Low Head Lighthouse

A signal station was set up at Low Head in 1805. It is Australia’s oldest continuously used pilot station.

The lightstation, established in 1833, was Australia’s third and Tasmania’s second.

History

In 1808, the Hebe was wrecked on the rocks at the mouth to the Tamar, thence giving them its name. Altogether, a dozen ships were wrecked in the Tamar over the next 100 years.

A pilots and a signal station was established at Low Head (Georgetown) in 1805 and is Australia’s oldest continuously used pilot station. Current buildings date from 1838.

When a sail was sighted at dusk, a fire was lit and kept burning all night to keep the vessel in touch with the port.

After a review of pilotage in 1827 it was resolved to build a lighthouse at Low Head.

The tower was built in 1833. It was constructed of local rubble with a coat of stucco to make the structure durable and to provide a worthwhile landmark. The crown was built of freestone from Launceston.

The keepers’ quarters consisted of four rooms attached to the base of the tower. The only case of the quarters being attached in any Tasmanian lighthouse.

The tower was 15.25 metres from top to bottom. The lantern room was built of timber in Launceston.

It had been designed by the then Colonial Architect John Lee Archer who was responsible for the design of many other Tasmanian lights.

continued below …

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Blinking Billy

Blinking Billy

Blinking Billy
Blinking Billy Point Reserve, 652 Sandy Bay Rd, Sandy Bay TAS 7005, Australia

Blinking Billy

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John Garrow Shoal

John Garrow Shoal

John Garrow Shoal
Blinking Billy Point Reserve, 652 Sandy Bay Rd, Sandy Bay TAS 7005, Australia

John Garrow Shoal

Direction

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot
Iron Pot, Tasmania, Australia

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot

Direction

Tasman Island

Tasman Island

Tasman Island
Tasman Island, Tasmania, Australia

Tasman Island

Direction

Cape Bruny

Cape Bruny

Cape Bruny
Cape Bruny Lighthouse Tours, Lighthouse Rd, South Bruny TAS 7150, Australia

Cape Bruny

Direction

Maatsuyker Island

Maatsuyker Island

Maatsuyker Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania, Australia

Maatsuyker Island

Direction

Cape Sorell

Cape Sorell

Cape Sorell
Unnamed Road, Macquarie Heads TAS 7468, Australia

Cape Sorell

Direction

Entrance Island

Entrance Island

Entrance Island
Unnamed Road, Macquarie Heads TAS 7468, Australia

Entrance Island

Direction

Bonnet Island

Bonnet Island

Bonnet Island
Macquarie Harbour,, TAS, Australia

Bonnet Island

Direction

Bluff Hill Point

Bluff Hill Point

Bluff Hill Point
Bluff Hill Rd, Marrawah TAS 7330, Australia

Bluff Hill Point

Direction

West Point

West Point

West Point
Unnamed Road, Marrawah TAS 7330, Australia

West Point

Direction

Sandy Cape

Sandy Cape

Sandy Cape
Unnamed Road, West Coast TAS 7321, Australia

Sandy Cape

Direction

Stokes Point

Stokes Point

Stokes Point
Unnamed Road, Surprise Bay TAS 7256, Australia

Stokes Point

Direction

Currie Harbour

Currie Harbour

Currie Harbour
LOT 1 Lighthouse St, Currie TAS 7256, Australia

Currie Harbour

Direction

Cape Wickham

Cape Wickham

Cape Wickham
687 Cape Wickham Rd, Wickham TAS 7256, Australia

Cape Wickham

Direction

Councillor Island

Councillor Island

Councillor Island
Councillor Island, Tasmania, Australia

Councillor Island

Direction

Highfield Point

Highfield Point

Highfield Point
Unnamed Road, Stanley TAS 7331, Australia

Highfield Point

Direction

Highfield Point Old

Highfield Point Old

Highfield Point Old
Marine Park, 14 Wharf Rd, Stanley TAS 7331, Australia

Highfield Point Old

Direction

Rocky Cape

Rocky Cape

Rocky Cape
Rocky Cape Rd, Rocky Cape TAS 7321, Australia

Rocky Cape

Direction

Table Cape

Table Cape

Table Cape
Lighthouse Rd, Table Cape TAS 7325, Australia

Table Cape

Direction

Round Hill Point

Round Hill Point

Round Hill Point
Chasm Creek Lighthouse, 1A Bass Hwy, Chasm Creek TAS 7321, Australia

Round Hill Point

Direction

Mersey Bluff

Mersey Bluff

Mersey Bluff
39 Bluff Access Rd, Devonport TAS 7310, Australia

Mersey Bluff

Direction

Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights
6 Victoria Parade, Devonport TAS 7310, Australia

Devonport Leading Lights

Direction

Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights
26 Best St, Devonport TAS 7310, Australia

Devonport Leading Lights

Direction

Low Head

Low Head

Low Head
496 Low Head Rd, Low Head TAS 7253, Australia

Low Head

Direction

Middle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)

Middle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)

Middle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)
180 Low Head Rd, Low Head TAS 7253, Australia

Middle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)

Direction

Sheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)

Sheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)

Sheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)
199 Low Head Rd, Low Head TAS 7253, Australia

Sheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)

Direction

Swan Island

Swan Island

Swan Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania, Australia

Swan Island

Direction

Goose Island

Goose Island

Goose Island
Flinders, TAS, Australia

Goose Island

Direction

Eddystone Point

Eddystone Point

Eddystone Point
Eddystone Light Station, 2986 Eddystone Point Rd, Eddystone TAS 7264, Australia

Eddystone Point

Direction

Deal Island

Deal Island

Deal Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania 7255, Australia

Deal Island

Direction

South East Point (Wilsons Promontory)

South East Point (Wilsons Promontory)

South East Point (Wilsons Promontory)
Wilsons Promontory, VIC 3960, Australia

South East Point (Wilsons Promontory)

Direction

Cape Tourville

Cape Tourville

Cape Tourville
Cape Tourville Rd, Coles Bay TAS 7215, Australia

Cape Tourville

Direction

Cape Forestier (Lemon Rock)

Cape Forestier (Lemon Rock)

Cape Forestier (Lemon Rock)
Freycinet National Park, Coles Bay Rd, Coles Bay TAS 7215, Australia

Cape Forestier (Lemon Rock)

Direction

Point Home

Point Home

Point Home
Unnamed Road, Triabunna TAS 7190, Australia

Point Home

Direction

continued from above …

The original apparatus was provided by a Mr. W Hart of Launceston. He supplied “six dozen lamps, including reflectors, at three shillings and sixpence each”.

This first light was known as the ‘Georgetown Station’. It is Australia’s third and Tasmania’s second lighthouse built.

Conditions were poor on the early Tasmanian lightstations. Low head was no exception, being manned by a superintendent (headkeeper) and two convict assistants who were locked in their quarters overnight.

In 1835, the light was upgraded by installation of a revolving shutter which was rotated by a weight-driven clockwork mechanism.

In April 1838, the original tin reflectors and Argand lamps were replaced by a new revolving lens array from Wilkins and Co of London, UK. In 1851, the candelas were increased, but no figures are quoted.

IMPORTANT TO MARINERS
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ADVERTISER.

Sir, – The Light House on the Low Heads at the entrance of this port being now completed, it is lighted pro. tem. by a number of small lamps each having a tin parabolic reflector. The lantern is placed about 135 feet above the level of the sea and has the following magnetic bearings,

Hebe Reef – N. 85å®
West Head – N. 71å®
Windmill, George Town – N. 32ã°§ W.
Barren Joee or Tenth Island – S.41ৗ.
Five-mile Bluff – S. 49箼/i>

I am Sir, your obedient Sert.
MAT. CARLING FRIEND.
Port Officer.

[The Launceston Advertiser, 19 Dec 1833]

The 1833 tower was poorly constructed and after 50 years had fallen into a state of disrepair. In 1888, this original convict-built stone tower was pulled down.

In the same year it was replaced with the present double brick structure, was designed by Marine Board architect Robert Huckson, with new lantern room and apparatus. The new tower was painted white.

The lens apparatus was modernised in 1916 with a more up-to-date Chance Bros. revolving lens using an incandescent kerosene mantle lantern.

An auxillary red light to cover Hebe Reef had been installed in 1898.

In 1926, a broad red band was painted around the middle of the tower to ensure adequate visibility during daylight hours.

In 1929, Tasmania’s only a foghorn was instated at the station but discontinued in 1973 due to improvements in navigational equipment.

In 1940, electricity replaced the old vapourised oil system and mantle, and the clockwork rotating mechanism was replaced by an electric motor.

From 1865 to 1912, the light was under the control of Alfred C. Rockwell and his son Alfred Rockwell Jnr, a period of 47 years!

The station was also responsible for the smaller Tamar Leading Lights which were separately manned for some years.

This light is now unmanned.

Technical Details

First Exhibited1833
Permanent Tower
CurrentTower
Architect
StatusActive
LocationLat: 41° 03.3355' S Long: 146° 47.3652' E
Original Optic
Current Optic375mm f.r. triple flashing catadioptric (three panels & mirror)
Automated
Demanned
ConstructionWhite round brick tower with a red band and
Chance Bros. 10' 9" dia lantern with flat glazing panes
Height19 m
Elevation43 m
RangeNominal: 23 nm Geographical: 18 nm
CharacterFl. W. (3) in 30 secs
Intensity500,000 cd
Light Source120V, 1000W T.H., 3000hr.
Power Source240V AC mains
OperatorAMSA
NotesNote: Low Head Light is described as a (rear) lead light in a set of leads formed by Low Head & Dotterell Point (front) for vessels departing Pt Dalrymple.
As at June 2012

  NB: Information is historical data and is not for navigational purposes.

Access

The lightstation is situated some 7 km North of George Town on the East side of the Tamar River 50 km from Launceston. It is easily accessible by road. Enter by a side gate. The lighthouse grounds are open all year round.

Tours

No tours are available.

Accommodation

Accommodation is available at Low Head Lighthouse or Pilot Station  External link

Museum

Low Head Pilot Station Maritime Museum  External link

Associated Lighthouse

Tamar River Leading Lights at She Oak Point and Middle Channel

Keepers

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.