Breakwater Lighthouse | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Breakwater Lighthouse

Item details

Name of item: Breakwater Lighthouse
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Water
Category: Lighthouse Tower
Primary address: End of Breakwater Wollongong Harbour, Wollongong, NSW 2500
Local govt. area: Wollongong City
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
End of Breakwater Wollongong HarbourWollongongWollongong City  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Breakwater Lighthouse is of significance for Wollongong area for historical, associative, aesthetic, and reasons of rarity and representativeness. The lighthouse came into service in 1872. It has important associations with Edward Orpen Moriatry, Department of Public Works Engineer in Chief, Harbours and River Navigation, under whose design and overseeing the 1861 - 1878 extension of Wollongong Harbour, the Belmore Basin and the Wollongong Breakwater lighthouse were built. Moriarty's other important colonial works include Pyrmont Bridge and several of NSW water works and supply systems such as Prospect Reservoir and Goulburn Waterworks. He designed the Trial Bay Breakwater as a way of providing a 'haven' for shipping traversing the North Coast. It has additional aesthetic/technological importance as one of only two wrought iron lighthouses in NSW - the other being at Ulladulla and built to the same design by the same engineer, Joseph Mather of Sydney. The precinct lighthouses contribute to the visual distinctiveness of the area and are local landmarks. The two lighthouses, established in 1872 and 1937, demonstrate the evolution of technical changes in coastal navigation aids. In addition these landmark elements there are a variety of significant historic views and vistas which contribute to the heritage significance of the precinct as a whole, and these include views from the higher land to the north of the precinct across Brighton Lawn to Belmore Basin and the Lighthouse and from Flagstaff Hill down to the rocky breakwater and Belmore Basin which reveal a pleasing blend of nature and built infrastructure which residents, workers and visitors have admired for over 100 years.
Date significance updated: 09 Jan 15
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Edward Orphan Moriaty Engineer in Chief of Harbours and Rivers Department.
Construction years: 1869-1872
Physical description: Belmore Basin was constructed under George Barney, Commanding Royal Engineer and Colonial Engineer, and the outer harbour under Edward Orpen Moriarty, first Engineer-in-Chief, Harbours & Rivers of the Public Works Department, whose work included the Breakwater lighthouse. (E O Moriarty is famous for his water supply projects). The 1872 Breakwater lighthouse is one of the early lighthouses of NSW and one of only two wrought iron lighthouses in NSW - the other being at Ulladulla and built to the same design by the same engineer, Joseph Mather of Sydney. The lighthouse is constructed from a prefabricated, shaped inch wrought iron boiler plate that was later riveted vertically and horizontally on-site to an iron skeleton framework to form the tower. The lighthouse is 42 feet high, 13 feet diameter at its base, diminishing by concave batter to 8 feet diameter at the top. The base of the tower is set on a bull-nosed sandstone foundation that sits on top of a substantial concrete foundation block. An elegant lantern house sits at the top of the tower. The lantern house has an outer gallery of cast iron supported on ornamental brackets, with Barnet style ornamental railing. The framework of the lantern house is gun-metal and is glazed with polished plate-glass 3/4 inch thick. The roof and surmounting finial are of copper. The lighthouse has high level port-hole style windows and a door one storey up that was accessed by a ladder. Access between the three timber floors is by steel ladders. The ground level door is an addition. The light - originally a fixed one is of fourth order construction on the cata-dioptric principle and manufactured by Chance Brothers Ltd, Birmingham The lens used state-of-the-art prisms to maximise the light from the vegetable oil lit lamp. This was later converted to acetylene gas in 1883 and later again to electricity.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Being repaired 1999/2000
Date condition updated:11 Aug 00
Current use: Vacant
Former use: Lighthouse


Historical notes: Years of Construction: Start year: 1869; Finish Year: 1872; Designer/ Architect: NSW Department of Public Works E.O. Moriarty Engineer-in-Chief Harbours and Rivers Branch. The design of the surrounding handrail and the parapet and balcony show influences of the Colonial Architect James Barnet. The planned eastern breakwater was built between 1867 and 1869 using stone excavated from the construction of the basin. The breakwater lighthouse was not part of the original plans of the 1859 Moriarty harbour improvements. In 1867, following a deputation to the Minister of Public Works, it was agreed a lighthouse would be constructed. Prior to 1867 the entrance to the harbour was marked with a beacon atop a pole at the end of the Pier. Moriarty made a visit to Wollongong Harbour in January 1870 in company with the Minister and Colonial Architect James Barnet, and again later in June to select a site for a proposed lighthouse. Tenders were called in October with the successful tenderer a Joseph Mather. The final cost of the lighthouse, including foundations and lantern house and light was in the vicinity of 3451 pounds. The original light apparatus was dismantled around 1970 and the light permanently extinguished in 1974 but the fabric was substantially restored in 1999-2000 under a State Funded conservation program at a cost of $100,000.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The item has historic value.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The item has group, landmark, townscape and aesthetic value.
SHR Criteria f)
The item has rarity.
SHR Criteria g)
The item has representative value.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Refer to SHR. Retain and conserve. No alterations should alter the views to the house from publicly accessible areas. Future fabric repairs should follow original details in form, material and finish.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental Plan  07 Jan 00 1/200069
Local Environmental PlanBreakwater Lighthouse590626 Feb 10 2010-76 

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
City of Wollongong Heritage Study1991B117-CMcDonald McPhee Rogers Conacher FullartonG.Neaves No
Review of heritage items in Wollongong LGA20135906Zoran PopovicZoran Popovic Yes

References, internet links & images


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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2700710

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