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.
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.
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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.41à§—.
Five-mile Bluff – S. 49ç®¼/i>
I am Sir, your obedient Sert.
MAT. CARLING FRIEND.
[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.
|Location||Lat: 41° 03.3355' S Long: 146° 47.3652' E|
|Current Optic||375mm f.r. triple flashing catadioptric (three panels & mirror)|
|Construction||White round brick tower with a red band and
Chance Bros. 10' 9" dia lantern with flat glazing panes
|Range||Nominal: 23 nm Geographical: 18 nm|
|Character||Fl. W. (3) in 30 secs|
|Light Source||120V, 1000W T.H., 3000hr.|
|Power Source||240V AC mains|
|Notes||Note: 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.
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.
No tours are available.
Accommodation is available at Low Head Lighthouse or Pilot Station
We need your help in compiling a list of keepers for this lighthouse. If you have any information then send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.