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South Solitary Island Lighthouse Group, Moonee Beach, NSW, Australia

Photographs None
List Register of the National Estate (Non-statutory archive)
Class Historic
Legal Status Registered (25/03/1986)
Place ID 3416
Place File No 1/18/131/0006
Statement of Significance
The South Solitary Island Lighthouse Group, built in 1880, is significant for its design and construction. The group was the first of three major New South Wales coastal installations by Colonial Architect James Barnet to employ local rock as an aggregate for the mass concrete tower and domestic walls (Criteria H.1 and B.2). The Lighthouse Group is a dramatic landmark feature (with its mass concrete construction and balustrade walling) at the apex of the island, which has an impressive visual quality in a harsh clifftop setting (Criterion E.1).
Official Values Not Available
Description
The South Solitary Island Lighthouse group is situated 18km north-north-east from Coffs Harbour at a distance of 6km from the mainland coast. South Solitary Island has an area of approximately 13ha. The island is encircled by a rocky, precipitous coastline entirely without beaches. The rock, a metamorphosed conglomerate, provides a thin covering of soil to support no vegetation beyond harsh scrubby grass. Colonial Architect James Barnet visited the island in October, 1877 to determine siting arrangements for the three buildings of the lighthouse group, the materials to be used and the facilities required by the builders. Completed in 1880, it was the second of his major coastal lights to carry a first order dioptric holophotal revolving optical installation as supplied by the famous Birmingham firm of Chance Bros. It was the first of three major coastal installations to employ local rock as an aggregate for mass concrete tower and domestic wallings. Timber for the formwork was a vital component. It came direct in small vessels from the Bellingen River district. It is interesting to observe that after building this tower Barnet did not repeat an external plan profile requiring curved external wall forms (Green Cape and Smoky Cape towers in mass concrete are octagonal in external profile). The South Solitary tower is 40ft (12m) high from the ground level to lantern gallery, is circular on plan with an internal well of 11ft (3.3m) diameter. Walls are 4ft 6ins (1.35m) at base and 2ft 3ins (0.685m) thick at underside of oversailing cornice. Sixteen basalt wedge shaped blocks, each weighing about 30 cwt (1,500kg), were shipped from Melbourne to form the gallery capping to the moulded concrete cornice. A gunmetal handrail surrounds the lantern gallery. When completed in 1880 the original light had a focal plane 192ft (58m) above high water mark with a visibility horizon of 16 nautical miles. By grave misfortune the top section of the original Chance Bros Lantern was removed in 1976 and replaced by a small workshop designed unit of incongruous design. The tower grouping with its stores annexe and balustrade walling at the apex of the island is singularly impressive despite the 1976 disfigurement. As has to be expected of architectural compositions from the Colonial Architect's office in Barnet's time, the general arrangement of building masses on this site is particularly satisfying. Viewed from all angles the buildings look human and reassuring in an uncompromising landscape.The residences, consisting of one detached and two semidetached cottages, are also constructed of mass concrete from off site aggregate, rendered and painted. The present jetty was constructed in 1955 to replace a former deteriorated structure. The jetty structure finishes against a cliff face and has an unloading platform on the south side of the first two bents; this platform being sheeted with wood planking. The deck of the wharf is sheeted with open metal decking. The columns of each bent are anchored in concrete. The shore end of the jetty was demolished in 1986, due to its unsafe condition. The Lighstation was demanned on 28 December, 1975. There have been many wrecks in the area, the most serious of which was the loss of the steamer Kielwarra in 1886 while bound from Sydney to Brisbane. The Kielawarra collided with the Helen Nicholl between North and South Solitary Islands and sank in seven minutes with the loss of forty eight lives. The Helen Nicholl was badly damaged but no lives were lost.
History Not Available
Condition and Integrity
The condition of the lighthouse is good. The cottages have not been occupied since 1975 and are generally in a poor state of repair. Wells sunk in the rock are still fed from the roofs. The shore of the jetty has been removed due to its unsafe condition.
Location
South Solitary Island Lighthouse group comprising : tower with stores annex, residential quarters for three light keepers and families, and high level landing jetty. Located 20km north-east of Coffs Harbour.
Bibliography
Carlton, H.R. "N.S.W. Lighthouses", Report to the Royal Society of
N.S.W., December, 1978.

Schwinghammer, V. "Article from S.M.H. Files, Coffs Harbour Historical
Society."

Information from file - National Trust.

Report Produced  Wed Sep 24 09:09:06 2014