Quite a beautiful artifact with its historic maritime provenance, this extremely rare Fresnel lighthouse light consists of 72 cut crystal prisms and four large crystal panels set in its heavy brass optics. It’s one of the 3.5 Order lights made in 1903 by the renown Chance Brothers of Birmingham, England, whose lighthouse instruments were installed the world over. This is one of the largest we’ve seen in quite some time, and the fact that it comes with the original Chance Brothers burner with incandescent mantles and kerosene tanks with company labels is a huge bonus to its significance. On its staunch pedestal base, this artifact was in use on the northern shores of Australia, first put into service at Cape Don lighthouse in 1917 light and then afterward at Hannibal Island Lighthouse Station on the Queensland Coast.
When you consider the number of lighthouses ever built and the few that have antique apparatus surviving today, the rarity of this lens becomes evident. Most known ones are preserved in museums or restored light stations. This huge lens has a yellow tint in its cut crystals, showing the presence of arsenic in the manufacture of the prisms. There are a few chips in the 100-plus year old glass, and three prisms of various size are missing, which is often the case for a light of this age. Still, it is in amazing, original condition, with the heavy iron and brass of the objects having been restored with a professionally sprayed coat of marine green enamel.
When the Cape Don Lighthouse Complex began service in 1917, the cut crystal beacon was one of six Chance Brother large fresnel lights in all of Australia. The Cape Don location was an early example of a reinforced concrete tower that took over five year to construct in Australia’s remote and wild Northern Territory, from 1915 to 1920. When the light was modernized, the original was shipped and put into service at Hannibal Island, on Australia’s Northeast Queensland Coast, where it served until being stored away for decades. The Hannibal Light Station was an elevated fixed position signal. It is interesting to note that the Fresnel Company in Paris manufactured dierent types of lenses, and the original prism focused design was invented by Augustine-Jean Fresnel, a French mathematician in 1822. This is an exceptional combination of surviving equipment essential as aids to navigation.
Overall height 79 3/4 inches.
Lens with brass cap: 49 inches high.
Lens width: 39 inches.
Canisters - base size: 19" x 35" - Canisters: 37" high x 13" diameters
Pedestal dimensions: 33" diameter top. 24" diameter at bottom.
40 3/4" high..
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