The Lighthouse
Vital Statistics
Description of the Rock
What's in a Name?
Marking the Spot
Scots Magazine "Account"
of 1807

1810 (1)
1810 (2)
1811 to 1823
Construction Techniques
The Lightroom
of 1811

Masonry Courses
The Railways of the
Bell Rock

The Bell Rock Lighthouse

Signal Tower/Shore Base
Machinery, Equipment
and Inventory

Keeping up with New Technology
Automation at the Bell Rock
Accidents, Attacks and Shipwrecks

Vital Statistics

Position 56°26.1' N 2°23.1' W

Built 1807-1811

Engineers - John Rennie (chief); Robert Stevenson (resident)

The Light was first exhibited on 1st February 1811

Total cost (including the Signal Tower complex) - £61,331 9s and 2d (£61.331.47p)

Bell Rock Lighthouse The total workforce is difficult to ascertain, but the number must be nearer 110 men, made up, roughly, of 60 Artificers, 35 Seamen, and 15 Executives and Heads of Various Departments; plus the workhorse, Bassey. The horse pulled the Woolwich Sling Cart containing the stones for the construction of the lighthouse from the work-yard in Arbroath to the harbour.

The artificers consisted mainly of masons, smiths, carpenters, wrights, mortar-makers, and labourers.

Shipping: Floating Light, (Pharos) 82 tons; Schooner (Sir Joseph Banks) 84 tons; Smeaton, 42 tons; Patriot, 46 tons; and two praam boats (Dickie and Fernie) at 15 tons each (The complement of Seamen and Masters is listed under The Builders).
NB - 1 ton = 1.016 tonne metric.

Total height from the foundation to top of lightroom - 115 feet 10 inches (35.30m).

Building material - Sandstone from Mylnefield near Dundee, and Craigleith, Edinburgh Granite from Rubislaw, Aberdeen; and Cairngall, near Peterhead Courses 1-26 - granite outer casing, sandstone inner Courses 27-90 - sandstone only Mortar mix consisted of lime from Aberthaw, Wales; pozzolano or tarras (an earthy substance akin to lava) from Sicily, Italy, and Andernach, Germany, respectively; also locally obtained sand. Roman Cement was used for the outside grouting of the building.

The Light-room is constructed mainly of cast-iron with copper and brass fitments.

Course 1 (Foundation Course) consists of 18 blocks (4 granite and 14 sandstone). The blocks here measure between 6 and 18 inches (15.2 to 45.8cm) in thickness. This effectively raised the foundation pit to a uniform level in preparation for the First Complete Course. The foundation stone itself (20 cubic feet) is in this course with the date of 1808 inscribed on it.

Course 2 (First Complete Course) has a diameter of 42 feet (12.80m) and is made up of 123 interlocking blocks, and measured 12 inches (30.48cm) in thickness. Many blocks on the lower courses weighed more than a ton

Course 3 (Second Complete Course) is made up of 136 interlocking stones and measures 18 inches (48.8cm) in thickness with an overall weight of 152 tons.

Courses 1-26 are solid; on course 27 (consisting of 38 stones) is the outside entrance to the lighthouse and commencement of stone staircase - 32 feet 8 inches (9.95m) above the foundation level and 17 feet (5.18m) above high water of spring tides.

Courses 27-38 - This part of the building contains the stone staircase up to the main house (12 courses); the walls here have a mean thickness of 6 feet (1.83m).

At Course 39 (consisting of 16 stones) the walls are reduced from 5 feet 9 inches (1.75m) to 3 feet 2 inches (96.5cm) in thickness. The height of the building is now 45 feet (13.72m).

At Course 85 (the Light-room and Balcony floor) the height of the tower is 97 feet 9 inches (29.79m); the diameter of the tower (outer wall to outer wall) is 13 feet 6 inches (4.11m). The stones of this course (8 in all) are 7½ feet long (2.28m), and weigh over 1 ton each.

The 90th or Last course of the masonry part of the building was completed on Monday, 30th July 1810, at an overall height of 102 feet 6 inches (31.24m)

The blocks of stones are held together by dovetailing (rather like a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle), “by which the stones may be said to hook laterally into one another, forming a vertical bond of connection; but it is on the gravity of the materials that the chief dependence is placed for the stability of the fabric.”

Bell Rock Lighthouse In all, 2835 stones were used in the construction of the Lighthouse

The total weight of Masonry, the Lantern and its Apparatus is 2083.445 tons.

Implements consisted of Railways, Waggons, Triangular Crane, Moveable Beam Crane, Balance Crane, Sling Cart, Carpenter’s Jack, Lewis Bat, Moulds, Pumps, Winch-Machines and Oaken Trenails and Wedges.

The revolving light of the Bell Rock could be seen, from an elevated position on land, at a distance of 35 miles (56.3km). It alternated between a white and a red light completing its cycle every four minutes; and 8 minutes to do a 360 deg. revolution - see also below.

The Light-room glass panels (48 in all) were arranged octagonally around the Revolving Reflectors. Each glass plate measured 13½ inches (34.2cm) by 26¾ inches (67.9cm) and was ¼ of an inch (6.35mm) thick. On the balcony were two Alarm Bells to warn shipping in foggy weather.

The 24 Reflectors (25-inch (63.5cm) copper silver-plated and parabolic) were placed on a rectangular revolving frame. The two Major Sides had 7 each arranged in 3 rows - from top to bottom - 2, 3 and 2. The two Minor Sides, 5 each - 2, 1 and 2. To achieve the red flash of Bell Rock's unique light sequence, panes of red-coloured glass were placed in front of each of the reflectors on the minor sides.

The Light, using spermaceti oil, came from Argand-burners housed within the reflectors.

57½ doz (690) Flambeaux (flaming torches) were used for night-work on the Rock.

There are Five Apartments within the main building:
• The first and lowest of the apartments is the Provision Store. It also contains a winch for raising stores from the railways to the entrance door of the house;
• The second is the Lightroom Store, containing chiefly 7 copper oil cisterns;
• Above that (the third) is the Bedroom accommodating three Lightkeepers;
• The fourth is the Kitchen and eating quarters;
• Immediately below the Light Room is the Strangers’ Room or Library.

The lighthouse claimed five lives during its construction. ONE on the Rock itself (missing presumed drowned); ONE in the workshop at Arbroath; and THREE died due to separate accidents at sea.

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