Out of the Box: February – April 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016
Bean Rock Lighthouse prior to restoration at Beaumont Street May 1985. Auckland Harbour Board Public Relations Dept photograph collection. NZ Maritime Museum

Bean Rock Lighthouse: how she was saved, restored and replaced.

Bean Rock Lighthouse is New Zealand’s oldest wooden lighthouse and also the sole surviving example of a sea-washed tower in New Zealand.

The lighthouse’s important role as a navigational beacon began after construction of distinctive hexagonal design was completed and the lamp was officially lit at 6.00 pm on 24 July 1871.

The design of Bean Rock Lighthouse included a cottage for its keeper. The first keeper appointed to take up residence was Mr Hugh Brown, formerly a crew member of the Auckland Harbour pilot boat, with an annual salary of 150 pounds. He stayed there for 19 years, before retiring in 1890, due to ill health.

First operated by the Auckland Provincial Council, administration of the lighthouse was taken over by the New Zealand Marine Department in 1876 and then by the Auckland Harbour Board in 1912.

In 1971, during the centenary year for both the lighthouse and Auckland Harbour Board, Board members decided that the Bean Rock Lighthouse, riddled with rot and peeling paint, would be pulled down and replaced with a “futuristically designed tower” at a cost of $65,000.00. However, due to the high cost and public controversy, the idea was deferred.

Bean Rock Lighthouse restoration has begun at Beaumont Street June 1985. Auckland Harbour Board Public Relations Dept photograph collection. NZ Maritime Museum

Eleven years later, amid fears that the lighthouse would be toppled by a severe storm the Board discussed replacing the lighthouse. This time the proposals were along the lines of an identical design to the current lighthouse.  By August 1983 the estimates had risen sharply to $249,000.00.  The Board Engineers were asked to make revisions to the project to reduce costs and in May 1985 the tender by Precast Construction Ltd was accepted at $220,900.00.

The floating crane HIKINUI was used to lift the upper part of the construction off the legs at Bean Rock and it was transported to the Beaumont Street yard for restoration.  Work to reattach the lighthouse to the base was finished on 22 November 1985 at a total cost of $440,000.

Source: Auckland Harbour Board archives and photographs. NZ Maritime Museum

Marleene Boyd