Eddystone Lighthouse Smashed by Storm
Lighthouse keeping was a strange and at times dangerous experience, the structure generally in places where the worst of the sea and its attending storms can wreak havoc. When considering such dangers we tend to think of the lighthouse keepers, their shelters at times battered by relentless gales, perhaps aware of the mysterious fate of the Flannan Isles crew in December 1900 . But we should not forget the men who built the structures in the first place. In November 1703 both those keeping Devon’s Eddystone lighthouse, and men working on alterations to it, were swept away in a great storm along with nearly every piece of the building itself.
On November 26 1703 the storm was at its height elsewhere in the Channel and the North Sea, claiming perhaps 10,000 lives. The merchant Henry Winstanley, who had lost a ship on the Eddystone Rocks, designed and built a wooden lighthouse, commencing work in 1696 with the first light shown on November 14 1698. The showman and eccentric Winstanley reinforced the wooden structure soon thereafter as it was damaged by storms, the exterior clad with stone. He was on the rock partly by choice – having told the world he would be there during a storm – and partly through necessity, effecting repairs, when The Great Storm of November 1703 raged. His repairs and the strengthening work were ineffective against such a tempest: on November 27 almost every stick and stone of the building was swept into the sea, along with the crew and Winstanley.
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