Lighthouse Beacons from Scotland

Bell Rock Lighthouse

Photo © by Derek Robertson via Wikimedia

The Bell Rock Lighthouse is situated 11 miles out from Arbroath on the infamous Inchcape reef. At high water the reef is hidden about 12 feet below the water level. At low water it is 4 feet above the sea. It is the world's oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse. It was built between 1807 and 1810 by Robert Stevenson. Standing at 35 metres (115 ft) high, its light is visible from 35 statute miles (56 km) inland.

The masonry work on which the lighthouse rests was constructed to such a high standard that it has not been replaced or adapted in 200 years.

By the turn of the 18th century, it was estimated that the rocks had been responsible for wrecking up to six ships every winter. The Scottish engineer Robert Stevenson proposed the construction of a lighthouse on Bell Rock in 1799, but cost concerns and the relatively radical nature of his proposal caused it to be shelved. However, the loss of the warship HMS York and all on board in 1804 resulted in a furore in Parliament that eventually led to legislation being passed in 1806 enabling construction to begin.

The graphic on the right shows an engraving of the Bell Rock Lighthouse under construction.

Robert Stevenson (1772 – 1850) was a civil engineer, famed for designing and building lighthouses. His first and perhaps most important work was the Bell Rock Lighthouse, where the rock was covered by the sea except at low tide. It was regarded as one of the major engineering feats of the age. Three of Stevenson’s sons also became engineers: David, Alan, and Thomas; he also had a daughter, who assisted in writing and illustrating an account of the Bell Rock Lighthouse construction.

Novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) was the grandson of Robert Stevenson of lighthouse fame. Robert was often known just by his initials "RLS".

See also Bell Rock Web site which focuses on all aspects of the Bell Rock.

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