December 6 - 12, 2015: Issue 243

The Stewart Towers

On Barrenjoey Headland

Full House at December 2015 Avalon Beach Historical Society's General Meeting. 

Geoff Searl's Stewart Towers Investigation Uncovers New Information About Barrenjoey and Locates Original Light Keeper's  Tower Foundations

A few months ago Geoff Searl,  the President of Avalon Beach Historical Society, spoke about a then current project as we tramped through the bush on West Head looking for wildlflowers. He had been researching the Stewart Towers, the first lights atop Barrenjoey Headland for a while and, after securing a small grant to help cover some costs, was putting together a film shot by John Illingsworth on what they found. Part of this would be finding some sketches if possible and building a model of the Inner Tower (the one that faced Lion Island and the Hawkesbury River mouth), work which 2015 Maritime Medal recipient David Lyall then undertook.

On Tuesday December 1st, at the General Meeting for the Avalon Beach Historical Society, the efforts of Geoff, John and David were premiered to a full house and very appreciative audience in the Avalon Beach Bowling Club. Geoff's 5000 word document, catalouging his research was made accessible, Mr. Lyall had his model on display and Mr. Illingsworth's film was shown. Geoff's paper, The Stewart Towers on Barrenjoey Headland, will be kept at the Maritime Museum, a copy has been given to the Chase Alive Team, six members of this great local conservation for West Head and Barrenjoey Lighthouse attending the December Meeting, and two copies will be also available in the Avalon Beach Historical Society's Office in ABHS office, part of the society's stalwart John Stone Photography rooms in Bowling Green Lane, Avalon.

John Stone - who has been making and curating images of Avalon and surrounds for decades - on the ball again on Tuesday

Despite scouring every resource available, any sketches or photographs of the Stewart Towers, and there must have been some, somewhere, could not be located - Geoff Searl asks that if anyone reading this does find some, or know of some, to contact him so they may be added to the record that has been created.

Two bottles, from the Broken Bay Customs Station, have been given to the ABHS and Geoff is also seeking information regarding these - if anyone could put some dates and usage on them.

One of the bottles in question - how old is this and what was it used for?

About the Stewart Towers, as Introduced by Geoff on Tuesday evening:

Through the constant lobbying of Robert Stewart the member for East Sydney who had lost his father, William Stewart a master mariner, to the sea in 1820, two wooden structures were erected on the headland. Named the Stewart Towers after this gentleman they were approximately 4 metres and 6 metres in height, made of wood, and painted white. 

NOTICE TO MARINERS - From Francis Hixon Superintendent of Pilots, Lights, and Harbours. Sydney, 9th July, 1868:

Stewart€™s Lights, Broken Bay

On and after Monday, the 20th July, two temporary fixed lights will be exhibited on Barrenjuey, the inner south headland of Broken Bay. The lights will be situated E.S.E and W.N.W from each other, at a distance of 180 feet apart, the higher one being 347, and the lower one 315, feet above high-water mark, and they will be visible at a distance to seaward of about 8 miles.

The model was built as per descriptions found through TROVE:


Two lights were exhibited on Barrenjuey, which forms the south head of the entrance into Broken Bay, for the first time, last night. It will, perhaps, be in the recollection of the readers that the sites of these new lights were fixed on the 8th of last mouth, when a party of gentlemen, consisting of the Governor, the Superintendent of Pilots, Captain Hixson, the Colonial Architect, Mr. Barrett, the Engineer-in-Chief for Harbours and Rivers, Mr. Moriaity, Mr. Coles, of the Colonial Architect's Department, Mr. Stewart, M.L.A., Mr. Trunks, M.L.A., and several other gentlemen, went down to Broken Bay in the Government schooner Thetis. The site of both the lights having been fixed, the work of erecting the temporary towers was commenced almost immediately, under the superintendence of Mr. Hudson, of the Colonial Architect'™s department and they were finished about a week ago.

The towers are temporary structures, the inner one being twenty feet above the rock, and the outer one ten feet.. Each tower is constructed of four hardwood posts, firmly fixed in the rock, which has been excavated to receive them, and they are protected from the weather by sheets of corrugated iron. The lanterns are fixed up on the wooden structure, and about four feet below the lights running round each tower, is a platform from which the trimmer can light and clean the lamps. A sleeping berth for the light-keeper has been fitted up in the larger tower, which is placed at a distance of 1180 feet in a W.N.W". direction from the outer tower. The outer light is 315 feet and the inner one 347 feet above high water mark.

Australia East Coast - New South Wales Broken Bay [cartographic material] 1869 Edition - Surveyed by Capt. F.W. Sidney, Nav. Lieut. J.T. Gowlland & C.George Nav. Mid. R.N. 1868.  Series note: British Admiralty nautical charts ; 2166 , Courtesy State Library of Victoria

Each tower is furnished with three lanterns lighted with kerosene, to form a fixed bright light, and will be visible at a distance of about twelve miles to seaward. From a notification to mariners in the Government Gazette, we learn that both lights will be eclipsed between the bearings of South mid S.S. E ½ E., to prevent them from being seen over the land which recedes from the Outer South Head, and also to ensure a vessel to pass a safe distance off the South Head, when running with the lights in sight for the purpose of obtaining anchorage in Broken Bay. 

Right: Barranjoey Head, Broken Bay [picture]Creator Graham, H. J. (Harold John), 1858-1929. Description, pen and ink drawing [1884?] Image number nla.pic-an6438965, courtesy National Library of Australia.

The lower, or outer light, will be lost sight of in rounding Barreujuey, but the upper light will be a good guide for coasters bound to Pitt Water, or for large vessels anxious to obtain shelter in Flint and Steel Bay. On Tuesday last the Thetis went down to Broken Bay, taking as passengers Captain .Myhill, Harbour Master of Port Jackson, Mr. Coles, and Mr. Robinson, the manufacturer of the lanterns, when both lights were exhibited for a short time, and their position and bearings examined from various points seaward by Captain Myhill, prior to the return of the steamer to Sydney. It was intended to have a picnic to mark the occasion of the lighting up of these two lights-which, by the way, are to be called " Stewart's Lights," after Mr. Stewart, one of the members of the Assembly for East Sydney, who has been the principal mover in the matter, and had the weather continued fine the Thetis would have gone down to the bay yesterday morning with a number of gentlemen. As the weather proved so stormy, the trip by sea had to be postponed, and Mr. Robinson, and Mr. Mulhall, who has been appointed light-keeper, went overland to light up last night. A notification for the intention to exhibit these lights has been in the papers for a fortnight, but it should undoubtedly have been given much earlier-Sydney Herald,  July 21st. SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. (1868, July 29). The Mercury(Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from

David Lyall, Geoff Searl and John Illingsworth with the Model of the Inner Stewart Tower at Barrenjoey

The Tower model in full

The Original Trolley Track at Barrenjoey

The other new information regarding the History of Barrenjoey Geoff presented on Tuesday evening was about the original trolley track which carried materials up the headland during the construction of the sandstone Barrenjoey lighthouse tower and adjacent cottages. This involved 'field work' and part of John's wonderful film shows where Geoff followed his research and images found through research, to uncover the stonework and remnants of the track itself, which wended a fair way from where it was originally thought to be in records prior to this year.

Jervis Sparks, or Jervis 'Barrenjoey' Sparks* as we call him here, kindly provided two pieces of the original trolley track itself to add to the great collection the Avalon Beach Historical Society is Keeping and these were also on display at the December General Meeting of the ABHS.

From TROVE once more, a description of this trolley track, from the Laying of the Foundation Stone for Barrenjoey on Thursday April 14th, 1880:

Fortunately for the ladies, Mr. Banks, the contractor, had a " tram-car," or rather trolly, in waiting, upon which they were to be taken to the top. It may be said here that this tramway, the rails of which are of hardwood, is a remarkable evidence of the ingenuity Mr. Banks has exhibited in overcoming the many difficulties in-separable from an undertaking of such magnitude as that of the erection of the Barrenjoey lighthouse. For sometime after the erection of the lighthouse was decided upon it was contended that it would not be possible to have a road constructed by which the necessary materials could be conveyed from the base of the rock: to the site of the lighthouse, and that they would have to be hauled up over the face of the rock ; but Mr. Banks has completely upset this contention. The tramway is 1000 yards long, and is used for the conveyance of everything, except the stone, which is obtained on the top of the rock itself. It has been found invaluable for the purposes for which it was designed and constructed. It is drawn by two horses, which, it may be imagined, when it is stated that some of the gradients are 1 ni 12, have their work to do. The car or trolly is fitted with a brake, which is so powerful that the car can be stopped almost in its own length when going down the steepest incline.

However, this is a digression. The ladies were taken up safely, though not without some misgivings on their part " that the thing would go back." It is questionable if there is along the whole-coast-line a finer view than that which is presented to the eye of the beholder from the top of this Barrenjoey. Away to the north is the north head of Broken Bay; taking this as the beginning of a semi-circle, round towards the left Brisbane-water, the mouth of the Hawkesbury, and Pitt Water are seen in succession, with Mount Elliott (in the form of a lion couchant) guarding the entrance to the second named.

Shortly after the whole of the party reached the top due preparations were made for the ceremony. The crane and other places were decorated with bunting, while the flagstaff was "staggering" almost with flags, amongst them being the figures denoting the motto " Advance Australia," so that ships in the offing-of which there were several would be enabled to read it. After all the preparations had been completed, and the bottle containing the papers, coins, &c, had been placed in the receptacle prepared for it. LAYING the FOUNDATION-STONE of a NEW, LIGHTHOUSE at BARRENJOEY. (1880, April 17). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from 

Barrenjoey July 1881 - from Australian National Archives

Flagstaffs were also part of this new material ... perhaps best enjoyed in the wonderful film that runs below.

Avalon Beach Historical Society has resources in John Stone's Office in Bowling Green Lane, Avalon Beach - and is open for those interested on Saturday mornings from 10 until 1 p.m. - Geoff Searl, President, encourages students to get in contact and welcomes anyone interested in local history to come along and learn more about this wonderful collection  - the ABHS also holds regular meetings in the Avalon Bowling Club with great speakers and does great exhibitions every few years. Membership is just $10.00 per year.


* Pittwater Online News/Green Wing Press Pty. Ltd. is still working on digitising Tales From Barrenjoey, the now out of print 1992 book written by Jervis Sparks and this should be available in the first half of 2016.


By Pittwater Pathways

John Illingsworth - Geoff Searl (President Avalon Beach Historical Society)

Published on December 2nd, 2015

The first navigation lights for Broken Bay, NSW were the twin Stewart Towers on Barrenjoey headland. A history of the lights and of Barrenjoey itself up to the existing lighthouse of 1881. This film was assisted by a grant from Maritime Museums of Australia.

Erratum: the fire was 28 Sept 2013 (not 2014)

Further: Barrenjoey Headland - Pittwater Online Records/History pages and associated articles

 Ah Me-The Beauties Of Nature! By JUDY TUDOR January 13, 1945

Barrenjoey Headland - Amendments Alarming Community

Barrenjoey Headland Bushfire - Pictorial Update - Phoenix Landscape arises

Barrenjoey Commercialisation Canned by NSW Heritage and Environment Minister - Issue 123

Barrenjoey Headland - Bushflowers Spring 2012

Barrenjoey Headland Old and New Pictorial

Barrenjoey Headland Thriving After Bushfires  - On Friday Environment Minister Rob Stokes announced more than $3 million over four years to restore the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse and revitalise the Barrenjoey Headland heritage precinct. Friday was also the day the NSW Environment Minister announced the adoption of the amendment to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Lion Island, Long Island and Spectacle Island Nature Reserves Plan of Management.

Barrenjoey Headland - The Lessees - History

Barrenjoey Lighthouse - The Construction - History

Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk by Geoff Clarke

Barrenjoey Light Keepers - History

Barrenjoey Rally Against Proposed Ammendments to Plan of Management and Commercialisation of Barrenjoey Headland For the Record

Barrenjoey Rally Pictorial Issue 120

Bi-Centenary Commemoration of Governor Phillip Honoured In Pittwater - Barrenjoey Repairs and Renovations Announced

Broken Bay Customs Station At Barrenjoey - History

Front Page Issue 120

Front Page Issue 188 - Barrenjoey Rejuvenation continues

Front Page Issue 196 - Barrenjoey Lighthouse Rejuventaions 1.1.2015 - A stroll Around the Headland + First Few Days in Pittwater 2015 Pictorial

Governor Phillip's Barrenjoey Cairn  - History

Green Wing Press Launched

International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend 2013 at Barrenjoey

Newport Wharf

Palm Beach Golf Course - History

 S.S. Florrie 

The Mail Route to Pittwater and Beyond 

The Red Light Of Palm Beach by Jervis Sparks

Woodley's Cottage  - History

Jervis Sparks - Profile 

John Black - Profile

George Mulhall - First Lightkeeper at Barrenjoey and First Rowing Champion of Australia - History

Captain Francis Hixson - Superintendent of Pilots, Lights, and Harbours and Father of the Naval Brigade - History

Previous History Pages:  

Marie Byles Lucy Gullett Kookoomgiligai Frank Hurley Archpriest JJ Therry Sir Patrick Gordon Taylor Bowen Bungaree W. Bradley 1788 Journal Midholme Loggan Rock Cabin La Corniche La Corniche II Lion Island Bungan Beach Botham Beach Scarred Trees  Castles in the Sand Dame Nellie Melba lunches at Bilgola Spring, 1914  First to Fly in Australia at North Narrabeen  Mona Vale Golf Club's Annual Balls Governor Phillip camps on Resolute Beach  Ruth Bedford  Jean Curlewis  Mollie Horseman  Charlotte Boutin  May Moore  Neville W Cayley Leon Houreux  Frederick Wymark  Sir Adrian Curlewis  Bilgola Heron Cove  Mullet Creek  Shark Point  Woodley's Cottage  A Tent at The Basin Collin's Retreat-Bay View House-Scott's Hotel  Bilgola Cottage and House  The First Pittwater Regatta  Women Cricketers Picnic Filmed In Pittwater  Governor Phillip's Barrenjoey Cairn  Waradiel Season The Church at Church Point  Governor Phillip'€™s Exploration of Broken Bay, 2 – 9 March 1788   Petroglyths: Aboriginal Rock Art on the Northern Beaches  Avalon Headland Landmarks  Steamers Part I Pittwater Aquatic Club Part I  Woody Point Yacht Club  Royal Motor Yacht Club Part I  Dorothea Mackellar  Elaine Haxton  Neva Carr Glynn Margaret Mulvey Jean Mary Daly  Walter Oswald Watt Wilfrid Kingsford Smith John William Cherry George Scotty Allan  McCarrs Creek Narrabeen Creek  Careel Creek Currawong Beach Creek  Bushrangers at Pittwater Smuggling at Broken Bay  An Illicit Still at McCarr's Creek  The Murder of David Foley  Mona Vale Outrages  Avalon Camping Ground Bayview Koala Sanctuary  Ingleside Powder Works Palm Beach Golf Course  Avalon Sailing Club  Mona Vale Surf Life Saving Club  Palm Beach SLSC Part I - The Sheds  Warriewood SLSC Whale Beach SLSC Flagstaff Hill Mount Loftus Pill Hill Sheep Station Hill  S.S. Florrie  S.S. Phoenix and General Gordon Paddlewheeler  MV Reliance The Elvina  Florida House  Careel House Ocean House and Billabong  Melrose-The Green Frog The Small Yacht Cruising Club of Pittwater  Canoe and I Go With The Mosquito Fleet - 1896  Pittwater Regattas Part I - Dates and Flagships to 1950 Shark Incidents In Pittwater  The Kalori  Church Point Wharf  Bayview Wharf  Newport Wharf Palm Beach Jetty - Gow's Wharf  Max Watt  Sir Francis Anderson Mark Foy  John Roche  Albert Verrills  Broken Bay Customs Station At Barrenjoey  Broken Bay Water Police  Broken Bay Marine Rescue - Volunteer Coastal Patrol  Pittwater Fire-Boats  Prospector Powder Hulk at Towler's Bay  Naval Visits to Pittwater 1788-1952  Pittwater's Torpedo Wharf and Range Naval Sea Cadets in Pittwater S.S. Charlotte Fenwick S.S. Erringhi  P.S. Namoi  S.Y. Ena I, II and III  Barrenjoey Headland - The Lessees  Barrenjoey Lighthouse - The Construction Barrenjoey Broken Bay Shipwrecks Up To 1900  Barrenjoey Light Keepers  Douglas  Adrian Ross Newport SLSC 1909 - 1938 Part I Overview  North Narrabeen SLSC - The Formative Years  Bilgola SLSC - the First 10 years  North Palm Beach SLSC A History of Pittwater Parts 1 and 4 Pittwater Regattas - 1907 and 1908  Pittwater Regattas - 1921 - The Year that Opened and Closed with a Regatta on Pittwater Pittwater Regatta Banishes Depression - 1933 The 1937 Pittwater Regatta - A Fashionable Affair  Careel Bay Jetty-Wharf-Boatshed Gow-Gonsalves Boatshed -Snapperman Beach  Camping at Narrabeen - A Trickle then a Flood Pittwater's Parallel Estuary - The Cowan 'Creek' RMYC Broken Bay Boathouse and Boatshed Barrenjoey Boat House The Bona - Classic Wooden Racing Yacht Mona Vale Hospital Golden Jubilee - A Few Insights on 50 Years as a Community Hospital Far West Children's Health Scheme - the Formation Years  The First Scotland Island Cup, Trophy and Race and the Gentleman who loved Elvina Bay Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay NSW - Cruiser Division History - A History of the oldest division in the Royal Motor Yacht Club   Royal Motor Yacht Club€“ Broken Bay€“ Early Motor Boats and Yachts, their Builders and Ocean Races to Broken Bay, the Hawkesbury and Pittwater  The Mail Route to Pittwater and Beyond  The Wild Coachmen of Pittwater - A Long and Sometimes Bumpy Ride on Tracks Instead of Roads  The Fearless Men of Palm Beach SLSC's Surf Boats First Crews - A Tale of Viking Ships, Butcher Boats and Robert Gow'€™s Tom Thumb 'Canoe'  Furlough House Narrabeen - Restful Sea Breezes For Children and Their Mothers  From Telegraphs to Telephones - For All Ships at Sea and Those On Land Mona Vale Training Grounds - From Lancers on Horses to Lasses on Transport Courses Fred Verrills; Builder of Bridges and Roads within Australia during WWII, Builder of Palm Beach Afterwards  Communications with Pittwater  Ferries To Pittwater A History of Pittwater - Part 4: West Head Fortress  Pittwater's Lone Rangers - 120 Years of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase and the Men of Flowers Inspired by Eccleston Du Faur  Early Pittwater Launches and Ferries Runs Avalon Beach SLSC - The First Clubhouse Avalon Beach SLSC The Second and Third Clubhouses From Beneath the Floorboards at Hyde Park Barracks Bungaree Was Flamboyant Andrew Thompson - 'Long Harry' Albert Thomas Black John Collins of Avalon Narrabeen Prawning Times - A Seasonal Tide of Returnings Oystering in the Pittwater Estuary - Oyster Kings and Pearl Kings and When Not to Harvest Oysters Yabbying In Warriewood Creeks Eeling in Warriewood's Creeks (Includes A Short History of community involvement in favour of environmental issues/campaigns in and around Narrabeen Lagoon - 1974 to present by David James OAM) Eunice Minnie Stelzer - Pittwater Matriarchs  Maria Louisa Therry - Pittwater Matriarchs Katherine Mary Roche - Pittwater Matriarchs Sarah A. Biddy Lewis and Martha Catherine Bens Pittwater Matriarchs Pittwater's New Cycle Track of 1901 Manly to Newport  The Rock Lily Hotel  Barrenjoey House The Pasadena Jonah's St Michael's Arch  The First Royal Visitor to Australia: the Incident at Clontarf March 12th, 1868  Pittwater: Lovely Arm of the Hawkesbury By NOEL GRIFFITHS - includes RMYC Wharf and Clareville Wharf of 1938 + An Insight into Public Relations in Australia George Mulhall First Champion of Australia in Rowing - First Light-Keeper  at Barranjuey Headland  Captain Francis Hixson - Superintendent of Pilots, Lights, and Harbours and Father of the Naval Brigade  The Marquise of Scotland Island  The First Boat Builders of Pittwater I: the Short Life and Long Voyages of Scotland Island Schooner the Geordy  Boat Builders of Pittwater II: from cargo schooners and coasters to sailing skiffs and motorised launches  The Currawong: Classic Yacht  The Riddles of The Spit and Bayview/Church Point: sailors, boat makers, road pavers and winning rowers  VP Day Commemorative Service 2015 –  at Avalon Beach RSL Cenotaph: 70th Anniversary Captain T. Watson and his Captain Cook Statues: A Tribute to Kindness   Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways; Hordern or Wiltshire Parks to McKay Reserve – From Beach to Estuary Pittwater Reserves, The Green Ways: Clareville Wharf and Taylor's Point Jetty Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways Bilgola Beach - The Cabbage Tree Gardens and Camping Grounds - Includes Bilgola - The Story Of A Politician, A Pilot and An Epicure by Tony Dawson and Anne Spencer  Pittwater Reserves - The Green Ways: Mona Vale's Village Greens a Map of the Historic Crown Lands Ethos Realised in The Village, Kitchener and Beeby Parks  Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways; Bungan Beach and Bungan Head Reserves:  A Headland Garden  Early Pittwater Paddlers, Oarsmen, Rowers and Scullers: The Green Family  Elanora - Some Early Notes and Pictures