SIMON’S TOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
FOUNDED IN 1960
TO PRESERVE AND PROTECT OUR HERITAGE
Roman Rock Lighthouse, False Bay, built between 1861 and 1865
One hundred and fifty years ago work began on building Roman Rock
Lighthouse, one of the few worldwide at the time, which is situated
on a rock in the ocean, the majority of the others being on
promontories which jut out into the ocean rather like Cape Point
The lighthouse was designed by Alexander Gordon of the British
Lighthouse Authority. The cost was to be between £3,000 and
3,500. Cast iron segments were bolted together and the lowest
rung secured to the rock.
The stone was quarried from Seaforth beach, from the rock behind
and under the present restaurant, assembled there on site and
numbered, before being ferried out to the required site.
Quarrying and cutting the granite blocks at Seaforth (photo)
In 1857 the ship ROYAL SAXON arrived with the mechanism. The
erection of the tower took 4 years as fierce winds and seas allowed
only 96 working days during this period. From January 7 to June
8 1861 for instance it was only possible to work on 5 occasions.
The Clerk of Works was a Mr. Cousins.
This first mechanism had a focal plane of 16,5 m above high water
with a range of 19,3 km. It was not a great success as only
1reflector was visible at a time. There were 8 reflectors in all
and they made a revolution every 4 minutes.
Two keepers manned the lighthouse and changed over every 7 days.
A third keeper remained on shore during that time. It was a boring
job and they earned the highest salaries in the service.
For instance the first lightkeeper, Mr. J. Williams eared 110 per
annum and his assistants £95 per annum. Their only pastime was
fishing, but reeling in the fish in the teeth of a strong
south-easter required skill!!
In 1914 the mechanism was replaced and thereafter the tower was no
longer manned. It was powered by dissolved acetylene gas.
The gas cylinders were renewed every 3 4 months. The automatic
flash occurred every 6 seconds. Part of the 1914 mechanism is on
display at the Simon’s Town Museum.
In 1992 the South African Navy asked for it to be electrified as by
now the bright lights of Simon’s Town and Kalk Bay over-shadowed
it. It now also has a back-up diesel engine and solar panels.
The old dome was replaced by a glass fibre one.
The dome was air-lifted to the lighthouse by a Sikorsky 861
helicopter and a base for the workmen was adjacent to Glencairn
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