|Physical description: ||Port Stephens is a coastal recreation and holiday centre 190 kilometres north of Sydney and 45 kilometres north east of Newcastle. Point Stephens is located on the southern headland of Port Stephens, south east of Tomaree Head. It is an island connected by a sand bar to the headland and encloses the south-facing Fingal Bay.Tomaree National Park occupies most of the headland and part of Point Stephens. The Park contains several rare species including Melaleuca Graviana.The waterways are popular for sailing and whale and dolphin. Both inside and outside Port Stephens are regarded as safe and easily navigable waterway but the entrance is hazardous. The natural features, character of the port, proximity to Myall Lakes and the Hunter Valley combine to make it a tourism and retirement destination.Islands off the coast and visible from the lighthouse include Cabbage Tree Island, an important and rare nesting habitat for the Gould's Petral.Before the light was exhibited a number of vessels misread the island and Fingal bay on its southern shore for the entrance to Port Stephens. Shipwrecks in the vicinity including the Florence Irving wrecked in the southern bay of Point Stephens in 1877. SettingPoint Stephens is an island connected to the mainland by a sand spit that is below water at high tide and has been totally submerged for periods in the past. The headland peak at Tomaree attracts many visitors with spectacular views to Port Stephens, the harbour entrance and coastal islands. Point Stephens lighthouse is visible from here, at a distance of about 4 kilometres. Natural Attributes There is considerable bushland on the island, which is generally in good condition. Weed and Bitau Bush are mostly close to the walking trails and progressively responding to long term weed control measures. There area wallabies and quoll on the island as well as feral foxes, possums and a great deal of bird life. The lighthouse keepers originally ran cattle for food and grass control. However only two remained when the NPWS took control of the island and the last of these died in May 1998.The island itself features a number of rocky bays and islets. The lighthouse is located near the south eastern point of the island. To its north is Shark Bay and a small island called Shark Island.There is no fresh water or sewerage treatment functioning at present.
There was an old wharf on the northern side of the island. Only several brackets and stumps remain, but the concrete path near the wharf is still in reasonable condition. Sea conditions are not conducive to the landing of small boats and the wharf site is not suitable for a future wharf.Evidence of old gardens remains around the lighthouse precinct and in citrus and other trees along the track from the sand spit.A swimming beach on the northern side of the island is easily accessible from the main track. The swimming hole may have been an Aboriginal fish trap. The southern end of the island is generally less accessible than the northern and therefore less disturbed.The track across the island from the sand spit is in reasonable condition although the scrub vegetation tends to encroach on the path.Port Stephens was used as military training centre Australian and US troops during the early 1940s. The mental hospital was originally part of the WW2 facilities. Gun emplacements; torpedo launching ramps and an early radar station were constructed around the Tomaree headland to protect the harbour entrance. "Fort Tomaree" is now included in the National Park area and provides another cultural dimension to the area.The Tomaree headland also features a number of walking tracks but the coast itself is too rugged to walk. The tracks are wide and were used to resupply the lighthouse and to transport shell grit. There is a dramatic transition of topography along the coast, with tall headlands and steep cliffs.Site DescriptionThe Lightstation Reserve is an uninhibited island connected to the mainland by sand spit and is predominantly covered by bushland except for a cleared grassed area around the lighthouse, helipad and associated buildings. Several unsealed paths exist on the property.Lighthouse precinctThe lighthouse was constructed in 1862. Designed by Colonial Architect Alexander Dawson with sandstone brought from Maitland. At the time of the construction of the lightstation the spit was well above water and covered in bushes. A storm in 1891 washed the spit away, so access today requires walking across the spit at low tide or travelling by boat if calm seas prevail. The residence was vandalised and burnt ten years and remains in ruinous condition. A wire fence, set several hundred metres away from the cottages defines the lighthouse precinct. Photographs from the 1940s indicate that the landscape was fairly open grassland around the immediate precinct. There was also a swamp behind the houses.Buildings and StructuresThe Lighthouse complex consists of:The Lighthouse.Combined accommodation, keeper's residence buildingand several other smaller stores and associated structures including fuel shed, helipad, solar panels, stone walls and remains of garden, telegraph pole, tank stand, septic tank and remains of wharf.
The tower is circular in plan with an internal diameter of 10 feet. The interior is divided into four storeys and all of the floors and stairs are made of iron. The tower features a generator room with separate entry located in its basement with the main entrance to the upper levels of the tower occurring at the first floor level. A flight of external stone steps lead to the landing and entry. The basement area was originally used as an oil store for the light and had most recently been used as a generator room.The elevation of the tower is unusual featuring a bell curve elevation with a concave batter. The gallery and the lantern is of stone and originally featured an iron railing. The tower walls are carried up above the lantern floor to support the metal framework for the glass optic. EquipmentThe original lantern was a canotropic design manufactured by H Wilkins & Co., Lighthouse Engineers, London, with 12 metallic parabolic reflectors at the back of each lamp on a revolving iron frame. The lamps were arranged into four groups of three lamps each. Two groups were white and two groups with red globes.
HEAD LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER'S COTTAGE & ASSISTANT KEEPER'S COTTAGES
Quarters for the accommodation of the keepers was originally provided in a terrace of three one storeyed cottages. The head keeper's cottage had six rooms and the assistant each had three. All were provided with kitchens, storerooms and privies.The completion date for the cottages may have been slightly later than the lighthouse as building supplies were still being sent from Sydney after the official opening of the light. The supplies included paint in the colours of dark green, black, yellow and burnt umbra.The cottages feature stone walls and chimneys (the same imported stone as the Lighthouse), double skin and rubble infill for the external walls and single skin internally. Although the internal walls were rendered and painted the quality of the stone cutting and laying is excellent. Externally the stone was probably originally dressed and later some were either rendered and painted or simply painted. In 1901 major repairs were carried out to the roof and may have included the replacement of the original roof slates to terracotta tiles.In 1912 a report on the condition and efficiency of the lightstation noted that the building was in good condition and recommended that two lightkeepers be withdrawn, retaining one lightkeeper and his family. This was not acted upon until 1922 when the light was upgraded and the number of lightkeepers was reduced to two.A number of photographs taken in the 1950s show a rear addition to the building with a skillion roof and part of the verandah infilled providing additional spaces.Following automation in 1973 the two remaining keepers were withdrawn and the building was declared surplus to the need of the Department. The National Trust of Australia (NSW) was given the lease of the building after some debate and became responsible for its conservation. A caretaker in turn leased the building and was in residence when the mains power was converted to solar power.However the caretakers lease expired in early 1991. Shortly after the triplex building was vanadalised and burnt out. The building has been partially destroyed with only some of the walls and some verandah slabs remaining. The remaining structure also includes some badly deteriorated chimneys and some timber beams that may be part of the original structure. Some small elements of wall finishes also remain.In 1992 security fences were installed after some clearing of the site and Australian Construction Services stabilised some of the building elements. Remnants of the internal render and external paint finishes remain as does some the collapsed carved stonework from the main gable and chimneys. The Structural Report of 1997 by Hughes Trueman Reinhold, outlined a number of deficiencies in the building. It noted some weathering of the sandstone, particularly at the south eastern corner. Also cracking in several of the lintels which are potentially dangerous and should be repaired. There are some minor examples of mechanical damage and is considerable evidence of rising damp.The Report outlines that at minimum the roof should be constructed in order to stabilise the walls and chimneys and would provide some rainwater drainage and therefore prevent further water damage and deterioration. Other essential structural elements were listed and included door and window joinery new floor and work to lintels and rising damp problems in the building.The Report also discussed temporary stabilisation methods using scaffolding. It appears from the purely indicative costings provided such temporary measures would prove equally costly to the more permanent measures.
OTHER FEATURES & ELEMENTS
A number of outbuildings occupied the area behind the cottage building. These were essentially service structures, kitchen, privies and stores and mostly destroyed in the 1991 fire, only parts of the timber walls remain.There are two large underground water tanks however these have not been tested for pollution and there has been no water collection at the place given the ruinous condition of the buildings. There is currently no regular source of power other than solar panels for the lighthouse and a backup generator in the lighthouse tower.Another privy located to the north of the cottage building was possibly constructed c.1930s when the size of the compound was increased. The fabric of the brick privy remains in good condition and features a gabled roof clad in corrugated asbestos sheeting.Further north of the cottage building is the workshop building. Possibly constructed mid 20th Century it is assumed it replaced earlier workshop structures in this area. The structures have flat and skillion roof and also housed the electricity generators at one stage. The former generator/workshop room is an isolated structure located at the northern end of the property away from the residences. Although none of the machinery is present concrete mounting blocks remain. The structures has been vandalised and its most recent use has been as an overnight cabin by fishermen. There are a series of drystone walls in the vicinity of the lighthouse which apparently date from 1865.The flagstaff has been removed but the footings and stay rings survive. Part of the original establishment it was situated south of the lighthouse adjacent to stone retaining wall which is original.Two other timber framed structures also remain including a former fuel shed assumed to be constructed c.1970s and located south of Lighthouse on the point.A single above ground fuel bunker is located on the southern side of the property, approximately 40 metres away from the lighthouse. The bunker is of brick construction with a concrete roof and floor and has been directly constructed on a rock outcrop.The former residences was served by a single septic system which appears to have discharged via an infiltration bed towards the north east of the property.
|Modifications and dates: ||Alterations to Buildings: It appears that the cottage building also suffered some damage as a result of the gale of 1891. It is likely that the original slate roof was changed to tiles, a drawing dated 1901 depicts a tiled roof as existing at this time. It appears that major repairs were undertaken to the triplex residential complex at this time. A report on the condition and efficiency of the lightstation dated 1912 noted that the tower was in good condition. A new handrail had been installed to the tower steps in 1903. There was however some criticism of the apparatus, noting that while it possessed a fairly distinctive character it was obsolete and of low power. The alternate red flash was visible only half the distance of the white, given false impression to the navigators. In 1932 the original Wilkins handrails and stanchions of the tower gallery were replaced by gas steel pipe and mild steel rods. In 1991 the cottage building was ravaged by fires lit by vandals and substantially damaged. The lighthouse is currently unmanned and annual maintenance activities were conducted by AMSA until the handover to the State and NPWS in 1997.
Alterations to Equipment: Responding to the criticisms of 1903, a recommendation was subsequently submitted outlining that the red shade be removed converting the light to white flashing every minute and at a later stage replacing the light with a modern automatic quick flashing dioptric light showing three flashes in quick succession. Conversion of the light was finally made in 1922, In 1922 when the original kerosene lamp in the light was replaced by a Dalene acetylene lamp which increased the intensity of the light. Staffing was reduced to two keepers at that time. Mains power was supplied to the site in 1960 with the laying of a submarine cable and was backed up by a diesel generator in a generator room in the basement of the lighthouse tower. In 1973 a new lantern and dome were installed and the light became fully automatic and as a result all of the staff were removed. Mains power has since been disconnected and replaced with a solar powered system with battery storage.The Department of Transport at the time of demanning the station decided that maintaining the lighthouse keepers cottages would be too costly and that their removal would be more practical. As surplus all of the original logs and drawings and original furniture were burned at this time by the Department’s employees. Prior to the proposed demolition of the building one of the last relieving keepers and a local businessman mounted a successful campaign to save the residential building. In 1974 the National Trust (NSW) were given the lease to the building and assumed responsibility for its conservation.Electricity was supplied to the station in 1963. In March 1973 the station was automated with the installation of a fibreglass lantern, hexagonal lamp array and rotating pedestal. This effectively reduced the height of the tower to 65 feet. The 1932 gallery rail was retained together with the lower part of the Wilkins lantern house.In 1990 the light was converted to solar power due to faults in the power supply and problems with the diesel alternator.
Alterations to Cultural Landscape:The concrete helipad west of the lighthouse was constructed c.1970s.