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Bell Rock designer is finally acknowledged


Some of the design work for the famous Bell Rock lighthouse in the North Sea was actually undertaken by John Rennie, and not by Robert Stevenson, an engineering historian has discovered.

A new book by the vice-chairman of the ICE’s panel for historic engineering works Scotland, professor Roland Paxton, has unearthed a new report which shows that Rennie’s role as chief engineer in the challenging design and construction project had been underplayed.

The lighthouse is the world’s oldest surviving sea washed lighthouse. It was built on Bell Rock, 19km off the coast of Angus in Scotland, east of the Firth of Tay.

It is also known as Stevenson’s Lighthouse as he was resident engineer on the project.

Key report

But Paxton has found that Rennie inspected the construction site when it was more than 60% complete in 24 September 1809. He filed a key report on the project following the visit, but this was omitted from Stevenson’s definitive account of construction in 1824, after Rennie had died - leading Stevenson get the credit for the work.
Paxton said that his discovery of the document proves that “no one person was solely responsible for its design and execution”.

He is to give a lecture entitled “The Bell Rock Lighthouse, the Stevensons and Emerging Issues in Aids to Navigation” to a conference on 4 February at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Paxton has also published a book, called “Dynasty of Engineers, Part 2”, as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the first lighting of the lighthouse lamp on 1 February 1811.

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