Record

CodeNA8592
Dates1812-1952
Person NameRobert Stevenson & Sons; 1812-1952; civil engineers
Epithetcivil engineers
ActivityThe firm of Robert Stevenson & Sons, civil and lighthouse engineers, was founded by Robert Stevenson (1772-1850). Stevenson was the stepson of Thomas Smith (1752-1815) from Fife. Smith trained as a metal worker and worked in Edinburgh where he began to take an interest in reflecting lights. He created his own reflecting lamp and became Edinburgh's principal lighting engineer. In 1786, when the Northern Lighthouse Board was set up, he was appointed consultant to the Board and set about supervising and improving the lighthouses in Scotland. Smith married Stevenson's widowed mother in 1792 and Stevenson became Smith's apprentice and then partner, helping with the construction of lighthouses. In 1799 Stevenson was appointed engineer to the Board of Northern Lighthouses and began to build up the family business of civil engineering and lighthouse construction. The business was well established by 1820 and by 1843, when Stevenson retired, he had built over 20 lighthouses, most notably Bell Rock Lighthouse which was completed in 1811. Stevenson married Jean Smith, Thomas Smith's daughter by an earlier marriage, and had a large family of whom three sons followed him into the lighthouse-building business. Alan Stevenson (1807-1865), the eldest son, was appointed engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1843 and was responsible for the construction of several lighthouses including Skerryvore (1844). The firm was also very successful in other aspects of civil engineering including building harbours, roads, bridges and railways, deepening rivers and constructing canals. David Stevenson (1815-1886), another of Robert Stevenson's sons, was involved in this side of the business until he was made engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1853 and went on to build at least thirty lighthouses. Robert Stevenson's third son, Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887), was also involved in the business. Thomas's son, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) the author, had no interest in the family business and it was left to the sons of David Stevenson, Charles (1855-1950) and David Alan (1854-1938), to continue the firm. David Alan Stevenson assumed the position of Engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1885 and remained in the post until 1938 and his brother Charles was a noted inventor who pioneered improvements in optics and illuminates, and more efficiency in foghorns. Charles' son, David Alan Stevenson (1891-1971), known as D. Alan, became a partner in the firm in 1919 and, although never engineer to the Lighthouse Board, became one of the world's greatest experts on lighthouses. He and the firm worked closely with the Clyde Lighthouses Trust until his retrial in 1952.
Corporate NameRobert Stevenson & Sons
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