of Littlebury Millennium Society/History Group
Junior Summer History Days -12th August
Littlebury is famous for Henry Winstanley who built his ‘House of Wonders’ here and erected the first lighthouse on the Eddystone rocks at Plymouth at the request of William III. He was tragically killed when this splendid edifice collapsed, with him in it, during the great storm of November 26th 1703. As part of our Junior Summer History Days programme we thought it would be thrilling to build a large model replica of his lighthouse and despatch it in a ‘storm’ of our own making. With permission to do this on Church Meadow, the site of Winstanley’s ‘House of Wonders’ that had its own brick model lighthouse built in the garden, we were all set for the project.
In the preceding weeks we, and Waitrose very kindly, amassed quantities of cardboard boxes and tubes (enough for four lighthouses as it turned out) and during the day we built a 12ft high scale model in sections at the village hall. The children and their parents divided into four teams: ‘Base with Goods Gallery’, ‘Airry’, an area open to the elements, ‘Kitchen and Bedroom’ and ‘Lanthorn’, for the lamp and 60 candles. We worked with written instructions, patterns and a ‘white model’, all of which were prepared in advance to ensure that we finished within the day.
Altogether about twenty children and teenagers between the ages of 3 and 17 got stuck in, showing immense concentration as well as parents, grandparents and other interested adults, who maintained a steady pace. Even as we worked kind people arrived with still more cardboard. After a picnic lunch on the recreation ground we completed the four sections by 5.30pm. We offered them up to each other to see if they fitted – mercifully they did.Luckily the promised rain held off and we lit a barbecue for all the model makers at a house near the meadow, the adults imbibing ‘Littlebury Lighthouse’, a beer brewed by Saffron Brewery’s Dave Camman, a much missed manager of our local, The Queen’s Head. In the evening, as dusk fell with the sort of atmospheric skies we would have ordered if it had been possible (a rainbow, deep blue skies and a golden light), we carried the sections of the lighthouse into Church Meadow while many Littlebury folk turned up to watch.
The lighthouse was successfully assembled and we attempted to light the candles, which, due to a sharp breeze, unfortunately kept blowing out; but when a high-powered torch was played on the tin foil covered ‘Lanthorn’ candle compartments instead, the effect was bright and illuminating.
The children were by now at a fever pitch of excitement and, with a background of thunderstorm sound effects, careened around the wavering lighthouse with turquoise net waves, waving them up and down, creating ‘stormy’ conditions with wild and generous abandon. At a given signal they surged forward after the final thunderclap crescendos died away and our beautiful lighthouse disappeared promptly into a sea of long wet grass. Within seconds our careful model makers of the daytime turned into tempestuous waves of the evening, rising and falling on the quickly disappearing edifice. It was a long day but certainly an exciting one.
click on any image for a larger version
|Marking out the cardboard||Cutting out the shapes|
|The lanthorn starting to take shape||The roof of the lanthorn|
cornice that goes just
beneath the kitchen complete
|The lanthorn nearly complete|
and bedroom complete, the
Base with Goods Gallery in the
|Putting it together outside|
Many thanks to Chris Woodhouse for the following wonderful evening images of the 'collapse' in sequence