On 26 November 1703, during the worst storm that Britain had ever seen, Henry Winstanley died in his pioneering lighthouse as it was blown apart. He had defied incredible odds to build the first Eddystone Lighthouse in 1698, saving the lives of many sailors from the fate of the thousands who previously died upon the rocks. The Great Gale not only destroyed the man and his lighthouse, but also saw complete devastation throughout the land. And at sea, some 8000 sailors were drowned that night, within yards of the land. Winstanley was an ingenious man. He owned a house of gadgets which was one of London's foremost attractions for decades. In 1695, two of his five ships were lost on Eddystone. He was determined that no more ships should founder and, though thwarted by weather and politics, he built a lighthouse, the first of its kind. It survived terrible winters and withstood devastating storms, guiding ships away from the treacherous rocks that lay ahead with its dim candlelight. After the great storm it was as if the lighthouse had never been. Ultimately, Winstanley's lighthouse led to the building of others on the Eddystone rocks and beyond, thus transforming the safety of shipping. This illustrated work vividly recreates the story of the Eddystone Lighthouse, the character of the man who built it with grim determination fighting against all odds, and the power of the elements that finally destroyed them both.
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ADAM HART-DAVIS is a television presenter, radio panellist, writer and photographer. He is best known for Local Heroes and What the Romans did for Us. His books include. Failed Inventions (Michael O'Mara, 1999), Thunder, Flash and Thomas Crapper (Michael O'Mara, 1997). Science Tricks (HarperCollins, 1997), three books of Local Heroes for Sutto and more recently The Book of Victorian Heroes (2001)
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