Cookson Lenses by Thomas Tag

The English and Scottish lighthouse authorities wanted to produce all Fresnel lenses and other lighthouse equipment in their own country and persuaded the Cookson Glass Company to begin production of Fresnel lenses in 1834. Cookson brought in Leonor Fresnel, Augustin’s brother, as a consultant and produced Fresnel lenses from individual pieces and prisms as done by the French lens companies.  The first of these better designed Fresnel lenses, built by the Cookson Co., was installed in Scotland in 1835, in the Inchkeith lighthouse. This was quickly followed in 1836 when the first Fresnel lens, also built by the Cookson Co., was installed in England at the Start Point lighthouse. In all 15 very early Fresnel lenses were made by William Isaac Cookson for use in England, Ireland and Scotland.

A major improvement in Fresnel lens design was made by Cookson Glass Company in 1836.  At that time it was thought impossible to construct the central drum of a fixed lens based on a truly circular form.  The fixed lenses made up to that time were actually made in the form of polygons with 32 sides.  In 1836, Cookson was able to construct the first circular drum segments for a fixed lens, dramatically improving their optical characteristics.

In 1845, the Cookson Glass Company went out of business and was sold to a consortium headed by Robert W. Swinburne.   Robert W. Swinburne was in business for about one year and produced only one Fresnel lens used at the Hartlepool Heugh Lighthouse.