Most lists of the seven wonders of the world include the Colossus of Rhodes. This bronze figure of Apollo, which the sculptor Chares took several years to construct, stood near a harbour on the island of Rhodes in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is reported that ships in full sail could pass between its legs whilst navigation lights were kept burning in its eyes. Whilst such descriptions are coloured by romance and myth, there is little doubt that early lighthouses were substantially tall towers supporting an open wood or coal fire. Such lights existed in Britain until as late as 1819, when Flathom light in the Bristol Channel was replaced by more modern equipment.
In time the open-flame coal brazier gave way to tallow candles. In 1696 Winstanley introduced a chandelier with tallow candles into the lantern of his famous Eddystone Tower. In 1759 Smeeton's Tower, which now stands on the Hoe at Plymouth, incorporated two superimposed iron rings that contained twenty-four candles.
By and large it was the improvements in optical systems that governed the development and introduction of oil and then, at a later date, electric illuminants.
The first attempt to intensify a lighthouse beam was in 1727 by the French at Cordouan. Mariners had complained that they could not see the light at more than 2 miles. In an attempt to improve on this, a cone of wood was covered with tin plate and suspended above the open fire.