Green Cape Maritime Precinct | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Green Cape Maritime Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Green Cape Maritime Precinct
Other name/s: Green Cape Lightstation
Type of item: Archaeological-Maritime
Group/Collection: Transport - Water
Category: Light Station
Location: Lat: -37.2606409791 Long: 150.0485558440
Primary address: Green Cape Road, Green Cape, NSW 2551
Parish: Wonboyn
County: Auckland
Local govt. area: Bega Valley
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Eden

Boundary:

Non-contiguous curtilage to include the southern-most peninsula of Green Cape encompassing the lighthouse, lightstation cottages, Ly-ee-Moon shipwreck, shipwreck cemetery and associated built structures. The curtilage will extend 1/2 nautical mile (approx. 1km) into the ocean to capture the shipwreck site and associated maritime evidence. At Bittangabee Bay, the curtilage will include the southern shoreline to capture the storehouse and the remnant jetty footings. Again, the curtilage will extend 1/2 nautical mile (approx. 1km) into the bay to capture any archaeological remains of the former jetty.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Green Cape RoadGreen CapeBega ValleyWonboynAucklandPrimary Address
Green Cape RoadBen Boyd National ParkBega Valley  Alternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Deparment of the EnvironmentFederal Government 
Office of Environment and HeritageState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Green Cape Maritime Precinct is of state heritage significance as a notable lightstation in the 'highway of lights' that were erected along the NSW coastline during the late nineteenth century. Recommended by Captain Francis Hixson (President of the Marine Board of NSW) and designed by the colonial architect, James Barnet, Green Cape Lightstation was an ambitious and unique development for its period. Although the 1880s was the most productive period for the construction of lighthouses in NSW, Green Cape was one of the earliest and most extensive concrete constructions ever attempted in Australia.

The construction of the lightstation was possible because of the development of Bittangabee Bay as a trans-shipment point to receive materials, equipment and labour for the construction. These materials were then taken along a horse-drawn tramway, seven kilometres through the forest to the site of the lightstation.

The lightstation was also the site of the wrecking of the Ly-ee-Moon on the night of May 30th, 1886. Considered to be one of NSW's worst maritime disasters, the loss of 71 lives that night was one of the greatest shipwreck tragedies in the state's history. Fifteen people survived the wreck and 24 bodies were recovered and buried in unmarked graves in a small cemetery a short distance from the lightstation.
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: James Barnet
Builder/Maker: Albert Wood Aspinall
Construction years: 1881-1883
Physical description: Green Cape is the location of the southern-most lightstation in NSW - some 400km from Sydney and 27km north of the Victorian border.

The lightstation is a tightly-knit complex of buildings that comprises the original lighthouse; the 1994 light tower; the Head Keepers Quarters; duplex quarters for the two Assistant Keepers; stables; telegraph station; ancillary buildings; communication tower; solar panels; and remnant foundations of various structures.

At the eastern end of the main precinct, the Green Cape Lighthouse stands 29m tall, 23m above sea level. An octagonal concrete tower on a square base, the lighthouse is built of locally quarried rock aggregate and was finished with a Chance Bros lantern house. A small domed building, formerly used as an oil store, adjoins the lighthouse.

The complex of buildings that make up the lightstation include a number of simple painted rendered brick buildings typical of rural lightstations around Australia. The residences of the Head Keeper and the two Assistant Keepers (and families) were built in the Victorian Regency style and retain much of their original features and layout. The Head Keepers Quarters comprises four bedrooms with a parlour and living room, surrounded by a verandah on three sides. An adjoining annex houses storage rooms and an updated bathroom and kitchen. The Assistant Keepers Quarters are an identical duplex comprising two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom (similarly updated). The duplexes are surrounded by verandahs on three sides also. The original arrangement of the quarters remains identifiable but a door has been fitted between the two living rooms to enable its use as a single residence.

The original form of the other buildings in the lightstation complex (the stables, telegraph station etc) are also evident despite later modifications that were made to support changes in use over time.

Immediately outside of the lightstation precinct, and 300m from the lighthouse, is the Ly-ee-Moon cemetery and, located off-shore, the shipwreck itself. The small cemetery is bound by a simple metal wire fence and contains 23 graves, each marked by a pair of white head and foot stones. The graves are positioned in two rows of ten and one smaller row of three but, with the passing of time, the graves are no longer identifiable. A bronze plaque was placed in the southern corner in 1986, on the centenary of the disaster.

Located further afield, some 7km north of the lightstation at Bittangabee Bay, there are remnants of the original port and jetty that was built prior to the construction of the lighthouse. A mass concrete store still stands (without windows, doors or a roof); concrete footings of the former jetty are evident on the rocky shore and there are existing remnants of the beginning of the tramway that transported materials and equipment to Green Cape for the construction of the lightstation.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The ongoing use of the site as a lighthouse and as a tourist destination has ensured that the site is maintained to a very good standard. Permanent staff in residence at the site see to its day-to-day maintenance.

Despite more recent alterations and modifications to kitchen and bathroom facilities to ensure the ongoing use of the site, the original detail and layout of the main buildings in the lightstation remains clearly evident today.
Date condition updated:01 Jun 12
Modifications and dates: The most noticeable changes to the Green Cape Lightstation have been its ongoing adjustment to technological improvements. The lighthouse was converted from kerosene to electricity in 1962 and was fully automated in 1992 with the construction of a new steel-framed structure with a solar-powered light source. With this conversion, the lightstation was effectively de-manned and a caretaker installed at the site.

The lightstation complex has also undergone minor changes. The layout of each of the residential buildings remains largely unaltered but the facilities have been updated.

Recent modifications to the site include the conversion of the Head Keepers and Assistant Keepers Quarters to residences for the site caretaker and for holiday accommodation. Today, the site also has had solar panel boards installed and new fencing, car park and walking trails created.

In 2012, the National Parks and Wildlife Service undertook necessary maintentance works (including rust removal, reglazing the light tower dome, treating rising damp in the residences, roof works, new paint, timber replacement and an electricity upgrade).
Current use: Tourist destination, accommodation
Former use: Lightstation

History

Historical notes: Green Cape is traditionally part of the Yuin nation and is the land of the Thaua people. The land occupied by the Thaua group stretches from Merimbula in the north, to Green Cape in the south, and west to the Dividing Range and has traditionally been divided between two groups -the Katungal (coastal) and the Baianbal/Paienbara (forest) people.

First contact between the European explorers and the Aboriginal people of the far southern region of NSW occurred in 1798 when Matthew Flinders visited Twofold Bay, south of Eden. On this exploratory journey, Flinders made reference to Green Point or, as he called it then, 'the Cape'. Permanent European settlement of the region did not, however, begin until the 1830s and 1840s when the pastoralist and whaling industries developed at Twofold Bay.

"Twofold Bay afforded the potential for raising stock on unoccupied Crown Land in the vicinity of a commodious harbour" (NPWS, 'Ben Boyd National Park Bicentennial Project', p75) and it quickly became a commercial and trading centre during the mid-nineteenth century. The Imlay brothers were the first settlers to permanently occupy the area from the late 1830s and established a pastoral and whaling company in the region.

The developing industries around Twofold Bay soon revealed the potential of the region and began attracting competition for the Imlay brothers. The British entrepreneur Ben Boyd arrived and went about establishing his own commercial empire during the 1840s - the ambitious but short-lived 'Boyd Town'. By the time Boyd had entered the whaling industry, the once thriving business was reaching the end of its boom period - the Imlay brothers had fallen victim to the economic depression in the late 1840s and, by 1849, Boyd too had abandoned his pastoral lands following the collapse of his empire.

Although whaling had not been a sustainable industry in the region, the Green Cape area was a notable point in the shipping trade along the NSW coastline. A prominent natural headland projecting out into Disaster Bay, Green Cape was a known obstacle for passing ships. Since shipping had accelerated following the gold rush of the 1850s, the entire NSW coastline in fact had been regarded as dangerous and increasingly treacherous. Despite the first lighthouse being constructed at South Head in 1818, it was some 40 years before the government systematically began installing lightstations along the coast.

Initially, consideration was only given to the north coast of NSW but, by 1872, the entire coastline was under review. Captain Francis Hixson, President of the Marine Board of NSW, famously proclaimed "that he wanted the NSW coast 'illuminated like a street with lamps' " (NPWS 'Lighthouse Keeping (Part A)', p15). Hixson was ultimately successful in achieving his vision - by the early twentieth century, the 'highway of lights' was complete with 25 coastal lighthouses and 12 in Sydney Harbour. The late nineteenth century had proven to be the most productive period for lighthouse construction in NSW.

At the 1873 conference of the Principal Officers of Marine Departments of the Australian Colonies, it was resolved (on Captain Hixson's motion) that a lightstation be erected at Green Cape. It was not until 1879, however, that 17,000 pounds was reserved for its construction.

With an approved design by the colonial architect James Barnet, a tender of 12,936 pounds was accepted from Albert Wood Aspinall to build a mass concrete tower for the lighthouse, three associated residential structures and a number of service buildings. Aspinall also received an additional 357 pounds for essential works at Bittangabee Bay.

Due to the isolation of the selected lightstation construction site, access was only achievable from Bittangabee Bay and any materials, equipment, goods or labour were received here before being transported 7km by horse-drawn tram to the lightstation. Aspinall started work at Bittangabee Bay in late 1880 with the construction of a jetty, storehouse and a wooden tramway from the port to the Green Cape site.

The construction of a lightstation at Green Cape was considered essential and the project was ambitious from its beginnings. Concrete construction was a bold initiative for the period and Green Cape Lightstation was the one of the earliest and most extensive concrete constructions ever attempted in Australia and the tallest in NSW at the time. Prior to 1880, some small houses were built using concrete but no public buildings, and certainly none as substantial as the Green Cape, had been constructed using the material.

Work began in 1881 but Aspinall soon encountered significant difficulties that led to increasing delays and an extension of the budget to over 18,000 pounds. A 20-foot thick clay bed required extensive excavation and, with drifting sand continually covering the tramway and building foundations, the demanding circumstances of the build led to the eventual financial collapse of Aspinall's career. Ultimately, the Green Cape Lightstation was completed by his creditors and was fully operational, with a kerosene-powered light visible for 35km, by 1883. The final cost for the lighthouse was 19,388 pounds, 8 shillings and 9 pence.

The newly completed Green Cape Lightstation was in this functional state on May 30th, 1886 - the night of the Ly-ee-Moon disaster. On a clear, calm night en-route from Melbourne to Sydney, the paddle-steamer ran full-speed into rocks at the base of the lighthouse and quickly broke apart. Seventy-one lives were lost in the sinking - one of the greatest losses of human life in a single shipwreck in the state's history. Fifteen men (ten crew and five passengers) survived the shipwreck but only 24 bodies were ever recovered and buried in unmarked graves in a small cemetery a short distance from the lightstation.

The wreck of the Ly-ee-Moon is considered to be one of NSW's worst maritime disasters but the far south coast of NSW has been responsible for a number of shipwrecks since the nineteenth century. Often caused by heavy seas and rough weather, Disaster Bay has become "a veritable graveyard" of ships (Francis Scott, p2).

Throughout the twentieth century, the Green Cape Lightstation underwent the same technical advancements as did all coastal lighthouses in Australia. With responsibility transferred to the Commonwealth in 1911, the lightstation was converted from kerosene to electricity in 1962 and gradually de-manned over the next 30 years. Since being replaced by a new and fully automatic lighthouse in 1994, the station has become a tourist destination and is being increasingly recognised for its heritage values. In 2009, Green Cape Lightstation was designated a National Engineering Heritage Landmark - the first lighthouse to be accorded this level of recognition in Australia.

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. Cultural - Coasts and coastal features supporting human activities-
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 Shipwrecks-
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 Lighthouse-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with James Barnet, Colonial (government) Architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Green Cape Maritime Precinct is of state heritage significance as a notable lightstation in the 'highway of lights' that were erected along the NSW coastline during the late nineteenth century. Green Cape is a prominent headland projecting out into Disaster Bay and the lightstation was a significant development in protecting the shipping trade along the far south coast. At the time of its construction, the lighthouse was one of the earliest and most extensive concrete constructions ever attempted in Australia and the tallest in NSW.

The construction of the lightstation was possible because of the development of Bittangabee Bay as a trans-shipment point to receive materials, equipment and labour for the construction. These materials were then taken along a horse-drawn tramway, seven kilometres through the forest to the site of the lightstation.

The lightstation was also the site of the wrecking of the Ly-ee-Moon on the night of May 30th, 1886. Considered to be one of NSW's worst maritime disasters, the loss of 71 lives that night was one of the greatest shipwreck tragedies in the state's history.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Green Cape Maritime Precinct is of state heritage significance for its association with a number of significant people and events.

At the 1863 conference of the Principal Officers of Marine Departments of the Australian Colonies, Captain Francis Hixson (President of the Marine Board of NSW and the Superintendent of Pilots, Lighthouses & Harbours) proclaimed that he wanted the NSW coastline "illuminated like a street with lamps" (NPWS 'Lighthouse Keeping (Part A)', p15). At the southern most tip of the state, Hixson recommended the placement and construction of the Green Cape Lightstation - considered to be an important element in the NSW 'highway of lights'.

The ambitious design of the lightstation is attributed to the colonial architect, James Barnet, who was responsible for more than a dozen lighthouses constructed in NSW in the late nineteenth century.

The Green Cape Lightstation also has an association with the Ly-ee-Moon shipwreck. The loss of 71 lives on the night of May 30th, 1886 is considered to be one of NSW's worst maritime disasters. Only 15 survived the tragedy and 24 bodies were recovered for burial in unmarked graves in a small cemetery a short distance from the lightstation.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
At the southern-most point in NSW, Green Cape Lightstation is a dominant feature in an isolated but picturesque landscape - bounded by both state forest and the Tasman Sea.

One of NSW's 'highway of lights', the Green Cape Lightstation is a compact group of simple nineteenth century buildings that are visually unified by alignment, scale and the use of common materials.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Despite its isolated location, the Green Cape Maritime Precinct has layers of social significance.

For over 100 years, the lightstation was permanently manned by a Principal Keeper, two Assistant Keepers and up to three families at any one time. Maintaining the light was of paramount importance to their experience of Green Cape. Additionally, their lives were inextricably linked to the landscape and ultimately shaped by the natural elements - the water, the cliffs and the native flora and fauna.

There is also social significance evident in the Ly-ee-Moon shipwreck and the small cemetery located a short distance from the lightstation. Considered to be one of NSW's worst maritime disasters, 71 people perished on the wreck of the Ly-ee-Moon but only 24 bodies were ever recovered for burial. Although the gravesites are no longer identifiable, a memorial has been erected at the cemetery and, each year, the anniversary of the wreck is commemorated.

While there are limited remains of the Ly-ee-Moon shipwreck extant, the site has social significance for the impact the event of its wrecking had on the population of NSW at the time.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Within the Green Cape Maritime Precinct, there are opportunities to uncover further heritage values.

The tramway that once ran 7km through the forest, transporting goods from Bittangabee Bay to the Green Cape Lightstation, has now been, in the most part, lost from living memory. Further land analysis and archaeological surveys may reveal the location of this track.

More recently, several investigations have revealed new information about the Green Cape site. Further archaeological surveys of the Ly-ee-Moon cemetery have been undertaken as well as oral histories of those lightkeepers and families that manned the Green Cape light for over 100 years.

It is also highly likely that there is evidence of Aboriginal occupation of the Green Cape area. Previous investigations have revealed one shell midden and artefact scatter on the Green Cape headland and a number of other archaeological sites within the area. There is further scope to elaborate on these investigations to reveal new information.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Green Cape Lightstation is of state heritage significance for its rare and distinctive design. Although the complex of buildings is typical of a late nineteenth century rural lightstation, the colonial architect James Barnet designed Green Cape with a square base merging into a tapered octagonal tower form - a design quite unlike the common circular towers that were being built at the time.

Barnet's design was also rare in being one of the earliest mass concrete lighthouses in Australia and, standing at 29 metres, was the tallest tower in NSW at the time. Concrete construction was a bold initiative for the period and, although some small houses were built of the material prior to 1880, no public buildings (and certainly none as substantial as the Green Cape Lightstation) had been constructed using concrete. The use of Bittangabee Bay as a trans-shipment point for building materials indicate the extremely difficult logistics involved in the construction of a mass concrete structure in an isolated location during this period.

The significant association between the lightstation and the Ly-ee-Moon shipwreck is also particularly unique. The wreck of the Ly-ee-Moon is considered to be one of NSW's worst maritime disasters and the existence of a substantial burial ground for the victims of this one shipwreck is rare in NSW.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The Green Cape Lightstation is representative of NSW's 'highway of lights' - a system of navigational aids installed along the coastline in the late nineteenth century. Important to the safe passage of shipping in NSW, the system of lightstations has a collective significance that reflects the logistical management for installing coastal infrastructure and the technical evolution of the stations.

There is also an architectural coherency between lightstations across NSW. As a representative example, the simple design and compact nature of the building group at Green Cape reflects the typical layout of regional lightstation complexes around Australia.
Integrity/Intactness: Although the lightstation buildings have undergone some modifications to support the ongoing use of the site, the original detail and layout of the buildings remains evident today.

As a complex, the integrity of the lightstation and its ability to demonstrate its history remains strong. This ability is reflected in its contemporary use as a tourist destination.
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.

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
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions
HERITAGE ACT 1977


ORDER UNDER SECTION 57(2)
TO GRANT SITE SPECIFIC EXEMPTIONS FROM APPROVAL


Green Cape Maritime Precinct


SHR No. 1897

I, the Minister for Heritage, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, do, by this my order, grant an exemption from section 57(1) of that Act in respect of the engaging in or carrying out of any activities described in Schedule “C” by the owner or lessee of the land described in Schedule “B” on the item described in Schedule “A”.




The Hon Robyn Parker, MP.
Minister for Heritage


Sydney, Day of 2012


SCHEDULE “A”

The item known as the Green Cape Maritime Precinct, situated on the land described in Schedule “B”.


SCHEDULE “B”

Part of Ben Boyd National Park in Parish of Wonboyn, County of Auckland and extending ½ nautical mile into the ocean as shown on the plan catalogued HC 2549 in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.

SCHEDULE “C”

Approved works in accordance with Green Cape Statement of Heritage Impact (February 2012, as prepared by Shirley Goodwin & Caroline Lawrance)
Feb 1 2013

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0189701 Feb 13 7255

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnne Bickford, Sandy Blair & Peter Freeman1988Ben Boyd National Park Bicentennial Project: Davidson Whaling Station, Boyd’s Tower, Bittangabee Ruins
WrittenAustralian Construction Services1993Conservation Management Plan - Green Cape Lighthouse (superseded)
WrittenAustralian Maritime Safety Authority, Department of Transport1977Green Cape Lightstation
WrittenCosmos Archaeology Pty Ltd2011Ly-ee-Moon Shipwreck Cemetery: Ground penetrating radar survey
WrittenDouglas Boleyn2009Nomination of Green Cape Lightstation for recognition as a National Heritage Landmark
ElectronicDouglas Boleyn, Sydney Division Engineering Heritage Committee, Engineers Australia2011SHR Nomination of 'Green Cape Lightstation and associated infrastructure at Bittangabee Bay'
WrittenGraeme Barrow2010Who Lied? The Ly-ee-Moon Disaster and a Question of Truth
WrittenGraham Brooks & Associates Pty Ltd1999NPWS Draft Conservation Management and Cultural Tourism Plan - Green Cape Lighthouse
TourismHeritage Division2013Green Cape Maritime Precinct View detail
WrittenJohn Francis Scott The Whimsicality of Fate or the Long Arm of Coincidence
ElectronicKijas Histories2011Lighthouse Keeping - A Parnership: A Report on the NPWS Lighthouses of NSW Oral History Project (Part A)
WrittenRiddel Architecture2010Green Cape Light Station: Conservation Management Plan
WrittenTom Mead1993The Fatal Lights: Two strange tragedies of the sea

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5061556
File number: 12/02722


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