Structural model; Lighthouse model

Scale: not calculated. A model that was made to support the registration of a patent for a floating lighthouse (1900), which was transferred to the NMM in 1934 along with material that accompanied the patent application: drawings, written description, and a letter to the patentee, Mr Herbert, granting the patent. It was given to the Royal Naval College Museum by the patentee’s sisters on 12 June 1899.

An unusual feature is a sort of rail truck, fixed to a chain, and a very short length of rail along which it travels. The rail slopes gently down from the door of the lighthouse to the perimeter rail of the deck. Presumably the device is to facilitate the unloading of supplies. The other end of the chain is attached to the centre of the bottom of the structure, to enable the truck’s retrieval should it be swept overboard.

The model has been prominently inscribed in gold lettering ‘Herbert's patent floating lighthouse’. The waterline is also marked. We can glean that an important feature of this lighthouse was to be able to determine its centre of gravity, though it is not clear from the model whether or not the lighthouse would have been permanently manned.
At the end of the 19th century, when this model was presented to the Patent Office, the world’s oceans had never been so congested. Britain was the international hub of world trade and virtually all that trade was carried by ships. Moreover Britain was the shipbuilder to the world and her coasts, estuaries, channels and sea lanes were densely congested highways used by sailing vessels and steamships alike. Pilotage and navigation had never been so important and developments in the efficiency and effectiveness of shore- and sea-based lighthouses, light vessels, buoys, and pilotage were crucial to the country’s merchant and Royal navies, its trade and its Empire.

Object Details

ID: SLR1775
Collection: Ship models
Type: Structural model; Lighthouse model
Display location: Not on display
Date made: circa 1900
Exhibition: Guiding Lights
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Measurements: Overall model: 480 x 295 mm

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