NOSTALGIA: Rare Beachy Head slides go under the hammer

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Rare slides depicting the construction of Beachy Head Lighthouse were due to go under the hammer on Thursday.

The unique collection shows the construction of the iconic landmark during the years of 1900-1902 and were on sale at an auction At David Lay Auctions in Penzance.

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Bidding was due to start at £1,500 and the slides had a guide price of between £3,000 and £5,000.

According to the auction there were 71 numbered and annotated slides housed in two fitted wooden cases.

Case one contains 45 slides showing almost all stages of construction from the ‘Bottom Anchorage commencement’ up to the installation of the lantern.

An auction house spokesperson said, “There are many unposed images of the workforce going about all aspects of the build. Views taken from the top of the cliffs, in the cable car, down on the sea stage beside the lighthouse and on site, within the foundations.

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“The second case continues the series, showing the final stages - ‘The erection of the lantern roof’ and even the tidy-up: ‘dismantling of the sea stage’.

“There is also a charming image of the engineer’s dog. In addition to the construction slides, the second box also contains 11 distinctly posed images of the new lighthouse’s uniformed keepers, inside and outside their new home, also interior views of oil tanks, the lanterns, revolving gear etc.

“The box also contains four views of the lighthouse at sunset, twilight, night etc, signed by the Eastbourne photographer Ellis Kelsey.

“There is also a hand coloured slide of the completed lighthouse, but still with the sea stage and cable car alongside, annotated WH Carpenter. “The unposed, intimate nature of these slides and the fact they document the entire construction process, would indicate most of them were taken by a person who had continuous access to the site.

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“We can find no other archived images of this quality in the public domain which would indicate they were not taken by a professional photographer for public consumption.

“In 1900, photography was on the edge of becoming much more widespread, but it was still a gentleman’s pursuit.

“It is most likely these uniquely rare images were taken by one of the engineers working on the construction of the lighthouse.”

Beachy Head lighthouse was designed and built by the Cornish-born, engineer-in-chief of Trinity House, Sir Thomas Matthews.

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Matthews also designed Pendeen Watch, Lundy and Spurn Head lighthouse, although Beachy Head is considered his most significant achievement.

The resident, on-site engineer was Albert Havelock Case. Completed in 1902, the lighthouse took two years to build and was constructed from 3,660 tons of Cornish granite, mined and shaped on site at the De Lank quarry near St Breward in North Cornwall.

The dovetailed granite blocks were numbered to aid assembly. The construction site of the new Beachy Head lighthouse at the base of the cliffs required a cofferdam to be built in order to protect the groundworks.

Men and materials were winched down in a cable car or aerial ropeway which was erected from the top of the cliffs for this purpose.

The site was also accessed by a hair-raising series of ladders, that ran all the way up the cliffs of Beachy Head.

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Beachy Head slides nostalgia SUS-171127-132607001

Beachy Head slides nostalgia SUS-171127-132607001

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