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Cape St George Lighthouse is located about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of the southern entrance to Jervis Bay. Constructed in 1860 it was active until 1889. The tower was destroyed between 1917-1922 to avoid confusion in daylight. The ruins remain and are listed on the National Heritage List.

The recommendation to build a lighthouse on the vicinity was made in 1856. However, despite the fact that the Pilots Board, which was the controlling authority, was not consulted, £5000 were allocated and a tender was accepted.

Controversy started even before construction, when the Board received numerous communications and reports questioning the angles of visibility of the site from the north and south and its proposed and actual locations, which proved to be five miles apart.

Finally, when the Pilots Board examined the site, they reported that the initial map prepared by Millington and Dawson suffered from "discrepancies of so grave a character that it is impossible to decide whether either position marked on the map really exists." They also questioned whether the facility will be visible from the required approaches.

Destinations to explore near

Cape St.George Lighthouse

Photos Courtesy Scott Westlake Photography

Distance & direction from Sydney: 192 Klms S SW

Stony Creek Rd, Jervis Bay

Tel: 1300 622 808   Website   E-Mail

Cape St.George Lighthouse

Historic Site, Jervis Bay, Australian Capital Territory

Nevertheless, despite these facts and further disagreement by a majority of the Board, the lighthouse was commissioned on 1 October 1860.

The resulting light was not visible from the northern approach to Jervis Bay, and was barely visible from the southern approach. When inspected by members of the Pilots Board it was found that on top of the inaccuracies, the contractor built the light 2.5 miles (4.0 km) north of the intended site, as it was closer to the quarry he was obtaining the stone from. Later, a Select Committee was appointed by the New South Wales Government to investigate the errors in locating the lighthouse. The committee found out the Board had been grossly negligent in approving a location without prior inspection and in relying on maps of dubious accuracy. In conclusions it reported that "errors - very grave errors, highly censurable - have been committed in the erection of this lighthouse."

From 1864 to 1893 there were twenty three ships wrecked on the South Coast of New South Wales in the vicinity of Jervis Bay. The light was eventually replaced in 1899 by Point Perpendicular Light in Point Perpendicular, a much more suitable location for a lighthouse on this part of the coast. The lantern was removed and later used in the Crookhaven Heads Light, built in 1904.

After the commissioning of the new light, it was considered that the confusion of having two towers in close proximity to one another would be a hazardous to navigation in daylight, especially during foul weather. As a result, the Cape St George Tower was unceremoniously used from 1917 to 1922 for target practice by the Royal Australian Navy and destroyed.

In July 1887, Harriet Parker, daughter of the Assistant light keepers, was accidentally shot dead in 1887 by Kate Gibson, the Chief Keeper's daughter. The jury of the ensuing Coronial inquiry stated that Harriet had died "from a gunshot wound accidentally received, and that Kate Gibson was not to blame as they were skylarking ..." Harriet Parker's grave can be found in the nearby Greenpatch Camping Area. Not long later within the same year 1887, Kate Gibson was found with her throat slashed open from ear to ear. Kate’s death was ruled at the time a suicide, and she was buried in the cemetery at Bustard Head.

In 1895, Edward Bailey, the Chief Lighthouse Keeper, drowned while fishing 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of the lighthouse, leaving a large family of eleven children. He was washed off the rocks and was believed to have been taken by sharks. His son Arthur took over him and reared his brothers and sisters. Another son, Arthur, became the Head Lighthouse keeper at Point Perpendicular Light when it opened in 1899.

The site is managed by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts as part of the Booderee National Park.

The park service has stabilized the ruins against further decay. Parking is provided nearby, and the grounds are accessible, though the ruins themselves are closed.

Research suggests this photo is of the Gibson, Parker and Bailey Families

Cape St.George Lighthouse - c1877

The Brisbane Courier, 22nd April 1891:

“WE give herewith an illustration of Cape St. George light-house, though more generally known as Jervis Bay lighthouse, 80 miles south of Sydney. This spot is well known to travellers by sea between Sydney and melbourne. It was off Cape St. George that the Dandenong was wrecked, and the Chimborazo put into Jervis Bay when she collided with the rocks at the point opposite the light-house. “Cape St. George is situated in 35deg 11.15 S. lat., 150deg 47 E., long. (Co. St. Vincent.) It is a rocky promontory on the peninsular forming the S. head of Jervis Bay. At a distance of 2 miles N. of this cape is a white stone tower erected on a prominent headland, and on which a light is exhibited, called the Cape St. George light. The light is in 35deg 9.15 S. lat., 150deg 47.48 E., long. The tower is 61ft high, , the light 224ft above high water level, and is visible in all directions of the horizon fron N. 27deg E, round by the eastward to S. 0deg 40 W. It is also visible 19deg 52. further to the W., over a sloping hill, situated to the S. of the lighthouse, but only when a considerable distance to the S. of the same. The light is on the Catoptric principle of the 3rd class, and revolving, exhibiting at intervals of 30 seconds a red, green, and white light, alternately. The intensity of the white light is visible from an elevation of 16 feet in clear weather, at a distance of 20 miles, while its green and red rays vanish at a distance of 15 miles. The formation is of sandstone.

“Jervis Bay is a beautiful bay and harbour, lying in lat. 35 6 S. The entrance to Jervis Bay is 2 miles wide, and inside there is a bay or harbour from 3 to 4 leagues in length, and 2 in width. It is considered a safe port for ships of all sizes, and is 80 miles from Sydney. It is large and commodious, easy of access, and affording shelter from all winds, and having room for 200 sail of ships with plenty of wood and water, and was discovered by Lieutenant Bowen in August 1791. There is some excellent agricultural land on the shores of this bay; and a great trade is being done in the fine forests around by sawyers and timber merchants. Slate containing quartzite.”

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