Historical information

This is an image of the Warrnambool Lighthouse Complex on Middle Island in 1854. The Store, Lighthouse Keeper's Quarters, Lighthouse and Flagstaff are in the background. The foreground shows a covered buggy drawn by two horses and a person in attendance, and another wheeled vehicle behind it with a figure nearby. There is a saddled horse to the right with two males in conversation nearby. The ground is soft, perhaps the riverbed or sandy shore.


Lighthouse Keepers were responsible for keeping their Lighthouse’s lights shining at night. They kept a lookout for passing vessels and changes in weather. They were expected to clean, polish and maintain the equipment and buildings. They kept regular and detailed records of who was on watch, and the time the light was lit, trimmed and extinguished. They kept a journal about other events that occurred. They keep regular, accurate Meteorological Logs. It was expected that they were competent in Morse code signalling. They would be called to help in times of disasters and shipwrecks and to give official statements about these events. Many Lighthouse Keepers also volunteered as members of the lifeboat crew.

The Lady Bay lighthouses were officially classified as small, so the Keepers had the official titles of Senior Assistant Lighthouse Keeper and Assistant Lighthouse Keeper. They were employed by the Public Service and paid rent to live in the Lighthouse Quarters. They were compulsorily retired at the age of 60, with most receiving a superannuation payment.

Despite their time-consuming duties, there was time to follow hobbies and crafts such as growing vegetables, playing musical instruments, making models of buildings including lighthouses, and crafting furniture pieces. An example of a keeper’s skills is the carved fire screen made by /assistant Keeper Thomas Hope in the late 19th century and displayed in the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage at Flagstaff Hill.

Both Alexander and Farncombe had served under Senior Keeper Robert Deverell, who was the first and only Senior Lighthouse Keeper at the Middle Island Complex. John Alexander was the Assistant Keeper in the 1850s. Andrew Farncombe was the last Assistant Keeper at Middle Island, serving there with his family from 1864 to 1871. During 1871 and 1872 the Lighthouse Complex was moved to Flagstaff Hill on Merri Street. Farncombe and Deverell then became the first Keepers and occupants of the Lady Bay Lighthouse Complex at Flagstaff Hill. They continued their service together; overall, Deverell served from 1859 to 1885 and Farncombe from 1864 to 1974.


The original Lighthouse Complex was built on Middle Island in 1858-1859 then transferred stone-by-stone to Flagstaff Hill in 1871. The Complex comprised the Lighthouse, the Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters and a Privy. The bluestone Keeper’s Quarters was a cottage divided into two compartments, one for the Senior Keeper and his family, the other for the Assistant Keeper and his family. The bluestone Store was divided into three; a store, a workshop, and an oil store (or office). The Privy comprised a small building also divided into two separate, back-to-back toilets, one for each Keeper and his family.

In the 1970s the Flagstaff Hill Planning Board was set up under the chairmanship of John Lindsay. The Board was to make recommendations to the Warrnambool City Council regarding the use of the buildings and the rest of the Crown Land on the site. The Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village opened in 1975 and began renovating the Cottage in stages, during which time evidence of a 1920s fire was found in the eastern section of the cottage. Additions of a porch on the west and a washroom on the east were made in the 1980s. The western part of the building is now a Shipwreck Museum and the east has returned to a late 19th-century Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage and includes the screen made by Assistant Lighthouse Keeper Thomas Hope in the late 19th century. Hope served two periods of time at the Lighthouse.


This photograph is significant as a visual record of the original Warrnambool Lighthouse Complex on Middle Island, the origin of what is now the Lady Bay Lighthouse Complex.
The photograph is significant for its connection to the Complex, which is now listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, H1520, for being of historical, scientific (technological) and architectural significance to the State of Victoria. The Complex is significant as an example of early colonial development.
The photograph is significant for its connection with the important navigational function of the Lighthouses, a function still being performed to this day.
The photograph is also significant as it shows an example of buildings organised by the Public Works Department in Victoria in the mid-to-late 19th century. The structures tare still stand strong.

Physical description

Photograph of horses, a buggy and three gentlemen in the foreground and the background shows a lighthouse and accompanying buildings. Printed in black and white. (Another two horse-drawn vehicles are partially visible). The subject is the Lighthouse Complex on Middle Island, Warrnambool, dated between 1854 and 1871.An inscription is handwritten in black pen on the back of the mounting board.

Inscriptions & markings

"The lighthouse and accompanying buildings were / established on Middle Island in 1854, as this / picture shows. In 1871 they were moved to their / present site on Flagstaff Hill."