Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Previous section
Ethics and Values: For the Public Good

Later Life

In Smeaton’s later years he began to spend more of his time at home in Austhorpe. He spent large portions of his time observing the stars and writing letters and reports, this was when he wrote his famous 'A Narrative of the Building' and a description of the building of the Eddystone Light in Stone.

On the 16th October 1792 Smeaton suffered a stroke whilst walking in his garden, he recovered well enough to converse with friends and family and he once again resumed writing.

His daughter Mary Dixon, in a letter to The Smeatonian Society described his last days

“He would sometimes complain of his own slowness (as he called it) of apprehension, and then would excuse it with a smile, saying,

'' It could not be otherwise; the shadow must lengthen as the sun went down!" 

There was no slowness, in fact, to lament; for he was as ready at calculations, and as perspicuous in explanation, as at any former period. Some phenomena respecting the moon were asked him one evening, when it accidentally shone bright, full into his room. When he had spoke fully on them, his eyes remained fixed upon it with a most animated attention, to us impressive; then, turning them on us with benignity observed,

 “How often have I looked up to it with inquiry and wonder! To the period when I shall have the vast and privileged views of an hereafter, and all will be comprehension and pleasure!”

Shortly after, the end he had through life desired was granted; the body gradually sunk, but the mind shone to the last; and, in the way good men aspire to, he closed a life, active as useful,  amiable as revered.”

Mary Dixon, daughter of John Smeaton FRS 

John Smeaton died at home at Austhorpe Lodge on 28th October 1792, aged 68 years old. He is buried in Whitkirk Church and his wife Ann is buried in the churchyard. His daughters dedicated a stone tablet inside the church to his memory, which reads

Sacred to the memory of John Smeaton. F.R.S.

A man whom God had endowed with the most extraordinary abilities, which he indefatigably exerted for the benefit of mankind in works of science and philosophical research: More especially as an Engineer and Mechanic. His principal work, the Eddystone Lighthouse, erected on a rock in the open sea (where one had been washed away  by the violence of a storm, and another had been consumed by the rage of fire), secure in it’s own stability, and the wise precautions for its safety, seems not unlikely to convey to distant ages, as it does to every nation of the globe, the name of its constructer.

He was born at Austhorpe Lodge, June 8, 1724;

And departed this life October 28, 1792


Whitkirk Church Memorial