out at sea as the foundation for a
beacon such as this, leaving it to man's skill and


labour to finish His work. On entering the Eng-
lish Channel from the west and south, the cautious
navigator feels his way by careful soundings on the
great bank which extends from the Channel into
the Atlantic; and these are repeated at fixed
intervals until land is in sight. Every fathom
nearer shore increases a ship's risks, especially
in nights when, tq use the seaman's phrase, it is
' as dark as a pocket.' The men are on the look-
out, peering anxiously into the dark, straining the
eye to catch the glimmer of a light; and when it
is known that 'the Eddystone is in sight,' a
thrill runs through the ship, which can only be
appreciated by those who have felt or witnessed
it after long months of weary voyaging. Its
gleam across the waters has thus been a source of
joy, and given a sense of relief to thousands; for
the beaming of a clear light from one known and
fixed spot is infallible in its truthfulness, and a
safer guide for the seaman than the bearings of
many hazy and ill-defined headlands."

We find little record of Smeaton's engagements
between 1759, when he completed his great
undertaking, and 1764, when he applied for
and obtained the appointment of receiver for the
(521) 5


Derwentwater Estates.* It may be, as one of
his biographers remarks, that, as yet, there was
little demand in England for the constructive
skill of so bold and able an engineer. Not but
that there was work enough: for the highways
were in a deplorable condition; in many districts
intercommunication was rendered difficult by the
want of sufficient bridges; in the commercial
ports of the country dock accommodation was al-
most unknown; but England was then too poor, or
her energies were too exclusively concentrated upon
maritime enterprise and colonial extension, for her
to undertake to supply these deficiencies on any
extensive scale.
His reputation, however, was gradually extend-
ing throughout the kingdom, and in 1760 we
find him consulted by the magistrates of Dum-
fries respecting the improvement of the Nith.
He was similarly consulted as to the lockage of
the river Wear, the opening up of the navigation
of the Chelmer to Chelmsford, of the Don above
Doncaster, of the Devon in Clackmannanshire, of
the Tetney Haven navigation near Louth, and
the improvement of the river Lea; but the im-
These estates were confiscated by the Crown, on the death of the last
E Lrl of Derwentwater,-executed for high treason,-and conferred by Par-
liament on Greenwich Hospital.


provements he recommended do not seem to have
been carried out, through want of funds. In
truth, his first great engineering enterprise was
undertaken in his own county, where he was
employed in extensive repairs of the dams and
locks on the river Calder; and he effected many
important improvements in that navigation, which
confirmed the general belief in his skill and
judgment. At the same time he carried out ex-
tensive works on the river Aire from Leeds to
its junction with the Ouse.
To, Smeaton also is mainly due the recovery
of the inundated lands in the Lincoln Fens, and
in the low levels between Doncaster and Hull.
The river Witham, between Lincoln and Boston,
was still, it is said, a source of constant grief and
loss to the farmers along its banks. It had be-
come choked up by neglect, so that not only had
the navigation of the river become almost lost,
but a large extent of otherwise valuable land was
constantly laid under water."
At a still later period he undertook to improve
the drainage of the North Level of the Fens, and
the outfall of the Nene at Wisbeach. For this
purpose he recommended the construction of a
powerful outfall-sluice at the mouth of the Nene.


Other works in which he was consulted, and
in which his engineering ability was signally
manifested, may here be mentioned: the drain-
age of the lands adjacent to the river Went, in
Yorkshire; of the Earl of Kinnoul's lands lying
along the Almond and the Tay, in Perthshire;
the Adling Fleet Level, at the junction of the
Ouse and the Trent; Hotham Carrs, near Market-
Weighton; the Lewes Laughton Level, in Sussex;
the Potterick Carr Fen, near Doncaster; the
Torksey Bridge Fen, near Gainsborough; and
the Holderness Level, near Hull.
In 1763, he was called upon by the Corpora-
tion of London to advise them as to the best
means of improving, widening, and enlarging Old
London Bridge. In order to accommodate the
increased traffic on the river, two arches of the
bridge had been thrown into one, but with the
effect of so augmenting the rush of the water as
to loosen the adjoining piers, by washing away
the bed of the river under their foundations.
The alarm was so great that few persons would
pass either over or under the bridge; and the
Corporation hastily summoned Smeaton, who was
then in Yorkshire, to their assistance. On his
arrival, he proceeded immediately to examine


the bridge, and to sound about the foundations of
the piers as minutely as possible. He then ad-
vised the Corporation to repurchase the stones of
the city gates, which had recently been taken
down and their material sold, and cast them into
the river outside the starting, or buttresses of
the piers, to protect them from the action of the
tide. His advice was adopted; and simple as
were the means suggested, they proved entirely
This method of checking the impetuous rav-
ages of water, says Holmes, he had practised be-
fore with success on the river Calder. "On my
calling on him in the neighbourhood of Wakefield,
he showed me the effects of a great flood, which
had made a considerable passage over the land;
this he stopped at the bank of the river, by
throwing in a quantity of large, rough stones,
which, with the sand and other materials washed
down by the river, filling up their interstices,
had become a barrier to keep the river in its
usual course."

Smeaton next appears in the character of a
bridge-builder. The handsome- bridges at Perth,
Coldstream, and Banff were erected by him.


With reference to the first of these, it should be
explained that the Tay being subject to frequent
inundations, it was requisite that great care should
be taken with the foundations, which were laid
down by means of coffer-dams. That is, a row
of piles was driven into the river-bed, and round
about and between them was thrown a quantity
of gravel and earth mixed together, so as to
render the enclosed space impervious to water.
Pumping power was then applied, and the bed of
the river within the coffer-dam was laid com-
pletely dry; after which the soil was excavated
to a proper depth, and a firm foundation obtained
for the piles. Piles were driven into the earth
underneath the intended foundation-frame, and
then the building was carried upwards in the
usual way.
The Perth bridge is a handsome structure, con-
sisting of seven principal arches, and measures
about nine hundred feet in length. It was com-
pleted and opened for traffic in 1772.
His success in this notable undertaking secured
him a very considerable amount of engineering
business in the North. At Edinburgh he found
employment in improving the water-supply for
that city; at Glasgow, in strengthening and


securing the old bridge. Far more important
were the works he executed in designing and
constructing the Forth and Clyde Canal, which
links together the east and west coasts of Scot-
land, the North Sea and the Irish Sea.
After a careful examination of the various
lines which had been proposed for the canal,
Smeaton strongly recommended the adoption of
the most direct route possible, and suggested that
the depth of the canal should be sufficient to ac-
commodate vessels of large burden. Lord Dun-
das, the principal promoter of the scheme, adopted
Smeaton's ideas, and took the necessary steps for
obtaining an Act to authorize the construction of
the Forth and Clyde Canal, which was accord-
ingly commenced in 1768.
This canal runs nearly parallel with the famous
wall of Antoninus, erected by the Romans to
protect the southern Lowlands from the predatory
attacks of the wild tribes of Caledonia. It
begins at a point near Grangemouth, on the
Forth, and ends at Bowling, on the Clyde, a
few miles below Glasgow. Its length is about
38 miles, and it includes 39 locks, with an ele-
vation of 156 feet from the sea to the summit-


It was one of the most difficult works, we are
told, which, up to that time, had been constructed
in Great Britain. The engineer's resources were
severely tested by the occurrence of rocks and
quicksands: in some places the canal was carried
over deep rivers, in others along embankments
exceeding twenty feet in height. It traverses
numerous roads and scores of rivulets; besides
the streams of the Luggie (celebrated by the
peasant-poet David Gray), and the Kelvin (im-
mortalized by Burns). The bridge over the
latter is 275 feet long and 68 feet high. The
depth of the canal averages 8 feet. The total
cost of the undertaking did not amount to

Smeaton's next engagement was to construct a
bridge across the Tweed at Coldstream. It con-
sists of five principal arches, of which the central
has a span of 60 feet 8 inches ; the two lateral,
of 60 feet 5 inches each; and the two land or
side arches, 58 feet. It was completed at a
total cost of about 6000; and opened in October
1766, having been upwards of three years in
building. It will serve to show the great ad-
vance that has been made in engineering science


since the days of Smeaton, when we state that a
similar bridge could now be erected in nine
months; though, owing to the rise in wages.and
in the price of materials, at a much greater cost.
Smeaton also furnished the design for the
bridge over the river Deveron, near Banff, in
Scotland. It consists of seven arches, segments
of circles, and measures 410 feet in length, and
20 feet in width. It resembles, in its leading
features, the bridge at Perth; and its simple yet
graceful aspect, added to the exceeding beauty of
its position, renders it a much-admired object,
and one of great pictorial interest.
Smeaton built only one bridge in England,
and, strange to say, it was his only failure.
He was requested, in 1777, to furnish a design
for a bridge to be erected across the Tyne
at Hexham; and a very handsome structure,
of nine arches, it proved to be. But it had
scarcely been finished before a subsidence took
place in the foundation of one of the piers; and
an attempt was made to remedy the defect by
"sheet-piling," and by filling up the cavities in
the river's bed with rough rubble-stones.
In the spring of 1782, however, a violent
spate' swept down the river, and in the course of


a few hours the beautiful Hexham Bridge lay in
ruin at the bottom of the Tyne. Writing to
his engineer, he said :-" All our honours are
now in the dust! It cannot now be said that
in the course of thirty years' practice, and [after
being] engaged in some of the most difficult
enterprises, not one of Smeaton's works has
failed! Hexham Bridge is a melancholy in-
stance to the contrary......The news came to
me like a thunderbolt, as it was a stroke I least
expected, and even yet can scarcely form a
practical belief as to its reality. There is, how-
ever, one consolation that attends this great mis-
fortune; and that is, that I cannot see that any-
body is really to blame, or that anybody is
blamed, as we all did our best, according to
what appeared; and all the experience I have
gained is, not to attempt to build a bridge upon
a gravel bottom in a river subject to such violent

Among his various engineering enterprises,
Smeaton was employed in the improvement and
construction of various harbours.
His first work of this kind was at St. Ives, in
Cornwall. Here he received much help from


nature, which had provided a well-sheltered bay
enclosed between two elevated headlands, known as
the Island and Penower Point, respectively. Thus
it was protected from the winds of the north,
west, and south, and from the prevalent storms
from the south-west, which beat with so much
violence on the iron-bound Cornish coast. All
that Smeaton, therefore, had to do, was to afford
security for shipping from gales rising in the east
and north-east; and this he effected by construct-
ing a pier running nearly south from the southern
angle of the Island. The port thus formed has
proved of great advantage to the town, which is
now one of the principal seats of the pilchar
fishery, and the emporium of a busy mining
Smeaton's skill was also called into requisition
for many other harbours: Whitehaven, Working-
ton, and Bristol, on the west coast; Rye, Christ-
church, and Dover, on the south; and Yar-
mouth, Lynn, Scarborough, and Sunderland, on
the east.
His principal work in harbour-construction,
however, was that which he accomplished at
The proximity of this harbour to the Downs,"


says Mr. Smiles, "and to the mouth of the Thames,
rendered it of considerable importance; and its
improvement for purposes of trade, as well as for
the shelter of distressed vessels in stormy weather,
was long regarded as a matter of almost national
importance. The neighbourhood of Sandwich
was first proposed for a harbour of refuge as early
as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and the subject
was revived in succeeding reigns. In 1737,
Labelye, the architect of [old] Westminster Bridge,
was called upon to investigate the subject; and
ten years later, a committee of the House of
Commons, after taking full evidence and obtain-
ing ever: information, reported that 'a safe and
commodious harbour may be made into the
Downs near Sandown Castle, fit for the reception
and security of large merchantmen and ships of
war, which would also be of great advantage to
the naval power of Great Britain.' The esti-
mated cost of the proposed harbour was, however,
considered too formidable, although it was under
half a million; and the project lay dormant until
a violent storm occurred in the Downs in 1748,
by which a great number of ships, were forced
from their anchors and driven on shore. Several
vessels, however, found safety in the little haven


at Ramsgate, which was then only used by fisher-
men, the whole extent of its harbour accommo-
dation consisting merely of a rough rubble-pier."
It would seem that this circumstance once
more directed the attention of the public to Rams-
gate as a suitable site for a harbour of refuge for
vessels caught in a gale in the Downs.
Petitions on the subject were addressed to the
House of Commons, and the Government taking
it up, an Act was passed in 1749 authorizing the
construction of a harbour at Ramsgate.
The trustees invited plans from various indi-
viduals, and from these selected a curious com-
bination; adopting the west pier of one of the
amateur engineers, and the east pier of another,
the former to be of stone, and the latter of tim-
ber. The east pier was designed by a trustee;
the west, by a ship-captain resident at Margate.
While the works, thus strangely designed, were
in progress, the Harbour Trustees proposed to
reduce their area, and consequently the accommo-
dation to be afforded to shipping. As soon as
their intention became known, the shipping inte-
rest memorialized Parliament against it. In 1755
an inspection of the works was ordered, and led
to their suspension, nor were they again resumed


for a period of fully six years, during which the
Government officials and the Harbour Trustees
carried on a war of words. When they were
once more set on foot, they proved eminently
unsatisfactory, so far as their object was con-
cerned, the protection of shipping; large quanti-
ties of sand and silt rapidly collecting in the
harbour, and threatening to choke it up alto-
This awkward circumstance induced the Har-
bour Board, in 1770, to call Mr. Smeaton to
their councils. After a careful examination, he
ascertained that no fewer than 268,700 cubic
yards of sand and mud had already silted up,
every tide bringing in a fresh quantity and de-
positing it in the tranquil water of the harbour,
which possessed no natural scour to carry it away.
In order to create such a scour, Smeaton proposed
the construction of an adequate number of sluices,
fed by an artificial backwater. He showed that
Ramsgate harbour, having a sound bottom of
chalk, was excellently adapted to insure the suc-
cess of such a scheme; and pointed out that if
the silt could thus be set in motion, the tide,
running diagonally upon the harbour mouth,
would easily carry it away.


The proposition of our engineer, in detail, was
as follows :-
To enclose two spaces of four acres each, pro-
vided with nine draw-gates: namely, four upon
the westernmost, and five upon the easternmost
basin, the whole pointing in three different
directions; two towards the curve of the west
pier, four towards the harbour mouth, and three
towards the curve in the east pier.
To give the sluices all possible effect, he re-
commended the construction of a caisson, shaped
somewhat like the pier of a bridge, which, being
floated to its place, and then sunk, might serve
to direct the current right or left, according to
After some discussion, the trustees resolved to
adopt Smeaton's plan; but as it was not carried
out in strict accordance with his intentions,
another failure occurred, necessitating a recourse
for the second time to his advice.
Among the improvements which he now re-
commended was the construction of a new dock,
the first stone of which was laid in July 1784.
In the course of the excavations numerous
springs were tapped, and these breaking through
the pavement with which the dock had been laid,


Portland stone was substituted, in blocks of con-
siderable size. These, too, proved of no avail,
and Smeaton was again sent for, with the result
that the execution of all further works connected
with the harbour was put into his hands. The
dock was rebuilt; a timber floor was laid through-
out in the most complete manner possible; an
additional thickness was given to the walls; the
east pier was rebuilt of stone, and carried out into
deep water to a further extent of 350 feet. In
constructing this extension, Smeaton first em-
ployed the diving-bell in building the foundations,
employing a square iron chest, weighing about
half a ton. It measured four feet six inches in
height and length, and three feet in width. Two
men could work together in its interior, and these
were supplied with a constant current of fresh
air by means of a forcing-pump placed in a boat
which floated above them.
The works, when finished, proved successful,
and Ramsgate harbour still remains the best upon
the south-east coast, affording a refuge in stormy
weather to vessels of considerable draught of
water. It includes an area of forty-two acres,
the piers extending 310 feet into the sea, with
an opening between the pier-heads of 200 feet in


width. The inner basin serves the purpose of a
wet dock, and there is also a dry dock in which
ships can be repaired. A lighthouse has been
erected on the east pier. In the season, when
Ramsgate is crowded with visitors, the two piers
afford ample opportunities for promenading, and
present a scene of much liveliness and interest,
which is enhanced by the numerous vessels at
anchor in the basin, and by a picturesque back-
ground of chalky cliffs and grassy hills and shin-
ing sands.

In addition to his numerous works on the
English coast, Smeaton was largely employed in
Scotland, in inspecting the harbours there, and
devising schemes for increasing their security and
amount of accommodation.
We learn from Mr. Smiles that in 1770 the
harbour at Aberdeen was altered in accordance
with his suggestions; and a great depth of water
was obtained over the bar at its mouth, as well
as in the channel of the river Dee, by the erec-
tion of a north pier, and other additions. Im-
provements were also carried out at Dundee and
Dunbar under his superintendence. He con-
structed the small harbours at Portpatrick on the
(521) 6


west, and Eyemouth on the east coast. Both
of these," says our authority, "were in a great
measure formed by nature, and the improvement
of them demanded comparatively small skill on the
part of the engineer. He had merely to follow the
direction of the rocks, which provided a natural
foundation for his piers at both places. Of his
little harbour at Eyemouth he was somewhat
proud, as it was one of the first he constructed,
and very effectually answered its purpose at a
comparatively small outlay of money. It lies at
the corner of a bay, opposite St. Abb's Head, on
the coast of Berwickshire, and is almost land-
locked, excepting from the north. Smeaton ac-
cordingly carried his north pier into deep water,
for the purpose of protecting the harbour's mouth
from that quarter, as well as enlarging the accom-
modation of the haven. The harbour was thus
rendered perfectly safe in all winds, and proved
of great convenience and safety to the fishing-
craft by which it is chiefly frequented."
It is to be observed that Smeaton, unlike some
of our modern engineers, was very solicitous to dc
his work economically, and that he always con-
tented himself with recommending such improve-
ments or modifications as would answer the


desired purpose, without seeking to gain a brill-
iant reputation by ambitious and costly schemes.

These details, of bridges and harbours, and
piers and sluice-gates, may not be interesting to
the reader, but they are valuable as illustrations
of the credit which Smeaton enjoyed as a success-
ful and capable engineer, and of his restless
industry and indefatigable perseverance. He
crowded an extraordinary amount of good and
useful achievement into his active life, and what-
ever he did was done so carefully and conscien-
tiously as never to require patching or re-doing. In
the course of his engineering labours he traversed
Great Britain from north to south, and east to
west; and there was scarcely a bridge or a canal
in the kingdom which he did not restore, enlarge,
or in some way improve. As might be expected,
he remained, throughout his life, the great autho-
rity on all questions connected with lighthouses.
He erected those which on Spurn Head still
guard the mouth of the Humber, and at other
parts of the coast his services were called into
requisition to secure their improved lightage.
He was also consulted by Government respecting
the national dockyards at Portsmouth and Ply-


mouth. When a new water company was started
to supply some hitherto unprovided town or dis-
trict, or when an old company found it necessary
to afford increased accommodation, recourse was
had to the inexhaustible skill and ingenuity of
Smeaton, who for a considerable period was really
consulting engineer to the nation. He was called
upon to advise the landowner who wished to drain
his estates, and the coal-owner who desired to
work his mines more safely and efficiently. There
seems to have been no department of engineering
science in which he was not largely and success-
fully employed.
It is said of him, and without exaggeration,
that he was ready to supply a design of any new
machine, from a fire-bucket or a ship's pump to a
turning-lathe or a steam-engine. His genius was
equally at home with small things as with great.
Whatever he designed was remarkable for the
finish and neatness of its execution. The water-
pumping engine which he erected for Lord Irwin,
at Temple-Newsham, near his own house at Aus-
thorpe, to pump the water for the supply of the
mansion, is an admirable piece of workmanship,
and continues at this day in good working con-
dition. His advice was especially sought on sub-


jects connected with mill-work, water-pumping,
and engineering of every description,-flour-mills
and powder-mills, wind-mills and water-mills, full-
ing-mills and flint-mills, blade-mills and forge-
hammer mills. From a list left by him in his
own handwriting, it appears that he designed and
erected forty-three water-mills of various kinds,
besides numerous wind-mills. Water-power was
then used for nearly all purposes for which steam
is now applied, such as grinding flour, sawing
wood, boring and hammering iron, fulling cloth,
rolling copper, and driving all kinds of machinery."
Smeaton also bestowed much attention on the
development of the wonderful powers of the
steam-engine, then only in its infancy. In order
to experimentalize upon it, he erected a model
engine, on Newcomen's principle, near his house
at Austhorpe; and his fertile genius'soon devised
a variety of improvements which added to its
utility. His Chacewater engine of 150 horse-
power was looked upon as the finest and most
powerful of its kind which had until then been
erected. In this field of invention, however, it
must be owned that he was completely surpassed
by James Watt, the superior merit of whose con-
densing engine-notwithstanding the time and


labour Smeaton had bestowed on the develop-
ment of Newcomen's-he frankly acknowledged.
After inspecting Watt's engine, he said at once:
"That the old engine, even when made to do its
best, was now driven from every place where fuel
could be considered of any value."

During many years the opinion of Smeaton
was considered of so much authority, that no
engineering works of any importance were under-
taken throughout the kingdom except on his
advice, or under his superintendence. He was
constantly consulted in Parliament, and was re-
garded as an arbiter or ultimate referee on all
difficult questions connected with his profession.
And it should be added, for the benefit of the
young reader, that he was never in a hurry to
give his opinion; and that he never gave it until
he had made himself thoroughly acquainted with
the subject on which it was sought. He was
above all petty artifices, and never laid claim to
the possession of universal knowledge. He did
not pretend to be able to decide off-hand on a
question he had not considered, but studied it
thoroughly and patiently before he ventured on
offering an opinion. Hence it was always re-


ceived with the utmost deference, and the most
implicit confidence was placed in his proved in-
Smeaton possessed the gift of fluent and clear
description. He could make difficult points of
engineering science intelligible even to non-profes-
sional readers or hearers; and in the courts of
law he was frequently complimented by Lord
Mansfield and the other judges for the light he
so ingeniously threw upon abstruse and very dif-
ficult subjects. His secret was, his thorough
knowledge of what he wrote or spoke about.
He was always thorough, and hence he always
spoke with the decision and confidence of a master.
It is only imperfect knowledge which ever blun-
ders into obscurity.


1. TO^

...-- ^ ^' ,. ". ,
-tt-.-t -.. -


HILE Smeaton was thus reaping the re-
ward of his diligent life and con-
scientious industry, he continued to
make his home and resting-place at Austhorpe,
near Leeds, where he had been born. There he
carried on the mechanical experiments in which
he had ever felt so intense a delight. His father
had allowed him the privilege of a workshop in
an outhouse, and he occupied it for many years;
afterwards, when the house had become his settled
residence, he erected an atelier, a study, and an
observatory, all in one, for his own use. This
building assumed the form of a square tower, four
stories high. It stood apart from the house, on
the opposite side of the court or green, and on the
bank of a pleasant pool. Shrouded in ivy, and


embowered among trees, it now forms a picturesque
feature in the landscape. The ground-floor was
devoted to his forge ; the first floor contained his
lathe; the second, his models; the third, his study;
while the fourth was a sort of lumber-room and
attic. From the little turreted staircase on the
top a door opened upon the leads. A vane was
fixed on the summit, and so arranged that it set
in motion the hands of a dial on the ceiling of his
drawing-room, and showed at any moment the
precise direction in which the wind blew.
As soon as the engineer retired to his study,
strict orders were issued that he was not to be
disturbed on any account. No person was suf-
fered to ascend the circular staircase which led to
his retreat. If he heard a step below, he would
immediately raise his voice to know the intruder's
business. Even his smith, Waddington, was pro-
hibited from trespassing on the sanctuary, and
required, on such occasions, to wait in the lower
apartment until Mr. Smeaton came down.
When he was neither evolving plans nor draw-
ing up reports, Smeaton delighted to occupy his
leisure with astronomical studies and observations;
and this scientific pastime he continued to indulge
in even in the flush of his prosperous professional


career, when he was the consulting engineer of all
England. For many years he regularly contrib-
uted papers on astronomical subjects to the Royal
Society, of which he was a Fellow. The instru-
ments he used in making his observations were all
of his own workmanship, and remarkable for their
accuracy and finish.
His contrivances of tools, we are told, were end-
less, and he was constantly employed in inventing
and making new ones. Of these interesting relics
large quantities are still, says Smiles, in the pos-
session of the son of his blacksmith, who lives in
the neighbourhood of Austhorpe. When Mr.
Smiles made inquiry after them, they were found
lying in a heap in an open shed, begrimed and
rusty. One mysterious article, after it had been
thoroughly scrubbed and cleansed, proved to be a
jack-plane, and the tool which Smeaton himself
had handled. His drill was also found, the bow
being formed of a thick piece of cane; his brace,
his T square, his augers, his gouges, and his en-
graving tools.
"There was no end of curiously arranged
dividers; pulleys in large numbers, and of various
sizes; cog-wheels, brass hemispheres, and all man-
ner of measured, drilled, framed, and jointed brass-


work. These remains of the great engineer are
worthy of preservation. To mechanics, there is a
meaning in every one of them. They do not
resemble existing tools, but you can see at once
that each was made for a reason; and one can
almost detect what the contriver was thinking
about when he made them so different from those
we are accustomed to see. Even in the most
trifling matters, such as the kind of wood or
metal used, and the direction of the fibre of the
wood, each detail has been carefully studied.
Much even of the household furniture seems to
have been employed in their fabrication, possibly
to the occasional amazement of the ladies in
Smeaton's house over the way. We are informed
that so much 'rubbish,' as it was termed, was
found in that square tower at his death, that a
fire was kindled in the yard, and a vast quantity
of papers, letters, books, plans, tools, and scraps
of all kinds, were remorselessly burnt."
There can be no question that Smeaton was a
born mechanic;" and to the end of his days a
mechanic he remained, finding his greatest pleasure
in mechanical pursuits. It is told of him that
when new gates were erected at the entrances to
Templc-Newsham Park, near his house at Aus-


thorpe, he offered to supply the design; and they
were accordingly constructed and hung after his
plans. In the popular opinion, however, his
noblest work, surpassing even the Eddystone
lighthouse, is the ingenious hydraulic ram, by
means of which the water is still raised in the
beautiful grounds of Temple-Newsham. Occasion-
ally he diversified his occupations in his atelier,
and at his desk, by visits to his smithy. Here
he was wont to experiment upon a boiler, the
lower part of copper and the upper of lead, which
he had fitted up in an adjacent building, for the
purpose of ascertaining the evaporative power of
different kinds of fuel, and of settling other ques-
tions connected with the all-absorbing subject of
steam-power. He was on the best of terms with
his smith, and if he thought him not very dex-
terous in the execution of any particular piece of
work, he would take the tools himself, and show
him how it ought to be done. He was fond of
repeating the maxim, Never let a file come where
a hammer can go.'
When superintending the various works on
which he was successively employed, if any work-
man showed a lack of skill, or seemed unable to
proceed, he would at once take his tools and finish


the task himself. "You know, sir," said the son
of Smeaton's blacksmith to an inquirer, "work-
men didn't know much about drawings at that
time a-day, and so when Mr. Smeaton wanted any
queer-fangled thing making, he'd cut one piece
out of wood, and say to my. father, 'Now, lad,
go make me this,'-and so on for ever so many
pieces; and then he'd stick all those pieces o' wood
together, and say, 'Now, lad, thou knows how thou
made each part, go make it now all in a piece.'
And I've heard my father say 'at he's often been
cap't to know how he could tell so soon when owt
ailed it; for before ever he set his foot at t' bottom
of his twisting steps, or before my father could
get sight of his face, if t' iron had been wrong,
thear'd been an angry word o' some sort, but t'
varry next words were, 'Why, my lad, thou o'ud
a' made it so and so: now go make another.' "

It is related by his daughter, Mrs. Dickson,
that early in life Smeaton attracted the notice of
the eccentric Duke and Duchess of Queensberry,
owing to the remarkable personal likeness between
him and their favourite Gay, the poet.
Their first acquaintance was made under suffi-
ciently singular circumstances.


When the engineer, one night, was walking in
Ranelagh Gardens, then a fashionable place of re-
sort, with Mrs. Smeaton, he observed an elderly
lady and gentleman fixing their eyes upon him
with a persistent gaze. At last they stopped, and
the Duchess said, Sir, I don't know who you are,
or what you are, but so strongly do you resemble
my poor dear Gay that we must be acquainted;
you shall go home and sup with us; and if the
minds of the two men accord as do the counte-
nances, you will find two cheerful old folks who
can love you well; and I think (or you are a
hypocrite), you can as well deserve it."
The invitation thus frankly given was as frankly
accepted, and proved the beginning of a friendship
which continued cordial and uninterrupted so long
as the Duke and Duchess lived.
During Smeaton's visits a game at cards was
sometimes proposed. Smeaton, however, disliked
cards, and could never devote his attention to the
game. On one occasion the stakes were already
high, and it fell to Smeaton's lot to double them,
when, neglecting to deal the cards, he appeared to
be busily engaged in making some abstruse cal-
culations on paper, which he placed upon the
table. The Duchess asked eagerly what they re-


ferred to. Smeaton calmly replied, "You will
recollect that the field in which my house stands
measures about five acres three roods and seven
perches, which, at thirty years' purchase, will be
just my stake; and if your grace will make a duke
of me, I presume the winner will not dislike my
mortgage." The jesting lesson had its effect, and
they never played again, except for the veriest trifle.

Smeaton, on one occasion, obtained a public
appointment for a clerk in whom he placed the
greatest confidence, and, conjointly with a friend,
became security for him to a considerable amount.
Not long afterwards this man committed the crime
of forgery, was detected, and given up to justice.
"The same post," says Mrs. Dickson, brought
news of the melancholy transaction, of the man's
compunction and danger, of the claim of the bond
forfeited, and of the refusal of the other person to
pay the moiety. Being present when he read his
letters, which arrived at a period of Mrs. Smeaton's
declining health, so entirely did the command of
himself second his anxious attention to her, that
no emotion was visible on their perusal, nor, till
all was put into the best train possible, did a word
or look betray the exquisite distress it occasioned


him. In the interim all which could soothe the
remorse of a prisoner, every means which could
save (which did, at least, from public execution),
were exerted for him, with a characteristic bene-
volence, active and unobtrusive."

Smeaton was a man of blameless character;
his integrity was as pure as his energy was un-
resting. Though his opportunities of amassing
wealth were numerous, he cared but little for them.
Profit was always, with Smeaton, a secondary con-
sideration; his first aim being to execute the task
intrusted to him with all the skill at his com-
mand. He never slighted his work, but attended
to its minutest details. Many lucrative appoint-
ments were placed at his disposal. The Empress
Catherine of Russia endeavoured, by the most
splendid offers, to secure his services for her own
country; but Smeaton was too sincere a patriot to
be dazzled by any bribe. "The disinterested
moderation of his ambition," says his daughter,-
and says so truly,-" every transaction in private
life evinced; his public ones bore the same stamp;
and after his health had withdrawn him from the
labours of his profession, many instances may be
given by those whose concerns induced them to


press importunately for a resumption of it; and
when some of them seemed disposed to enforce
their entreaties by further prospects of lucrative
recompense, his reply was strongly characteristic
of his simple manners and moderation. He intro-
duced the old woman who took care of his
chambers in Gray's Inn, and showing her, asserted
that 'her attendance sufficed for all his wants.'
The inference was indisputable, for money could
not tempt that man to forego his ease, leisure, or
independence, whose requisites of accommodation
were compressed within such limits !"
A very high opinion of his probity; and inde-
pendence was formed by all who had transactions
with him. The Princess Daschkaw, on behalf of
the Empress of Russia, used every persuasion and
offered every inducement to accept the superin-
tendence of the vast projects she had conceived
for the development of the resources of her em-
pire. When all her negotiations failed, she re-
marked: "Sir, you are a great man, and I
honour you! You may have an equal in ability,
perhaps, but in character you stand alone. The
English premier, Sir Robert Walpole, was mis-
taken, and my sovereign has the misfortune to
find one man who has not his price."
(521) 7

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