Our beautiful little wooden lighthouse was designed by John Blackett. John arrived in Wellington in 1851, with his wife Mary and 2 children, James and Sarah, on the way to their new home in New Plymouth. He became a colonial marine engineer for the general government from 1871 until he left the position in 1889 and he was regarded as the father of our lighthouse system.
In total he left a legacy of fourteen lighthouses around New Zealand and all built within a five year period including ours in Timaru in 1877. It is believed that seven of Blackett's timber lighthouses survive on their original sites, with at least two others having been relocated including Timaru's and Akaroa's. It played its role as our main harbour navigation light and was in continuous use from 1879 till its retirement in 1970. The three story kauri timbered lighthouse is a Category II structure. It consists of a 30 foot lighthouse tower protected by a five foot dome. Its lenticular apparatus measures 14½ inches in diameter, was first lit using kerosene on 1st July
1878 this was replaced by gas in 1890 and then by electric light in 1920. On its original site on the Terrace it’s light was elevated about 85 feet above the sea and could be seen about fourteen miles nautical miles in clear weather.
The lighthouse has been on its current site since 2010. There was some controversy when it was first moved in that people thought there should be no trees behind it but it forms a dramatic focal point above the cliffs at the end of Benvenue Avenue against the dark macrocarpas and the sea beyond. The trees are very necessary in that they add to the stabilization of the cliffs and provide some weather protection for the lighthouse. It’s a beautiful local icon, well worth a wander past. It looks rather jaunty in its traditional colors of white with a red dome and is a wonderful reminder of our maritime past.
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