Vol 1 – No.6 – August 1887 – Sunderland Lighthouse

A triumph of engineering skill was accomplished in Sunderland when the lighthouse at that port was bodily removed from one end of the pier to the other. The former site, which was on the old pier, had become much impaired, and the new pier having been extended considerably to the east, it was deemed desirable that the lighthouse should stand as near the new pier end as possible. It was at first intended to take down the lighthouse and rebuild it; but Mr. John Murray, the engineer under whose direction this extraordinary effort was performed, proposed to remove it entire. As a proof of the feasibility of the plan, it was stated that houses in New York had been removed from their original situation to a considerable distance without sustaining any injury whatever; that the immense block of granite forming the pedestal of the statue of Peter the Great, at St. Petersburg, was conveyed four miles by land and thirteen by water; and that obelisks had also been transmitted from Egypt to Europe. The removal of Sunderland Lighthouse, however, was considered a more dangerous undertaking, from the circumstance of its being composed of stones of comparatively small dimensions, as well as from its great height and small base. The arrangements suggested by Mr. Murray were: “That the stone work at the base, which is 15 feet in breadth, should be cut in detached parts, and timbers introduced so as to form an artificial base, and which should also act as a mooring carriage to consist of eight Memel baulks, beneath which other baulks should be laid with iron rails forming a railway. Each baulk of the carriage rested on 14 iron wheels, and from the extremities of the carriage on all sides large timber stays were erected, so ad to support the body and top of the building.” The building had to be drawn about 30 feet to the north, and 420 feet to the east, by powerful screws, along a railway, on the principle of Morton’s patent slip for the repairing of vessels. The necessary preparations having been effected, the work of removal was first taken several yards in a north-easterly direction. Rails were laid to convey it forward to the easterly extremity of the pier. During the week commencing with Monday, the 14th of September, 1841, the lighthouse was moved daily more than 30 feet in about as many minutes, including stoppages; but whilst actually moving it went at the rate of about two feet in a minute. Whilst the work was proceeding the screws were abandoned, and the building was drawn forward on the railway by ropes affixed to three windlasses, thirty men being engaged in this part of the work. The line of way was laid on a curve in order to bring the reflector round to a due east position. Much of the time occupied in the process was engaged in shifting the ways, which could not be laid the whole extent at one time. The movement process was completed on Monday, the 4th of October, by the building being brought up to the site on which it was to be fixed. “The event,” says a writer in the Weekly Chronicle of that date, “was witnessed by a number of ladies and gentlemen who had assembled on the occasion, and who united with the workmen in loud and enthusiastic cheers of congratulation to Mr. Murray. ” It is remarkable that not a single accident occurred to anyone during the progress of the work, and that the building did not sustain the slightest injury by its removal. The light was exhibited every night by gas, as usual, so that not the least inconvenience resulted from the removal, which undoubtedly would have been the case had the entire building been pulled down for the purpose of re-erection. Our illustration shows the lighthouse as it appeared during the process of removal.

Sunderland Lighthouse

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