Questions raised over Crookhaven Lighthouse future

DISGRACE: The Crookhaven Lighthouse has again become a target for vandals and is falling into disrepair. Photo:  Rob Trezise - Latitude 30 South Images & Media
DISGRACE: The Crookhaven Lighthouse has again become a target for vandals and is falling into disrepair. Photo: Rob Trezise - Latitude 30 South Images & Media

The recent opening of the historic Point Perpendicular Lighthouse as part of the 16th International Lighthouse and Lightship weekend has reignited debate about the Crookhaven Lighthouse.

The brick Crookhaven Lighthouse, south of the mouth of the Shoalhaven River was commissioned in 1904 replacing an old wooden lighthouse constructed in 1882.

Significant concerns have been raised about the future of the now abandoned, vandal attacked and graffiti covered structure.

The lighthouse when it was operational.

The lighthouse when it was operational.

The structure incorporated the lantern from the former lighthouse on Cape St George which in turn had been demolished following the coming into service of the Point Perpendicular light in 1899.

But more recently, as the headland undergrowth became overgrown, the structure became the target of vandals.

In 2010 a plan was hatched to attempt to restore the lighthouse.  

The the historic lantern was gingerly disassembled in December 2011 and lifted off the location by a navy helicopter from HMAS Albatross for restoration.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse.

A deal with the South Coast Correctional Centre was to see inmates help return the metal lantern to its former glory, and they also cleaned and removed some of the vegetation around the site.

The lantern has had further repairs carried out by Unanderra company Evermil.

But since then arguments between Shoalhaven City Council and the Department of Lands, as to who are in control or responsible for the site, have stalled any possible restoration project.

President of Lighthouses Australia, Ian Clifford said the topic of the Crookhaven Lighthouse was mentioned during the recent open weekend at Point Perpendicular.

Especially with news Ulladulla Lighthouse had gained funding for a makeover.

 DISGRACE: Inside the Crookhaven Lighthouse has been extensively targeted by vandals. Photo:  Rob Trezise - Latitude 30 South Images & Media

DISGRACE: Inside the Crookhaven Lighthouse has been extensively targeted by vandals. Photo: Rob Trezise - Latitude 30 South Images & Media

“I know there are still moves to make something happen over there,” Mr Clifford said.

“Unfortunately there is no preservation plan in place. It is such a terrible shame. It was such a beautiful little lighthouse.

“Vandals have even belted in the steel doors on the structure to gain access to the building.

“Discussions were also held at the recent Jervis Bay Maritime Museum annual meeting.

“Until there is a plan in place we are reluctant to get involved. Museum chairman John Ferguson, who was one of the driving forces behind getting the structure refurbished was aghast.

“But even he eventually agreed we can’t conserve it where it is.

President of Lighthouses Australia, Ian Clifford. Photo: Adan Wright

President of Lighthouses Australia, Ian Clifford. Photo: Adan Wright

“We would need a miracle - the vegetation to be cleared, power put over to it and the lantern replaced.”

Mr Clifford said he believes one option could be to reconstruct the building, or construct a new building nearer the current Marine Rescue station.

“That way at least it would be somewhat protected from vandals,” he said.

“We would make it as authentic as possible.”

He said the historic light had been restored by Unanderra company Evermil.

“The work proved beyond the capabilities of the team at the jail,” he said.

“They started the cleaning work and then Evermil was engaged by Crown Lands to undertake proper repairs.

“There are simply too many missing components to make it operational again and I believe if we did put it out on the former site again it would be gone in a matter of weeks.

“It’s not a full restoration and it may not be functional but it could certainly be used for a display.”

Another suggestion was the metal lantern could be put on display at the JB Maritime Museum.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse

Aside from the keepers cottages at South Solitary Island, this is probably the most endangered lighthouse in NSW and should be of great concern to lighthouse enthusiasts and the community at large.

The original lighthouse was constructed of timber in 1882 and located as part of the Shoalhaven Signal Station on the beach 200 metres to the west of the current lighthouse.

The apparatus had been a brass lantern.

A red light made from a ship's masthead light supported on two poles had been exhibited by boatmen here at the river entrance since 1872.

The new brick lighthouse to the south of the mouth of the Shoalhaven River was commissioned in 1904 and the old wooden lighthouse was immediately demolished.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse.

The new structure incorporated the lantern from the former lighthouse on Cape St George which in turn had been demolished following the coming into service of the Point Perpendicular light in 1899.

It was at this time that the name of the station was changed to Crookhaven Heads.

The lighthouse has suffered greatly from damage over the years due to its isolation on a headland that juts out from the river mouth.

This was further aggravated by the fact the reserve was like an overgrown garden and it was not at all visible from the nearby village.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse.

Several years ago the building was renovated but without an ongoing plan or presence it has not taken long for it to fall into disrepair again.

The problem seems to be the isolation of the Crookhaven Lighthouse.

One step undertaken was the strip away the thicket that had grown around the old lighthouse with the belief that if the light was more visible it would be less of an incentive for vandals to move in a deface and damage the building.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse light.

The Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse light.

But until a permanent solution is found that protects the site authorities are reluctant to provide further funds to restore the lighthouse.

In 2010 a plan was hatched to attempt to restore the lighthouse.

The the historic lantern was gingerly disassembled in December 2011 and lifted off the location by a navy helicopter from HMAS Albatross for restoration.

A deal with the South Coast Correctional Centre was to see inmates help return the metal lantern to its former glory, and they also cleaned and removed some of the vegetation around the site. Unanderra business Evermil was engaged by Crown Lands to undertake proper repairs.

Since then arguments between Shoalhaven City Council and the Department of Lands, as to who are in control or responsible for the site have stalled the project.

 Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse at a glance

  • LOCATION: Latitude 34ä§ S. Longitude 150è§ E. (map)
  • OPERATOR: Waterways Authority - NSW
  • EXHIBITED: Timber Tower 1882, Brick Tower 1904
  • CONSTRUCTION: Brick
  • CHARACTER: Fixed Red 
  • LIGHT SOURCE: -
  • POWER SOURCE: Solar Power
  • INTENSITY: 200 cd Fixed Red
  • ELEVATION: 22 metres
  • RANGE: 6 nautical miles (11 kilometres)
  • HEIGHT: 7 metres
  • AUTOMATED: -
  • DEMANNED: -
  • DEACTIVATED: -
  • CUSTODIAN: –
  • Histories courtesy of Lighthouses of Australia Inc and Ian Clifford.