South Head Signal Station | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

South Head Signal Station

Item details

Name of item: South Head Signal Station
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Water
Category: Signal Stations
Location: Lat: -33.8504401475 Long: 151.2868117930
Primary address: Old South Head Road, Watsons Bay, NSW 2030
Local govt. area: Woollahra
Local Aboriginal Land Council: La Perouse
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT7002  1069203

Boundary:

Refer to SHR map at Heritage Office.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Old South Head RoadWatsons BayWoollahra  Primary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
NSW MaritimeState Government 

Statement of significance:

A dominant Sydney landmark which appears to have been in continuous use since the 1840s as a controlling point for shipping entering and leaving Port Jackson. The building complex, designed by the Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis in the early 1840s, is an architectural important example of an early Victorian public work associated with port activities. (AHC 1989:2536)
Date significance updated: 26 May 98
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: Mortimer Lewis
Physical description: The site of the first navigational beacon in Australia providing warning to mariners. (Anglin 1990:1050)

A dominant Sydney landmark which appears to have been in continuous use since the 1840s as a controlling point for shipping entering and leaving Port Jackson.

A solid sandstone tower with connected watch keepers quarters built in the early 1840s and designed by the Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis. The tower is octagonal in plan having four levels and a basement store cut 10 feet into a solid rock. The topmost level has a cantilevered iron and timber catwalk and the metal pitched roof is surmounted by an observation fleche. Decoration is minimal but the form of the shaft with simple stepping, string courses and small panel oval and square windows is typical of restrained Colonial Georgian building work. The wing for staff quarters in an "I" plan with enclosed verandahs either side. This building probably c1850s building having very good ashlar work to external walls with each elevation recessed within a frame of foundation, eaves and quoin mouldings. Windows are marked by simple classical sill and lintel mouldings. The hipped roofs originally of slate are now sheeted in asbestos cement. A good timber picket fence encloses the property which is in good condition and well maintained. (D.Sheedy 1976)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
A good timber picket fence encloses the property which is in good condition and well maintained. (D.Sheedy 1976)
Date condition updated:26 May 98
Modifications and dates: The hipped roofs originally of slate are now sheeted in asbestos cement. (D.Sheedy 1976)
Current use: Signal Station
Former use: Aboriginal land, Signal Station

History

Historical notes: The first signal station was operated close to the present site in 1790, serving as a landmark for ships to communicate their arrival to the settlement (Melocco, 2013).

The South Head Signal Station is a dominant Sydney landmark which appears to have been in continuous use since the 1840s as a controlling point for shipping entering and leaving Port Jackson.

A solid sandstone tower with connected watch keepers quarters built in the early 1840s and designed by the Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis. The tower is octagonal in plan having four levels and a basement store cut 10 feet into a solid rock. The topmost level has a cantilevered iron and timber catwalk and the metal pitched roof is surmounted by an observation fleche. Decoration is minimal but the form of the shaft with simple stepping, string courses and small panel oval and square windows is typical of restrained Colonial Georgian building work.

The wing for staff quarters in an "I" plan with enclosed verandahs either side. This building probably c1850s building having very good ashlar work to external walls with each elevation recessed within a frame of foundation, eaves and quoin mouldings. Windows are marked by simple classical sill and lintel mouldings. The hipped roofs originally of slate are now sheeted in asbestos cement.

A good timber picket fence encloses the property which is in good condition and well maintained. (D.Sheedy, 1976).

After coming onto the real estate market for the first time, the two-bedroom Cottage One of the Signal Station has been leased on the first inspection, by a young family. The two bedroom cottage has its own 1795 cannon in the yard. It was built in the 1840s, has a new kitchen and bathroom, and was most recently used as housing for NSW Maritime Services personnel (Melocco, 2013).

In 2018, John Vaughan and a colleague expressed concern about the state of the flagstaffs at the North Head Quarantine Station and the Signal Station. They have provided reports to the authorities responsible for these (Woollahra History & Heritage Society, Annual Report, 9/2018).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Other open space-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Cultural - Coasts and coastal features supporting human activities-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Cultural: Cliffs and escarpments influencing human settlement-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Changing the environment-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Developing local landmarks-
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)-
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 Wharf and shipping history-
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 Maintaining harbour pilot stations-
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 Maintaining maritime transport routes-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Sydney's colonial settlement; Shipping-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Colonial government-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Mortimer Lewis, Colonial Architect, 1796-1879-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The building complex, designed by the Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis in the early 1840s, is an architectural important example of an early Victorian public work associated with port activities. (AHC 1989:2536)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
A dominant Sydney landmark which appears to have been in continuous use since the 1840s as a controlling point for shipping entering and leaving Port Jackson. (AHC 1989:2536)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Further research required.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Further research required.
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:

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementProduce a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0143618 Apr 00   
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register 4920013   
Regional Environmental Plan 1401 Nov 87   
Local Environmental Plan LEP1995   
Within a conservation area on an LEP South Head Peninsula01 Oct 76   
National Parks and Wildlife Register  16 Jan 98   
Heritage study V-2301 May 84   
National Trust of Australia register   05 Apr 76   
Register of the National Estate 002536   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Maritime Services Board Heritage and Conservation Register : Sydney Harbour19901050Anglin Associates  No
Woollahra Heritage Study1984V-23Hughes, Trueman, Ludlow Pty Ltd: Howard Tanner & Assoc ; Prof Ian Jack; W.Ashton  No
Marine Ministerial Holding Corporation S170 Register1999 Heritage Unit, Department of Public works & Services  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenD.Sheedy1976National Trust of Australia (NSW) Classification
WrittenMelocco, Jen2013'Family at home in historical signal station'

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

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(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5051353
File number: S90/04948/1


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