Nobbys Grounds | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Nobbys Grounds

Item details

Name of item: Nobbys Grounds
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Urban Area
Category: Other - Urban Area
Primary address: , Newcastle East, NSW 2300
Local govt. area: Newcastle
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 Newcastle EastNewcastle  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Newcastle Port CorporationState Government 

Statement of significance:

Nobbys Head which forms the grounds of Nobbys is a significant historic and aesthetic icon of Newcastle. It is a prominent geological feature that had spiritual importance to the Awabakal tribe. Its distinctive form at the mouth of the Hunter River was also noted by Lieut. James Cook in his log in 1770. Nobbys Head gained further significance as the Colony developed first as a penal settlement and later as a port. The importance of Newcastle industry and the port resulted in the use of Nobbys Head for the defence of the city during the two world wars and the building of gun emplacements and new houses in WWII. Nobbys Head is valued by the people of Newcastle. The aesthetic value of Nobbys and its surrounds, it has gained wide significance and being represented by many of the early engravers and contemporary artists such as Margaret Olley and Brett Whiteley.
Date significance updated: 06 Jan 03
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.


Physical description: Nobbys Grounds are the bounds of the original island and are well known as a prominent landmark. The island has no significant vegetation. The grounds include built forms of various description: brick battery wall (c1880s) surrounding lightstation and signal station, weather monitoring equipment, navigation equipment, remnant staircase, concrete slabs, concrete searchlight shed (c1940), former engine house previously located on northern bank and light tetrahedrons at base of Nobbys Head.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good, apart from dense cover of noxious weed Bitou bush. Stability of landform unknown - refer to Geotechnical report summarised in Macquarie Pier and Nobbys Head Conservation Management Plan. Significant concrete cancer to beach searchlight shed.
Date condition updated:25 Sep 01
Modifications and dates: Various.
Current use: equipment placement in connection with port operation
Former use: lighthouse navigation/military grounds


Historical notes: Nobbys' Island was sited and entered in the Endeavour's log by Lieut. James Cook in 1770. Local Aborigines knew the island as the home of a monster kangaroo. Before the building of Macqaurie Pier, which commenced in 1818, Nobbys was separated from the mainland by the sea. Lieut. James Grant hoisted the Union Jack on island in 1801. The original shape of the island was altered over the years with the top of Nobbys quarried as material for the breakwater from 1836 and it was further leveled for the construction of a lighthouse in 1857. The main built items are: the lighthouse, cottages, signal station, brick battery wall c1880, with later additions, beach searchlight shed c1940 and gun emplacement path/remnant stair c1940.

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 The shipping of coal and other goods from the Hunter River and Newcastle Port-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Defence of Newcastle Port-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Nobbys Head is significant as a record of the establishment and development of the Port of Newcastle. The island is spiritually and culturally significant to the Awabakal people. It is significant to the European history from its first sighting by Lieut. James Cook in 1770 and its later association with the development of the penal colony, navigation and the port of Newcastle. Nobbys is also associate with the Defence of the east coast of Australia and important industries during two world wars.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Nobbys is associated with Lieut. James Cook as a recorded sighting in the Endeavour's log in 1770. It is also associated with Lieut. James Grant with the hoisting of the Union Jack on the island in 1801.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Nobbys Head is a landmark feature as viewed from the City and Port of Newcastle.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The place is significant to the contemporary community of mariners and to Novocastrians generally. The buildings are associated with the many people who have operated the stations and their families.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Nobbys Head has the potential to reveal archaeological resource from the earlier cottages, signal stations, flag masts and other structures built on the site.
SHR Criteria f)
Nobbys Head is rare at a State and National level as a significant geographic feature closely associated with the Aboriginal and later European development of the Colony of NSW.
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:

Nominate for the Register of the National Estate - National Significance. Conserve all elements in accordance with Macquarie Pier and Nobbys Head Conservation Management Plan.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
s170 Heritage & Conservation Register2001 Suters Architectslls Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenSuters Architects2000Macquarie Pier and Nobbys Head Conservation Management Plan

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 3930008

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