The hazardous Eddystone Rocks, located 23 kilometres from Plymouth, prompted the construction of the world’s first offshore lighthouse. The initial wooden tower (built 1696-99) was swept away in a storm in 1703. A wood and iron replacement was completed in 1708 but was itself destroyed by fire in 1755. A third attempt was designed by John Smeaton (1724-1792) and built in 1759 using a technique of dovetailed stones, which was to become standard. Smeaton’s lighthouse lasted for more than a century. The lighthouse seen here, designed by James Douglass (1826-1898), was constructed in 1882, shortly before this view was painted.
This paddle steamer was built in 1835 by Messrs Curling & Young at Limehouse, East London, for the Humber Union Steamship Co, to run between Hull and London. However, in 1841 her owners were in financial difficulty and sold the ship to the General Steam Navigation Co. for use on the same service. ‘Vivid’ was later used on a number of other services. In 1842, while transporting passengers to Greenwich, she collided with the ‘Era’ on the River Thames. She was no longer in use after 1855.
Richard Brydges Beechey was born in London, the second youngest of 18 children of painter Sir William Beechey. He entered the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth, in 1821. He may also have received some instruction in painting from his father. In 1825, Beechey joined ‘HMS Blossom’ as a midshipman on a three-year voyage of discovery in the Pacific. On his return in 1828 he was promoted to Lieutenant and by 1885 had risen to the position of Admiral. In 1832, he first exhibited his marine paintings at the Royal Academy and showed work there almost every year until 1877. After retiring from the Navy in 1864, Beechey was free to pursue marine painting more fully. He died in Southsea in 1895.
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