The Relocation of Smeaton’s Tower

The Box

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Did you know the city archives hold a detailed minute book recording the project to move Smeaton’s Tower from the Eddystone Rock to the Hoe in the late 1800s, 

Like all new schemes, there was some opposition.

On Wednesday 22 February 1882, The Old Eddystone Lighthouse Committee held its first meeting in the Mayor’s Parlour of the old municipal buildings. 

The committee was set up to apply for the removal of Smeaton’s Lighthouse on the Eddystone Rock, oversee its re-erection on Plymouth Hoe and to canvas for financial subscriptions.

By the second meeting on 10 March, £929 had been raised and offers of service had been received by local businesses. They included Mr J Pethick for re-erection of the tower, and Messrs Pethick Brothers for the supply of granite cut and dressed for the base from the Dartmoor Granite Quarry. 

Other businesses offered their services free of charge for various other aspects of the project. These included plastering, concrete, painting, plumbing and catering provision for the opening. £1200 was the final total raised by public subscription.

At the end of this second meeting, it was resolved to apply for formal application to the Town Council for permission to erect the lighthouse on the Hoe. 

Following communication with Mr Douglas and Trinity House, the iron door of the old tower and the cannon and clockweights found in or near the old structure, were offered to the Town. 

The location chosen for re-erection was the site of the former Obelisk, on a portion of rock similar to that out on the Eddystone reef. Mr H J Snell oversaw the removal of the Obelisk and the erection of the lighthouse. The Town Council were asked to accept the structure when completed ‘to be dealt with by them in such manner as they may think fit’.

The foundation stone for the reconstructed tower was laid on 20 October 1882 by the Duke of Edinburgh, with an inscription on parchment put in a cavity within it.

Delays to the work were caused by the Great Western railway taking possession of the old tramline for conversion into the Princetown Railway. They had neglected to make the necessary sidings into the quarries where the stones had been laying for some time.  

It’s worth noting that a good deal of the woodwork from the original tower had been purchased and was used to make one of the bed-berths in the upper chamber and the two settles with cupboards for the living room or kitchen.

After much organisation for the celebrations, the newly erected Smeaton’s Tower was formally opened on Wednesday 24 September 1884. 

Thankfully the original oppositions came to nothing. If they had we wouldn’t have this renowned iconic structure watching over our harbour.

Text written by Debbie Watson, Archivist

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