Cape St George Lighthouse

The Cape St George Lighthouse was doomed from its very inception. A result of official bungling and lack of supervision, its light lasted for less than 40 years, after which it was unceremoniously destroyed.

History

The 1856 meeting of the Australian Lighthouse Commission recommended a lighthouse on Cape St George over Point Perpendicular previously recommended for a lighthouse by Captain Phillip King RN IN 1841. Controversy surrounded this light from the start of construction. When Colonial Architect, Alexander Dawson and Surveyor EP Millington surveyed the site in 1857 two possible sites were marked on a sketch map, S & T. The Pilot Board approved site S on reliance of accuracy of the plans. Accuracy of the plan was disputed by Mr Francis Hixson who was sent by the pilot board to investigate following reports that the light was not visible from the Southern approach to Jervis Bay, and would barely be visible from the Northern approach. They reported that they could not identify either of the points marked S or T. Certainly the light was not in the former as it was 3km from the South Head of Jervis Bay instead of 6.4km as described by the Colonial Architect.

A Select Committee was established by the New South Wales Government to investigate the errors in locating the lighthouse. The lighthouse had been lit for almost 12 months when the report was debated in the Legislative assembly. The committee recommended that a board of Nautical men be appointed to decide the proper site for a lighthouse. Their recommendation of removing the lighthouse and fixing on the intended site were never adopted and the light remained lit for 39 years.

From 1864 to 1893 there were twenty three ships wrecked on the South Coast of NSW in the vicinity of Jervis Bay.

continued below …

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Title Address Description
Point Perpendicular
Lighthouse Rd, Beecroft Peninsula NSW 2540, AustraliaPoint Perpendicular
Cape St George
Ruined Lighthouse Walking Trail, Jervis Bay JBT 2540, AustraliaCape St George
Warden Head
Deering St, Ulladulla NSW 2539, AustraliaWarden Head

continued from above …

The light was finally replaced in 1889 by a new lighthouse at Point Perpendicular, a much more suitable location for a lighthouse on this part of the coast. The lantern was removed and later used in the Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse built in 1904.

After the commissioning of the new light to avoid confusion to mariners of having two towers in close proximity to one another, the Cape St George Tower was demolished. Anecdotal evidence suggests it was used from 1917 to 1922 for target practice by the Royal Australian Navy.

The ruin of Cape St George lighthouse is perhaps the most significant European site in the Booderee National Park. The ruin was listed on the National Estate Register in 1981 in recognition of the ruin’s important setting, stonework and as a relic of early European occupation.

Keepers

The lighthouse staff and their families also were affected by tragedy.

In 1895, Edward Bailey, the Chief Lighthouse Keeper was fishing about 3km south of the lighthouse with two of his sons when he was washed off the rocks and drowned leaving a large family of eleven children. Edward a strong swimmer was heading for the shore when he disappeared beneath the waves. The boys had earlier noticed three large sharks swimming close by and it was thought that they might have taken him.

His son Arthur took over his father’s position and continued to rear his brothers and sisters. Another son Edward became the Head Lighthouse keeper at Pt. Perpendicular when it opened in 1899.

Harriet Parker daughter of second light house keeper accidentally shot dead in 1887 by Kate Gibson the head keeper’s daughter.

We need your help in compiling a list of keepers for this lighthouse. If you have any information then send it to keeper@lighthouses.org.au.

Please include this lighthouse’s name, the keepers full name and what years they were keepers. Also include the same information for any other lights they were on.

Technical Details

First Exhibited1 October 1860
Current Tower1860
StatusRuins
LocationLat. 35° 09' S, Long. 150° 45' E
Original OpticNine 60mm paraboloidal reflectors, three per face, revolving catoptric
Original LanternWilkins & Co reused at Crookhaven Heads
ConstructionDressed sandstone blocks
Height18.6 m
Elevation67 m
RangeWhite 20 NM
Red 14 NM
Green 10 NM
CharacterTri coloured flash, Al. Fl. W.R.G
IntensityUnknown
Light SourceOil
Power SourceN/A
OperatorInactive
CustodianNSW National Parks
NotesAbandoned 1899 and destroyed to remove navigation confusion with Point Perpendicular
  NB: Information is historical data and is not for navigational purposes.

Access

The ruins of the lighthouse are in Booderee National Park.  at Jervis Bay on the south coast of New South Wales between Nowra and Ulladulla. The park is about three hours drive from Sydney or Canberra.

Booderee National Park is open all year round. The Visitor Centre is open Sun to Thurs – 9.30 am to 3.00 pm and Fri, Sat + public and school holidays – 9.30 am to 4.00 pm.  An entry fee may apply.

Tours

No

Accommodation

No

Museum

No

Associated Lighthouses

Point Perpendicular, NSW

Crookhaven Heads, NSW

Sources