Roches-Douvres: A metal lighthouse

Published on 15 February 2008
The Roches-Douvres metal lighthouse
The Roches-Douvres metal lighthouse
(Photo : DDE22)

Roches-Douvres shelf is located at sea, 40 km. from the Breton coastline between Bréhat and the Anglo-Normandy islands. It was made up of numerous islets and reefs at water level and in 1865 it was decided to construct a metal lighthouse there, as opposed to the stone which was more generally used in the construction of this type of building.

The framework is made up of 16 uprights, forming a shell, on which metal sheets are bolted. 11 metres in diameter at its base and 4 metres diameter at the top, at the time, it was the highest metal tower in the world.

The lighthouse was initially assembled in Paris during the 1867 World Exhibition and the fire was lit every night. It was transported to Roches-Douvres and put into use on 6th August 1869 and stayed in operation until 1944, when it was blown up by the Germans.

Contrary to some people’s opinions, rust was not an issue. However, living conditions were judged to be “dreadful”: damp, vibration, distance from the coast and its upkeep meant that it needed constant maintenance and dangerous painting sessions, to the point where it proved very difficult to find lighthouse keepers who were prepared to work there.

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