HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

23 November 2013

Cape St George Lighthouse.

Woe Disaster and Misery. 


The tales of Woe and disaster that befell the people who worked at the light and their families and the controversy surrounding the Lighthouses construction is compelling reading.

The Museum has a collection of paintings, photographs and relics from the lighthouse, so if you would like to find out more about this amazing piece of local maritime history the museum is a good place to start.

The people who lived at Cape St George Lighthouse were eerily prone to tragic events.
In 1867 Isabella Jane Lee, the daughter of the principal lightkeeper from 1863-1873, died of typhus fever. In 1882, another resident, 13 year old George Gibson, died from pleurisy. Typhoid struck again in 1885 killing Florence Bailey, the 11 year old daughter of the third assistant lightkeeper. Her father, Edward Bailey, supplemented his income by fishing for sharks on the rocks below the lighthouse. In 1895, he was washed from the rocks. Entangled in his lines in heavy seas, he drowned and was taken by sharks as his son watched in horror.

Francis Henry Hammer, the son of Mary Hammer (a single woman who lived at the lighthouse) had a habit of pushing large rocks over the cliff edge to amuse himself. He either toppled over or lost his footing when part of the cliff collapsed. He was only nine or ten years old.

William Markham, the assistant lightkeeper from about 1878-1883, was kicked in the head by a horse and died before he reached Nowra Hospital.

One of the most disturbing tragedies involved two teenage girls. In 1887, Kate Gibson (the principal lightkeeper's daughter), tripped while skylarking with a loaded firearm. The gun discharged, striking her friend Harriet Parker (the assistant lightkeeper's daughter) in the back of the skull, killing her instantly. Her gravesite can be found in the Green Patch camping area.

REF: Department of Environment. Read more. 

Here are a couple of excerpts from old newspapers from the time, there are many more articles full of intrigue and disaster if you take the time to look.

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954) Saturday 18 March 1899
The new lighthouse at Jervis Bay is nearing completion, and will be opened on May 1.
It has cost $18,000, and will be fitted with a white flashlight that can be seen a distance of 20 or 30 miles.

Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 - 1875)

old-drawing-of-light This building is situated about thirty miles from the town of Nowra, in New South Wales, on the south side of Jervis Bay, and is in the direct route of vessels proceeding from Sydney to Melbourne. The light shown is a bright revolving white and. green. The road winds along the edges of swamps and over rocky hills, and at the time our illustration was made was not marked out, and our artist and his companions wore, in con sequence, obliged to put up their tent and pass the night in the bush, having been un able to find the way before it became dark. As it was a moonlight night two of the party searched around the camp, and followed a path which they discovered. This led them, after a walk of four, miles, to the lighthouse. Coming back, with their clothes, and boots wet and muddy from' the. small streams of water they had crossed, they made a fire and cooked their supper.
A bed of rushes served to sleep upon, and the wild howling of the native dogs did.not long keep them awake. Next morning, at' sunrise, ' they breakfasted and started for the light house, but the horse stopped at the first high sand-hill and part of the luggage had to be left in the road. With some difficulty the spring cart was drawn to the coast, and the superintendent kindly sent his own horse for the articles left behind. The,1, tent was pitched near the stable of the establishment, and during the next fortnight a series of drawings were made of the 'wild and beautiful coast scenery, including the lighthouse. Although the headland is a' great' height.

From the sea, in a storm the foam dashed right over it ; and once, when a south-wind came on, the party had to rise from their beds in the midst of a pouring 'rain and secure the fastenings of the tent to prevent its being blown over the cliff. The want of a verandah to the superintendent's quarters is much felt in wet weather, as there is no shelter either from the rain or foam when he has to be on the look-out for vessels. Neither is there a spare room for ship wrecked persons or strangers, as there should be at such an isolated station. At a mile distant a schoolhouse has been erected for the children of the fishermen, who live a few miles off, and of the officials stationed at the lighthouse.

The entrance to Jervis Bay is two miles wide, and inside there is a harbor from three to four leagues in length, and two in width. It is considered a safe port for ships, of all sizes, and is SO miles from Sydney. The harbor is large and commodious, easy of access, and will afford shelter from all winds, having room for 200 sail of ships, with plenty of wood and water. The bay was discovered by Lieutenant Bowen in August, 1791.

Hoping to visit the picturesque village at a future time, the party left the coast when they had completed their sketch, and with the aid of a lent horse reached Nowra, much pleased with the kind attention they had received from, the superintendent while visiting the lighthouse.

plate-piece 10

A small fragment of dinner plate found at the site showing beautiful detail in the pattern even after all these year. 


The remains as you will find it today, a far cry from the original condition.

stone-2 stone-3 stone-4 stone

view-1 view-2a

Although the Lighthouse was deemed a navigational hazard and was destroyed by the Navy between 1917-1922, the remains are still a testament to the skill of the original builders and defiantly worth taking the time to visit and marvel at the location and what it must have taken to build the original lighthouse back in 1860.

cliffs-with-waterfall light-5 cliffs-4
light-6 light-7 light-view



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