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Monday, March 22, 2010


Today I felt like writing about lighthouses. Why? Maybe it's the stormy weather. The fact is I live about as far away from the coast as it's possible to be in the UK, almost exactly in the centre of the country, and every so often I get a hankering for the sea.

There's something about lighthouses that is part of the British consciousness. We're an island race and for thousands of years we were reliant on trade at sea and lived in fear of death by shipwreck. Lighthouses are inspirational, offering a guiding light across treacherous waters. They are also lonely and the role of the lighthousekeeper is a fascinating one, solitude in wild and empty places.

Here are a few historic British lighthouses to celebrate the spirit of altruism of the lighthouse: I read this week that patents were traditionally never taken out on any lighthouse inventions as they were deemed good for humanity as a whole.

At the top is Leasowe Lighthouse, the oldest brick-built lighthouse in the country, built in 1763 and one of four lights on the North Wirral foreshore. Then Bell Rock, the oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse in the world.

And this is Lundy Old Light, which was built on top of the island only for the authorities to realise that no one could see it because it was frequently obscured by fog!


margaret blake said...

Lighthouses - what a wonderful invention! I love every one of them.

Nicola Cornick said...

They are splendid, aren't they, Margaret! Even now when I'm by the sea at night and I see all those lights flashing along the coast to keep people safe it brings a lump to my throat. I suppose the dark side of lighthouses (no pun intended) is the wreckers - another blog post, maybe!

Carol Townend said...

There is something evocative about lighthouses, particularly the thought of them shining out in both fair nights or foul ones...
Was the Alexandria lighthouse (in 200 and something BC) the earliest lighthouse in the form we know of them? Before then I think they had simplified ones like beacons on cliffs etc. Have just been writing about the lighthouse in Byzantium in the 11th century oddly enough - that one was more like a proper lighthouse as we would know it, with a beacon on the top.

Jan Jones said...

As you say, Nicola, there is just something about them. Perhaps the thought that when you are sailing down a tricky stretch of coast and see the lone light you know that (not now, obviously, as they aren't manned any more) someone cares enough to be up there making sure you are safe.

Love the non-patent info. Gives you a nice fuzzy feeling, doesn't it?

Nicola Cornick said...

How fascinating, Carol. Descriptions of the Pharos lighthouse certainly make it sound like something we would recognise today, though I read that it had a mirror to reflect the sun during the day - that would never work in the UK!

Jan, that's exactly it - I felt a warm fuzzy feeling at the thought of such altruism!