5.1 Commonwealth heritage list – Montague Island Lighthouse

Statement of Commonwealth heritage significance

The following statement of significance is taken from the Montague Island Lighthouse listing on the Australian Heritage Database (Place ID: 105601)c .

The Montague Island Lighthouse tower, opened in 1881, is significant for its long association with the development and provision of maritime aids along the New South Wales coast, and for its part in the history of Australian shipping over a considerable period (criterion a). (Themes: 3.8.1 Shipping to and from Australian ports, 3.16.1 Dealing with hazards and disasters).

The granite tower, with tapering walls, outward curving platform and curved balustrade, is a well-proportioned structure displaying very fine elements of design and craftsmanship. The tower is also a good example of a late-19th century light tower on the NSW coast (criterion f, criterion d).

The Montague tower is one of the only two offshore island lighthouses along the NSW coast (criterion b).

Additionally significant is the fact that the tower was designed by NSW Colonial Architect James Barnet. Barnet played a seminal role into the development of the colony’s architecture over 25 years (criterion h).

The island and the lightstation are socially significant on account of the large numbers of visitors to Montague, the tower’s high visibility from the coast and the incorporation of the tower into local tourism (criterion g).

The tower’s fine design and granite stonework, its landmark status along this part of the coast, the lack of modern visual intrusions, and the tower’s contrast with the island’s rounded granite slabs and treeless topography are all responsible for the tower having considerable aesthetic qualities (criterion e).

Commonwealth heritage values – criteria

There are nine criteria for inclusion in the Commonwealth Heritage List and meeting any one of these is sufficient for listing a place. These criteria are similar to those used in other commonwealth, state and local heritage legislation, although thresholds differ. In the following sections, the Montague Island Lighthouse is discussed in relation to each of the criteria as based on the current Commonwealth Heritage Listing Place ID 105601.

CriterionRelevant Attributes IdentifiedExplanation

Criterion A – Processes

This criterion is satisfied by places that have significant heritage value because of importance in the course, or pattern, of Australia’s natural or cultural history.

All of the structure’s historic fabric, form and sitingOpened in 1881, the Montague Island Lighthouse is significant for its long association with the development and provision of maritime aids along the New South Wales coast, and for its part in the history of Australian shipping over a considerable period.

Criterion B – Rarity

This criterion is satisfied by places that have significant heritage value because of possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Australia’s natural or cultural history.

All of the place including its landscape setting.The Montague tower is one of only two offshore island lighthouses along the NSW coast.

Criterion D – Characteristic values This criterion is satisfied by places that have significant heritage values because of importance

in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of Australia’s natural or cultural history.

The granite tower, with tapering walls, outward curving platform and curved balustrade, as well as the quality of design and craftsmanship.The Montague Island Lighthouse tower is a good example of a late- 19th century light tower on the NSW coast.

Criterion E – Aesthetic characteristics

This criterion is satisfied by places that have significant heritage value because of importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics values by a community or cultural group.

The historic form and fabric, its visibility and the lack of modern intrusions and landscape setting.The tower’s fine design and granite stonework, its landmark status, the lack of modern visual intrusions, and the tower’s contrast with the island’s rounded granite slabs and treeless topography are all responsible for the tower’s considerable aesthetic qualities.
Criterion F – Technical achievement This criterion is satisfied by places that have significant heritage value because of importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.The quality of construction and design evident in all elements of the tower, both internally and externally.The granite tower, with tapering walls, outward curving platform and curved balustrade, is well proportioned structure displaying very fine elements of design and craftsmanship.

Criterion G – Social value

This criterion is satisfied by places that have significant heritage value because of strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The tower’s visibility and its ongoing accessibility to the public.The island and the light station are socially significant on account of the large numbers of visitors to Montague, the tower’s high visibility from the coast and the incorporation of the tower into local tourism.
Criterion H – Significant people This criterion is satisfied by places that have significant heritage value because of special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Australia’s cultural history.The tower’s historic design and integrity.NSW colonial architect James Barnet designed the tower and played a seminal role in the development of the colony’s architecture over 25 years.

5.2 NSW State heritage register – Montague Island Lighthouse

The statement of heritage significance and the information from the table below was taken from the Montague Island Lightstation listing on the New South Wales State Heritage Register (SHR). Listing ID: 01000.d

NSW State heritage register – statement of heritage significance

Montague Island Lightstation and its setting are highly significant as one of a collection of lighthouses which combine the natural values of a rugged coastal island with the cultural values of a prominent landmark and isolated outpost associated with the development of coastal shipping in the late 19th century.

NSW State heritage values – criterion

SHR CriterionEvidence/Explanation

SHR Criterion A – Historical significance

An item is important in the course, or pattern, of NSW’s cultural or natural history.

Montague is a fine and intact example of a lightstation constructed in NSW during the late 19th century and part of the most productive phase of lighthouse construction during the 1880s.

The light is an important part of the NSW network and the so-called ‘highway lights’ and offered protection to the intrastate traffic to Narooma, Tathra and Eden. It is one of only two major lighthouses in NSW located on off-shore islands.

SHR Criterion B – Associative significance

An item has strong or special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in NSW’s cultural or natural history.

No attributes identified

SHR Criterion C – Aesthetic significance

An item is important in demonstrating aesthetic characteristics and/or a high degree of creative or technical achievement in NSW.

The Montague lighthouse, constructed of granite quarried on the island, with its tapering walls and outward curving upper platform and curved balustrade, is a well-proportioned structure displaying very fine elements of design and craftsmanship.

The tower provides a strong visual contrast to the rounded granite slabs and sparse vegetation topography of the Island.

The white painted buildings with their collection of chimneys, pitched roofs, verandahs and enclosed courtyards clustered on the highest point of the Island present a visual unity and harmony in form, style and materials. The residences are a strong reminder of the era of manned lightstations on the coast of Australia.

SHR Criterion D – Social significance

 

An item has strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group in NSW for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

Montague Island is of exceptional significance for both its Aboriginal and European connections and associations. It is significant through its association with the National Trust of Australia as a wildlife sanctuary, CSIRO as a research site, and with the NPWS as a nature reserve.

Graves associated with the lighthouse as a poignant testimony to the isolated lifestyle of keepers and their families.

The lightstation is a notable design of NSW colonial architect James Barnet and is associated with the nature conservation work of Judith Cassel.

Many of the alterations to the buildings and site are a reflection of technological improvements and reflect changed in the system as well as changed in living standards in an isolated outpost.

SHR Criterion E – Research potential

 

An item has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of NSW’s cultural or natural history.

The island is one of the most significant seabird breeding areas in NSW

and was once the most important seal haul-out site in the state.

Bird life was first studied on the island early in the 21st century and the sea life has been studied for nearly half a century using the island as a research base.

The island is a significant resource for research into the effects of occupation of European settlement in an isolated natural environment.

The numerous archaeological sites on the Island are significant and relate to Aboriginal, European and natural elements on the Island.

SHR Criterion F – Rarity

An item possesses uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of NSW’s cultural or natural history.

Rare for association with natural values.

SHR Criterion G – Representativeness

An item is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of NSW’s:

  • Cultural or natural places; or
  • Cultural or natural environments
A fine intact example of the work of James Barnet, NSW colonial architect.

These heritage values, identified and explained within the Commonwealth Heritage List and the State Heritage Register, will form the basis of the management of the Montague Island Lighthouse. In the event of necessary works, all criteria will be consulted to inform best practice management of the values associated with the lightstation. (See Section 7 – Conservation management policies for further information on strategies to conserve Montague Island Lighthouse heritage values).

5.3 Condition and integrity of the commonwealth heritage values

A heritage monitoring program was implemented in 2016. Each site is visited and reviewed every two years where the heritage fabric and values of the site are evaluated. Assessment of the condition and integrity of lighthouse’s values are derived from the latest available Heritage Asset Condition Report produced by AMSA’s maintenance contractor.

As a whole, the Montague Island Lighthouse demonstrates good condition. The lighthouse also demonstrates medium-high integrity. Some changes to the lighthouse, such as the removal of the original Chance Bros. lens and lantern and original internal catwalk, have had a slight impact on integrity.

CriteriaAttributesConditionIntegrity
Criterion A – ProcessesAll of the structure’s historic fabric, form and siting.GoodHigh
Criterion B – RarityAll of the place including its landscape setting.GoodHigh
Criterion D – Characteristic Values

The quality of design and craftsmanship of the:

  • Granite tower
  • Tapering walls
  • Outward curving platform
  • Curved balustrade
  • Good
  • Good
  • Good
  • Good
  • High
  • High
  • High
  • High
Criterion E – Aesthetic characteristics
  • The lighthouse’s historic form and fabric
  • The lighthouse’s visibility
  • The lack of modern intrusions
  • The lighthouse’s landscape setting
  • Fair
  • Good
  • Good
  • Good
  • Medium
  • High
  • High
  • High
Criterion F – Technical AchievementQuality of construction and design of all parts of the tower.GoodHigh
Criterion G – Social value
  • Lighthouse’s visibility.
  • Lighthouse’s accessibility to the public.
  • Good
  • Good
  • High
  • High
Criterion H – Significant peopleTower’s design and integrityGoodHigh

5.4 Gain/loss of heritage values

Evidence for the potential gain or loss of heritage values will be documented within this section of future versions of this heritage management plan.