Of all the lighthouses around the shores of these islands, the most famous is probably that situated on the Eddystone Rock, fourteen miles SSW of Plymouth. This isolated outcrop was the site of the first British lighthouse to be built out at sea rather than on the coast itself, the earliest structure dating from 1698. Replaced the following year and lasting until 1703 when it was destroyed by storm, the next tower of 1709 survived until 1755 when that too was destroyed, this time by fire. Only then was the decision taken to build a stone lighthouse which, it was hoped, would better be able to withstand the elements. John Smeaton, an instrument maker and highly innovative civil engineer, was appointed to design and build it on the recommendation of the Royal Society, and work commenced on the foundations in August 1756. During the winter of 1756-57, the blocks of Portland stone and granite moorstone - some weighing over two tons - were cut and dressed, bored and grooved, and made ready for erection in the coming summer. Once begun in earnest, the building continued for three seasons. The basic tower was finished in August 1759 and, following the erection of the octagonal lantern and cupola, the candelabra of twenty-four candles was installed to complete the project.
On 16 October 1759, the three resident keepers lit up this fourth Eddystone lighthouse and so concluded one of the most remarkable engineering feats of the eighteenth century and one whose success ensured that Smeaton's method of construction would be copied the world over for the next two hundred and fifty years.