Friday - 06/12/2013
Low Head Lighthouse
A pilots and a signal station was established at Low Head (Georgetown) in 1805 and is Australia's oldest continuously used pilot station. Current buildings date from 1838.
When a sail was sighted at dusk, a fire was lit and kept burning all night to keep the vessel in touch with the port.
After a review of pilotage in 1827 it was resolved to build a lighthouse at Low Head.
The tower was built in 1833. It was constructed of local rubble with a coat of stucco to make the structure durable and to provide a worthwhile landmark. The crown was built of freestone from Launceston.
The keepers' quarters consisted of four rooms attached to the base of the tower. The only case of the quarters being attached in any Tasmanian lighthouse.
The tower was 15.25 metres from top to bottom. The lantern room was built of timber in Launceston.
It had been designed by the then Colonial Architect John Lee Archer who was responsible for the design of many other Tasmanian lights.
The original apparatus was provided by a Mr. W Hart of Launceston. He supplied "six dozen lamps, including reflectors, at three shillings and sixpence each".
This first light was known as the 'Georgetown Station'.
It is Australia's third and Tasmania's second lighthouse built.
Conditions were poor on the early Tasmanian lightstations. Low head was no exception, being manned by a superintendent (headkeeper) and two convict assistants who were locked in their quarters overnight.
In 1835, the light was upgraded by installation of a revolving shutter which was rotated by a weight-driven clockwork mechanism.
In April 1838, the original tin reflectors and Argand lamps were replaced by a new revolving lens array from Wilkins and Co of London, UK. In 1851, the candelas were increased, but no figures are quoted.
The 1833 tower was poorly constructed and after 50 years had fallen into a state of disrepair. In 1888, this original convict-built stone tower was pulled down.
In the same year it was replaced with the present double brick structure, was designed by Marine Board architect Robert Huckson, with new lantern room and apparatus. The new tower was painted white.
The lens apparatus was modernised in 1916 with a more up-to-date Chance Bros. revolving lens using an incandescent kerosene mantle lantern.
An auxiliary red light to cover Hebe Reef had been installed in 1898.
In 1926, a broad red band was painted around the middle of the tower to ensure adequate visibility during daylight hours.
In 1929, Tasmania's only a foghorn was instated at the station but discontinued in 1973 due to improvements in navigational equipment.
In 1940, electricity replaced the old vaporised oil system and mantle, and the clockwork rotating mechanism was replaced by an electric motor.
From 1865 to 1912, the light was under the control of Alfred C. Rockwell and his son Alfred Rockwell Jnr, a period of 47 years!
The station was also responsible for the smaller Tamar Leading Lights which were separately manned for some years.
This light is now unmanned.