Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse

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Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse
Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse
Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse is located in New South Wales
Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse
Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse
Location in New South Wales
Location Broken Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Coordinates 33°34′49″S 151°19′47″E / 33.580147°S 151.329796°E / -33.580147; 151.329796Coordinates: 33°34′49″S 151°19′47″E / 33.580147°S 151.329796°E / -33.580147; 151.329796
Year first lit 1881 (1881)
Automated 1932 (1932)
Construction Sandstone tower
Tower shape Cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / pattern Unpainted tower and white lantern room
Height 20 metres (66 ft)
Focal height 113 metres (371 ft)
Original lens 2nd order Chance Brothers Fresnel lens[1]
Light source Mains power
Intensity 75,000 candela
Range 19 nautical miles (35 km; 22 mi)[2]
Characteristic Fl (4) W 20s.
Visible in sector
Admiralty number K2702
NGA number 111-6156
ARLHS number AUS-005
Managing agent NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
Heritage Heritage Act - State Heritage Register Edit this on Wikidata
Official name Barrenjoey Head Lightstation
Criteria a., c., d., e., f., g.
Designated 2 April 1999
Reference no. 00979

The Barrenjoey Head lighthouse was the third light constructed on the Barrenjoey headland in the Northern Beaches district of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The heritage-listed lighthouse was completed in 1881.[3]


The lighthouse and the cottages, 1902

Designed by NSW Colonial Architect, James Barnet, its construction cost £13,695, plus £2,210 for the lamp. At an elevation of 113 metres (371 ft), it is visible to a distance of 19 nautical miles (35 km; 22 mi) out to sea.[2]

A customs station was established in 1843, as the Headland marked the entrance to Broken Bay and Pittwater – considered to be the back door to Sydney for smugglers. The first report of any lighted beacon on the headland was in 1855, when a fire was raised in a basket to assist mariners during storms. Broken Bay and the Pittwater were a safe haven in storms to vessels carrying coal from Newcastle to Sydney. Similarly, barges carrying food down the Hawkesbury River were a key food source for Sydney, and would harbour in the bay, awaiting favourable weather before making the 14-kilometre (8.7 mi) journey to Sydney.[4]

Later, in 1868, two wooden lighthouses known as the Stewart Towers, were built at either end of the headland to guide ships in. The need for a permanent light led to the construction of the current lighthouse.

The current tower is unpainted, and built of the rich-coloured local sandstone. The original lighting apparatus was a fixed red dioptric of 700 candlepower with 4 oil wick burners. In 1900, an explosion followed by a fire destroyed the ornamental roof on the adjacent oil house. The flames were subdued before reaching the tower.

In 1932, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation with the installation of an acetylene Dalén light of 6,000 candlepower. It was turned off and on by a Sun valve. Although the acetylene gas apparatus was efficient, access to the tower for re-supply presented problems, so in 1972 the lighthouse was converted to electric operation, with a new lamp capable of 75,000 candlepower.[5] Since the 1980s it has been featured heavily in the soap opera Home and Away, both during the credits and during the show itself.

Keepers and cottages[edit]

There is a head keeper's cottage as well as two assistant keeper's cottages located on the headland. They are built from Hawkesbury sandstone quarried from the site, and have galvanized iron roofs.

Keepers of the lighthouse were:

Ordinal Keeper Start date End date Notes
1 George Mulhall 1881 1885
2 George Mulhall, Jnr. 1881? 1891
3 Robert William Russell 1910 1920
4 Richard Sullivan 1921 1925
Robert William Russell 1925 1931
5 John Berryman 1931 1932
automated 1932 1960 Cottages were unoccupied and subject to neglect and vandalism
1960 1997 The cottages were leased
1997 present The cottages were taken over by the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), who removed many non-native plants and spent $230,000 restoring the cottages, lighthouse, and walking tracks.

For 31 years, from 1968 until 1999, Jervis Sparks leased Cottage 2 at Barrenjoey lighthouse, Palm Beach, NSW, Australia. It was an assistant keeper's cottage and had no electricity nor running water. When he took over the lease it was a vandalised ruin, and over many years he restored it to a comfortable 1800s era home, full of warmth and character. Sparks' Montreal born wife, Bridget, and he were married there in 1974. They were the unofficial caretakers of the lightstation and the headland. In 1992 Sparks published the first definitive history of that lighthouse, Tales From Barranjoey, written on a Macintosh PowerBook 100 and powered via a solar panel. 3,000 copies were printed and the few remaining copies are collector's items[citation needed], as the book is now out of print. Sparks was forced to vacate to Queensland when the management of all Australian lightstations (now all automatic and without any keepers or other protective human presence) was transferred from Commonwealth control, under the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), to state control, which in this case was the NPWS. Sparks continues to advise NPWS on all historical and environmental concerns concerning Barrenjoey headland. Before leaving, Bridget and Jervis Sparks were awarded the first-ever issued Pittwater Medal (modelled on the Australia Medal) by Pittwater Council for all their years of volunteer, historical and environmental work for the benefit of Barrenjoey, Palm Beach and the Northern Beaches in general. Jervis Sparks has decided to complete a quartet of books about Barrenjoey lighthouse, resulting in the second book, The Red Light of Palm Beach, detailing the lives of many of the lighthouse keepers who manned Barrenjoey from 1881 until 1932, when it became automated.

The light itself is currently operated by Roads and Maritime Services (formerly NSW Maritime).[6]

International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend[edit]

Each year the Manly-Warringah Radio Society celebrate International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend by activating an amateur radio station at the Barrenjoey lighthouse.[7] [8] The goal of the weekend is "to promote public awareness of lighthouses and lightships and their need for preservation and restoration, to promote amateur radio and to foster International goodwill". Over the course of the weekend some of the over 400 radio-active lighthouses around the world will be contacted from headland, usually on HF frequencies.

Heritage listing[edit]

On 2 April 1999 the lighthouse was listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register with the following statement of significance:[3]

Barrenjoey Lightstation and its setting are highly significant as one of a collection of lighthouses which combine the natural values of a rugged coastal environment with the cultural values of a prominent landmark. Built as an isolated outpost of European settlement it demonstrates the development of coastal shipping in the late 19th Century. The light tower retains its original function today using recent technology to allow for automated operation. It is a notable work of NSW Colonial Architect James Barnet which retains components of 19th Century lighthouse technologies. This site retains evidence of cultural values, both Aboriginal and European, legible in the landscape which demonstrates the changing uses of the site, against a constant of natural values.

— Statement of significance, New South Wales State Heritage Register.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Australia: New South Wales". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  2. ^ a b According to List of Lights and "Lighthouses of Australia". National Parks and wildlife Landscape Plan, Accessed 2007-01-08, says 40km. Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b "Barrenjoey Head Lightstation". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 14 September 2017. 
  4. ^ Macken, James J. Martin Burke: The Father of Pittwater. Anchor Publications. Holding: National Library of Australia. ISBN 0-9581340-3-0
  5. ^ "The Barranjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach". Lighthouses of New South Wales. Lighthouses of Australia Inc. Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  6. ^ "Lighthouse Lights - NSW Maritime". Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  7. ^ "Radio hams make Barrenjoey beacon". The Manly Daily. 11 August 2009. 
  8. ^ "Lighthouse Weekend". Archived from the original on 2013-04-26. Retrieved 2013-05-15. 


CC-BY-icon-80x15.png This Wikipedia article was originally based on the Barrenjoey Head Lightstation, listed on the "New South Wales State Heritage Register", published by the Government of New South Wales under CC-BY 3.0 AU licence (accessed on 14 September 2017).

External links[edit]