Historical information

This set of eight plans show include seven proposed plans for the original Lighthouse Complex that was built on Middle Island in 1858-1859 then transferred to Flagstaff Hill in 1871. The other plan, dated 1904, is for proposed additions and repairs to the Quarters at Flagstaff Hill.

The Complex comprised the Lighthouse, the Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters, the Store (now called the Chart Room) and a Privy, which was not included in these plans. The Keeper’s bluestone Quarters was a cottage divided into two compartments, one for each keeper and his family. The bluestone Store was divided into three; a store, workshop an oil store (or office). The Privy comprised of a small building also divided into two separate, back-to-back toilets, one for each Keeper and his family.

The Flagstaff Hill Keeper's Quarters have had extensions and additions at various times, and these have also been removed at various other times.


*Dec. 1858 (12/58) ‘Lighthouse Keepers Quarters No.2 Warrnambool’ (2375.01)*
Public Works Office Melbourne – Front and Back elevations, sections, and floor plan.
Drawing shows timber walls.
[The floor plan is the closest plan to the current building, however the walls are timber in this plan.]

*Nov. 1858 – No.3 ‘Lighthouse Keepers Quarters Warrnambool’ (2375.02)*
Office of Public Works, Melbourne – Back and End elevations and section through.
Drawing shows stone walls. One side; Senior Keeper’s bedroom, living room and kitchen with storeroom. Other side; Assistant’s bedroom, living room and storeroom.

*Nov. 1858 - No.4 ‘Lighthouse Stores Warrnambool’ (2375.03)*
Office of Public Works – Front, Side and end elevations, centre section.
Drawing shows stone walls.

*Nov. 1858 – No.4, ‘Lighthouse Stores No. 2 Warrnambool’ (2375.04)*
Office of Public Works – Front, side and end elevations, centre section.
Drawing shows timber walls.

*Nov. 1858 – ‘Details Lighthouse Keepers Quarters No. 2 Warrnambool’ (2375.05)*
Public Works Office Melbourne. The plan shows the foundations, joists and eaves.
Drawing shows timber walls.

(Nov. 1858 – ‘No.4 ‘Lighthouse No. 2 – Warrnambool’ (2375.06)*
Public Works Melbourne (Part of the paper is missing). This plan shows an octagonal tower, internal stairs, the balcony landing, and a weather vane on top.

*November 1858 – No. 1, ‘Lighthouse – Warrnambool’ (2375.07)*
Office of Public Works Melbourne. This plan shows a round tower, including the stairs, windows on the tower and the weather vane on the top.

*4/3/4 [1904] – ‘Additions and Repairs, Lighthouse Quarters, Warrnambool, General Plan’ (2375.08)*
Department of Public Works Melbourne’s official stamp and is signed by Croft.
It shows the floor plans of the Store, Upper Lighthouse and the Quarters. The Store building has three sections; a Store, Work-Shop and Office, with an internal wall between them and separate entries. The Quarters are divided into two dwellings. The Senior Keeper’s side on the left has fireplaces in two of the three bedrooms and there is a pantry and wash house. The Assistant’s side has no fireplaces in the bedrooms and there’s no pantry or wash-house. These plans include proposed changes to the buildings. The Senior Keeper’s Quarters would have a partition on bedroom 2, a bath with plumbing and drainage, a wall moved and a built-in side porch. The Store would also have a built-in porch.


In the 1800s ships sailing from England to Australia began to use Bass Strait as a faster route to Melbourne. Small navigation errors led to many tragic shipwrecks. From 1848 lighthouses were operating along Victoria’s southern coast as a guide for sailors. Coastal towns such as Warrnambool grew and the exchange of trade and passengers were of great benefit. However, the uncertain weather changes, relatively shallow waters and treacherous, hidden rocky reefs were not really suitable for a Harbour and in the 1840s and 1850s there were many shipwrecks in the area, with some even stranded in its Lady Bay harbour.

A jetty was built in 1850 and a flagstaff to guide seafarers was placed up high on what became known now as Flagstaff Hill. In November 1857 the Victorian Government recommended that Warrnambool Harbour had beacons and two lighthouses to guide vessels into and out of the Harbour safely. The white light of the Middle Island lighthouse was to be used for the first time on September 1, 1859. The red light of the Beach Lighthouse, a wooden obelisk structure, was first operated on March 25, 1860, but in 1868 this light was ‘discontinued’ due to it being too low.

Melbourne’s Department of Public Works decided to relocate the Middle Island Lighthouse Complex - Lighthouse, Keeper’s Quarters, Privy, Store Room and even water tanks - to Flagstaff Hill. The lower obelisk was shortened, and a protruding gallery, railing, external ladder added, as well as the light from the Beach Lighthouse. A green guiding light was erected on the end of the jetty. The transfer of the Complex began in March 1871. Each shaped stone of the lighthouse was carefully numbered, removed then reassembled on Flagstaff Hill. In 1872 the well was sunk behind the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage. The Keepers and families had left Middle Island in April and moved to Flagstaff Hill in October 1871.

Vessels entering Lady Bay align the Upper and Lower Lighthouse towers during the day and the lights at night. The Upper Lighthouse a round tower, the Lower Light is square. The Lighthouses were categorised as harbour lights rather than coastal lights, so they remain under the control of the Victorian Government’s Ports and Harbours section. The lights were originally powered by oil, then acetylene gas, later by electricity, then converted to solar power in 1988. In 1993 the solar panel was replaced by a battery charger. A decision was made in 1936 to replace the lighthouses’ lights with unattended lights that no longer required Keepers and Assistants. At least 29 Keepers had attended to the lighthouse from its opening in 1859 to when the last official Lightkeepers left In April 1916.

The Warrnambool Harbour Board rented out the Quarters from 1916 to 1936. The Board closed down but the rentals continued with other unknown landlords.

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 during one of his two periods of service there.


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 early 20th century and displayed in the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage at Flagstaff Hill.

The last occupants of the Middle Island Complex were Senior Keeper Robert Deverell, his Assistant Keeper, Andrew Farncombe, and their families. They all became the first occupants at the Lady Bay Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters in Merri Street.


The Warrnambool Lighthouse Complex plans are the origin of what is now the Lady Bay Lighthouse Complex. They are a record of the people, process and departments involved in bringing the complex into fruition.
The plans are significant 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 plan are significant for their connection with the important navigational function of the Lighthouses, a function still being performed to this day.
The plans are also significant as an example of a product from the Public Works Department in Victoria in the mid-to-late 19th century. The structures built to these plans still stand strong.

Physical description

Plans for the Lighthouse Complex in Warrnambool, including Lighthouses, Keeper's Quarters and Stores. Seven of the plans are on thin fragile paper, one is on thicker, stronger paper. The drawings have been made in pens coloured red and black. They originate from Public Works in Melbourne. Seven were drawn in 1858, one in 1904.

Inscriptions & markings

Dec. 1858 - Lighthouse Keepers Quarters No.2 Warrnambool. Public Works Office Melbourne.
Nov. 1858 - No.3 ‘Lighthouse Keepers Quarters Warrnambool. Public Works Office Melbourne.
Nov. 1858 - No.4 ‘Lighthouse Stores Warrnambool. Office of Public Works.
Nov. 1858 - No.4, ‘Lighthouse Stores No. 2 Warrnambool. Office of Public Works.
Nov. 1858 - Details Lighthouse Keepers Quarters No. 2 Warrnambool. Public Works Office Melbourne.
Nov. 1858 - No.4 ‘Lighthouse No. 2 – Warrnambool. Public Works Melbourne.
Nov. 1858 - No. 1, Lighthouse - Warrnambool. Office of Public Works Melbourne.
4/3/4 [1904] - Additions and Repairs, Lighthouse Quarters, Warrnambool, General Plan. Department of Public Works Melbourne. SIGNED "Croft"