Cape St George Lighthouse stood about 3 kilometres south of the southern entrance to Jervis Bay. Constructed in 1860 it was active until 1889.
The recommendation to build a lighthouse on the vicinity was made in 1856. However, despite the fact that the Pilots Board, which was the controlling authority, was not consulted, £5000 were allocated and a tender was accepted.
The resulting light was not visible from the northern approach to Jervis Bay, and was barely visible from the southern approach. When inspected by members of the Pilots Board it was found that on top of the inaccuracies, the contractor built the light 2.5 miles north of the intended site, as it was closer to the quarry he was obtaining the stone from.
Later, a Select Committee was appointed by the New South Wales Government to investigate the errors in locating the lighthouse. The committee found out the Board had been grossly negligent in approving a location without prior inspection and in relying on maps of dubious accuracy. In conclusions it reported that “errors – very grave errors, highly censurable – have been committed in the erection of this lighthouse.”
From 1864 to 1893 there were twenty three ships wrecked on the South Coast of New South Wales in the vicinity of Jervis Bay. The light was eventually replaced in 1899 by Point Perpendicular Light in Point Perpendicular, a much more suitable location for a lighthouse on this part of the coast. The lantern was removed and later used in the Crookhaven Heads Light, built in 1904 (now also a ruin).
After the commissioning of the new light, it was considered that the confusion of having two towers in close proximity to one another would be a hazardous to navigation in daylight, especially during foul weather. As a result, the Cape St George Tower was unceremoniously used from 1917 to 1922 for target practice by the Royal Australian Navy and destroyed.
The site is managed by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts as part of the Booderee National Park.
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