NEW ZEALAND LIGHTHOUSES
Hinge, Leslie, collection of photographic prints and negatives.
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mätauraga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
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Castlepoint (Maori name Rangiwhakaoma, which translates as 'where the sky runs') is situated on the Wairarapa coast. 15 Captain Cook named the area Castlepoint in 1770 13 as it looked like an “old medieval stronghold”. 4
Over the years the area has had a number of wrecks, the White Swan, carrying a load of politicians from Auckland to Wellington in 1862, and in 1894 the Sovereign, wrecked at Mataikona. 65
The lighthouse stands at the northern end of a 1 km long reef. The southern side of the lighthouse is named Christmas Bay. 16 The light is a point of reference for ships bound from South America when making for Wellington Harbour. 15
The cast iron tower was constructed during 1911-12 in the foundry of S. Luke and Company, Victoria Street, Wellington. 67 The local newspaper reported that the lighthouse was cast in iron and was being assembled in the yard. The tower would consist of 10 rings, the bottom ring was 5.4 metres wide, the top one 3 meters. Each of the rings was two meters high. It was anticipated that the lighthouse would be finished within a month, then dismantled and taken by sea to Castlepoint where it would be re-erected. 65 The tower was constructed from steel sheets riveted together, the only one constructed by this method in New Zealand. 15 However, the lighthouse is composed of seven rings, each 3 metres high. 65
Once the lighthouse was dismantled it was shipped from Wellington to Castlepoint late in 1912 by steamboat 67 The re-assembly of the lighthouse was overseen by the Ministry of Works. 65
The light lenses were manufactured by Barbier, Benard & Turenne, of Paris. James Milne and Son, of Edinburgh, manufactured the lens turning apparatus and the lantern was made by James Dove and Co, also of Edinburgh. The incandescent apparatus was made by Chance Brothers, of Birmingham. 65 The lenses turned in a mercury bath and the incandescent lamp was fueled by kerosene 65 / oil. 1
The light was lit for the first time on Sunday January 12, 1913, 65 the light's character was three quick flashes every 45 seconds. 4 and could be seen for 35 kilometres. 65
A causeway was built out to the lighthouse to ensure access to the light in any weather. Over the years it was rebuilt a number of times after being washed away. 66
Castle Point was originally a three-keeper station. 1 A township had already been established when the lighthouse was built in 1913. This made this station one of the more popular assignments as the keepers children could attend a local school and there were shops and a hotel in the township. 1
In 1922, Principal Keeper Duncan fell to his death after falling from a ladder while repairing a telephone line. His body was discovered by a visitor lying at the bottom of the tower. 2 His ghost is reportedly seen still. 65
In 1923, the light station was reduced from a three keeper station to a two keeper station. 2
The 1942 earthquakes caused no structural damage to the tower although experts were called in to assess how much it had shifted during the shocks. The lenses were dislodged from their mercury bath though, and the mercury ran free on the floor. A large china chamber pot was used to collect the mercury for reuse in the bath. The mercury rotation system was replaced late in the 1940s with a series of rollers. 65
The kerosene 65 oil 15 lamp was replaced with an electric lamp driven by a diesel generator in 1954. 15 The generator was installed at the end of Ferry Road, with a wire strung to the tower. 65
In 1961 the lighthouse was connected to mains grid 15 by the Wairarapa Electric Power Board. 65
By 1970's the station was reduced to a one keeper light. 4
Castle Point lighthouse is one of only two lighthouses in New Zealand that are still fitted with the their original lens, a Second-order Fresnel lens.16 1
The lighthouse was automated on August 31, 1988, and Grant Hinchcliff 67 the last keeper, signed off for the last time. 65 After starting his career as assistant keeper on Dog Island in Foveaux Strait in the late 1960s, he was promoted to Head Keeper at Castlepoint, on the Wairarapa coast, where he lived with his wife and three children. When the lighthouse was automated he was offered a job in Wellington or early retirement. He opted for retirement and moved to Sydney, Australia. 68
The causeway connecting the station to the mainland was demolished in 2008 because it had become unsafe, but it is still possible to reach the lighthouse on foot except during the highest tides.
During February of 2013, the lighthouse celebrated it's centennial. In attendance was the last keeper Grant Hinchcliff. Also attending were families of other lighthouse keepers, including Gisborne man Brian Emerson, whose father, Harry, helped man the lighthouse from 1941-45. e
The Castlepoint lighthouse has along with others been featured on New Zealand postal stamps issued by the Government Life Insurance Office.
The lighthouse featured on the 1947 issue with a value of 1/2d.
On July 10, 1967, the stamps were over printed as New Zealand changed to decimal currency.
In 2003 the New Zealand Post released the scenic definitive series of stamps with Castlepoint Lighthouse featured on the $5.00 stamp.
Stamp Web Sites
From Masterton, take the Castlepoint Road 65km to the lighthouse.
65. Masterton District Library
66. Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/wairarapa-places/page-4
67. Wairarapa Times-Age. April 14, 2001
68. Dominion Post. Feb 16th, 2013.
191. William Creamer (Noeline Fairchild (daughter of Charlotte May Creamer, eldest daughter of W & E Creamer), April 7, 2013)
Text and photographs. Copyright © 1999-2013 Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated: December 2, 2011