From the cedar felling days of the 1830s, sea transport had been of major importance to the district. Vessels of all kinds sheltered in the bay to load timber then wheat and dairy produce, and later basalt.
Repeated commercial pressure for increased harbour facilities, however, did not lead to the practical assistance of a lighthouse until 1886.
In March 1884, the State Government contributed £2000 towards the construction of a lighthouse at Kiama.
From 1878-1886, the Agricultural Shows were held on Blowhole Point. However, with the future erection of a new lighthouse, the Society had to find a new site. In 1886, they purchased 11 acres of land on which is now the Showground. Also, August 1884 saw a gold mine open at Blow Hole Hill, on Government land reserved for the lighthouse.
Members of the Marine Board selected a site for the new lighthouse in October 1885.
In March of that year tenders were called for the erection of a lighthouse and keeper’s cottage. The tender of Messrs.Anderson and Taylor was accepted.
Design for the lighthouse is attributed to the Chief Engineer of the Marine Board, Edward O. Moriarty. This is the only known example of a lighthouse not being designed by the Colonial Architect’s Office during James Barnet’s tenure. It was also the first and only lighthouse whose design is directly credited to Moriarty.
The total cost for the tower and apparatus was £1,350, £80 below the departmental estimate. This was because of the accessibility of the site, ready availability of local materials and manpower, as well as the simplicity of the design.
In late October, 1886, a lantern was placed in the lighthouse, giving it a finished appearance. It was manufactured by “Chance Brothers”, Birmingham, England. The light was a fixed green light of the fourth order and had 15 lenses. It was visible nine miles away, producing 600 C.P. On November 30, 1886, the lighthouse was completed. A 2-inch galvanised iron gas main was laid from the 3 inch main at the wharf up to the keeper's cottage, and a 1 inch pipe from here to the light.
The usual delay from completion to commissioning occurred as all reports date the commencement of service as 1st January 1887.
The lantern was upgraded by Inspector Ford of the Navigation Department, to the local town coal gas in 1908, with a range of fifteen miles. This meant that the running of the light could be independent of the constant administrations of a keeper, and the tower was only watched part-time.
In 1912, Commander Brewis carried out a major assessment of all lightstations in Australia. Of Kiama he stated that the equipment, powered by town gas, was in good condition and was unwatched, the keeper’s cottage being vacant. It gave the effectiveness at 600 C.P. but recommended it be increased to 1,500 C.P. operated by acetylene gas.
The lighthouse was handed over to the care of the Commonwealth by the State in 1915.
In 1920 the light was upgraded to automatic acetylene gas with group flashing and the light was demanned. At some stage, the keepers cottage was turned into a kiosk. In fact, this cottage was never occupied by a keeper, the job being done by the Pilot who occupied the cottage further down the hill.
Floodlighting of the lighthouse and Blow Hole was turned on in December 1939, linked with the unveiling of a bronze tablet commemorating the discovery of Kiama by George Bass. However, lighting was discontinued when wartime restrictions and blackouts were imposed.
In 1969, the light was converted to 240V mains electricity. A 120V battery bank is used for standby. Today the light has an intensity of 28,000 C.P. It uses a tungsten halogen lamp, using the original Chance Brothers lens.
The lighthouse was listed with the National Trust of Australia in February, 1978.
Building schedules for the lighthouse
The 16 metre high lighthouse is circular in plan, constructed of brickwork which has been rendered and painted white. The cylindrical tower has a diameter of 3.2 metres at the base which tapers to a diameter of 2 metres at the top.
||Brick, rendered and painted white. Walls are 700mm thick at the bottom battering to 450mm thick at top. The interior of the shaft is 1.7 metres in diameter.
|| Two windows and door have round-arched tops. Windows have two lights with a timber frame and iron half-domed hood over upper semi-circular lights. Door at ground level timber and white painted. Timber trapdoors provide entry to upper floors. Fixed rectangular glazing to lantern room; cast iron door to balcony.
|| Domed, clad with metal sheeting, painted white; surmounted by a spherical knob and three-pronged lightning conductor with earthing wire attached along exterior of lighthouse to ground.
|| Varied shaft rings and the carefully detailed entry stair are main features. The five-stepped curved entry stair leads from ground level to the door of the lighthouse, and is flanked by a low curved balustrade. The gallery has been constructed using dressed freestone.
|| Structural beams (steel) support timber floors of level above.
|| Ground floor is concrete resting on concrete foundation. Floor outside lantern is constructed of dressed freestone. Painted timber on steel beams for landings.
|| Iron ladders provide access to lantern. Windows have deep recesses on interior wall. The original Chance Brothers lens has been retained.
|| The building is original in plan, with very little alteration to original finishes and details externally. The main change has been the replacement of the original balustrade to balcony.
Sketches of the lighthouse location