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The Bell Rock Bicentennial
of 2011



* The Bell Rock Lighthouse Railway

* What's in a name

* The Scots Magazine Account of 1807

* Life on the Bell Rock (1865-style)

* Lighthouses of the Forth

* An Historic Engineering Landmark

* Smuggling in Arbirlot



The website contains over 60 "pages" of information

Every conceivable aspect of the the Lighthouse's construction, the Rock itself, and technical advancements, mishaps and problems throughout the last 200 years

Biographical accounts of all the Engineers, including "Who Built the Bell Rock Lighthouse"

THE LIFE of one of the sea captains who worked on its construction and was Stevenson's "Man in Arbroathl" during the first 10 years' of its existence

LIST OF THE MEN who built the Lighthouse, and the Keepers since 1811 until the 1950s; plus the ships and their crews

MANY aspects of the history of Old Arbroath, plus Sir Walter Scott and the Smokie

SIXTEEN PAGES of related information ranging from a lightkeer's stories, to Captain Cook and volcanoes - to name but a few!


Photo: Ian Cowe

Decoration DecorationDecoration


The Bell Rock Lighthouse

now an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark built on a semi-submerged reef 11½ miles off the east coast of Scotland


Lighthouses :: Georgian Architecture :: Civil and Marine Engineering :: Naval and Social History :: Genealogy :: Marine and Natural History :: Geology :: Geography :: Construction Techniques:: Early Railways :: Communications (including the Signal Ball).


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This site commemorates probably Scotland’s greatest single engineering feat of the early 19th century. It also celebrates the men who built it . . . to JOHN RENNIE, who was appointed Chief Engineer, responsible overall for the project; and to ROBERT STEVENSON, assistant and resident engineer, who shared the hardships with his team, and who in practical terms built the lighthouse

It also remembers my great-great-great-grandfather, Capt. David Taylor (1768-1843), who was Master of the Sir Joseph Banks tender during progress of these Works; who later commanded the supply vessel (the Smeaton) on completion of the lighthouse and eventually the new Pharos of 1816; finally taking up the post of Lighthouse Storekeeper in Leith when ill health forced him ashore.

"I have always known about
the Bell Rock Lighthouse,
as early as I was able to remember anything. The knowledge of my ancestor's involvement in that great
event has shone down
the generations
like a
Beacon of Light"
David Taylor,
Edinburgh (2011)

As the site develops, it is hoped to include hitherto unpublished material, with a view to giving fresh insight into the life and times of the men who worked with Stevenson on his undoubted masterpiece and greatest achievement.

Anyone who has an interest in the subject, or whose ancestors may have been connected in any way with the Lighthouse (past and present), are welcome to make contact:

dtaylor AT bellrock DOT org DOT uk

Bell Rock Signal Tower

Another interesting picture of the courtyard from the top of the Signal Tower.
Note the circle laid out in the centre of the courtyard. It is the exact measurement of the
base of the lighthouse = 42 ft (12.80 m) in diameter.
Photo: Ian Cowe


"Leaving the Bell" - an original
oil painting by Nessie Taylor

I should also like to acknowledge the following, who have helped in their various ways to make this website possible, in particular Mrs Margaret King for information on the improvements and modernisation to the Lighthouse since 1811; Mrs Lorna Hunter (Information Officer of the NLB); Charlie Riding for his two real-life experiences about living on the Bell; Bill Daysh (RN Retd) for his interesting account of the demise of the HMS Argyll, the only ship to be "lost" on the Bell Rock since the Lighthouse was built in 1811; Jim Anderson of the West Lothian Sub Aqua Club for providing the photographs for "Underwater Life at the Bell Rock"; Alan Provan (Chief Officer of the "Polestar") for his selection of scans for the section "Preparing for Automation"; and to Dr Alison Morrison-Low for her excellent Paper on early lighthouse optics and the part the Stevenson engineers played in its development; to Prof. Roland Paxton, Heriot University, for his definitive account on the building of the Bell Rock Railway and the important part Francis Watt played in it; to Peter Mackay, past Chairman of the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, for his two articles "Lighthouses of the Forth" and "What's in a Name: the Bell Rock over the centuries"; and finally to my friend, Ian Cowe, whose new book (see BOOKS link above) is now available for sale.

Other direct "lifts" used in the website have been acknowledged.


Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses
Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust

National Archives of Scotland
National Library of Scotland
National Galleries of Scotland
Angus Council
Arbroath Herald
Signal Tower Museum, Arbroath

Mike Bullock (Chief Executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board)
Roger Lockwood (ex-CEO, NLB)
Fiona Holmes (Information Officer, NLB)
Lorna Hunter (ex-Information Officer, NLB)
Alan Taylor (website design)
Agnes M. Taylor
Ian Cowe (Photographer)
The Staff of the Signal Tower Museum (past and present)
A special thanks, too, to all owners of the scans which illuminate this website.

R. Stevenson ("Account of the Bell Rock Lighthouse")
R. L. Stevenson ("Records of a Family of Engineers")
D. Alan Stevenson ("The World's Lighthouses Before 1820")
Craig Mair ("A Star for Seamen")
R. W. Munro ("Scottish Lighthouses")
John Prebble ("Lion in the North")

Disclaimer - Whilst every care is taken to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the information contained within the Bell Rock website, the owner does not accept liability (financial or otherwise) arising from the use of material in these Web pages. It should also be noted that there is no financial gain whatsoever to the owner of this site.

© Copyright - All material contained within this website is subject to Copyright, and must not be reproduced in any form without prior permission of the Owner

All contents: © 2000-2018 David Taylor
(except photos/artwork - copyright to original owners)
All rights reserved

Last Update: February 18, 2018
Research and narrative: David Taylor, FSA.Scot

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