Lighthouses capture the imagination in a way that few other structures do. These iconic buildings evoke a keen sense of the romance and adventure of life at sea and a reassuringly benevolent presence when illuminated at night.
Artist and author Roger O’Reilly has created a unique set of illustrated prints of the Lighthouses of Britain. Each artwork is a unique composition based on the artist’s own drawings and sketches, lovingly created after travelling from county to county.
Lighthouses in Devon
The new collection will feature illustrations of some of the best lighthouses in Devon including Berry Head – the smallest lighthouse in Britain, which stands at a mere 5 meters tall, Eddystone, the first wave washed lighthouse to be build (built on the Eddystone rocks which are submerged at high tide – Eddystone went through four iterations to finally arrive at the lighthouse that exists today), and Lundy South – which was occupied by Barbary pirates during the 1600s, and in the 18th century became infamous as the base of Thomas Benson, one time MP for Barnstaple, who became Devon’s most notorious smuggler.
The illustrations are now available to buy from Lighthouse Editions and will be the subject of a beautiful book of prints and stories which will go on sale in 2024.
Inspired by travel posters
Inspired by the travel posters of the 30s and 40s, the collection includes iconic and historical lighthouses from across Britain, from those we are familiar with from the Shipping Forecast to the more obscure structures that dot myriad harbours and estuaries. There are lighthouses with historical significance and amazing design, those that tell stories of pirates and wreckers, ones you can stay in and ones with unexplained ghost stories.
A deep-seated love
Roger explains how his love of the lighthouse began: “I grew up near the mouth of the River Boyne, on Ireland’s East Coast. A few minutes from my door were three unusual estuarine lighthouses perched among the sand dunes. Drogheda North, East and West lights were truncated structures that stood like daleks on stilts, gazing forlornly out to sea and only coming to life as the dusk crept in. I didn’t realise it at the time, but they imprinted in me a deep-seated love of lighthouses and all that they represent.”
In 2017 Roger began illustrating the lighthouses around Ireland’s South Coast. This quickly grew into a collection that culminated in an award-winning book, Lighthouses of Ireland, (Irish Book of the Year, 2018, now in its fifth print run). The Lighthouses of Britain project started with a holiday in Cornwall, not too far from Lizard Point Lighthouse and as his sketchbook filled with studies of harbours and lights on the Cornish and Devon coasts a new idea emerged.
Before long he was pouring over maps of Somerset and South Wales. His collection of illustrations now runs to over 350 lighthouses and is still a work in progress. There are also over 100 smaller lights which provide navigation to our estuaries, harbour approaches and rivers, while a selection of best loved decommissioned lighthouses are also included.
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