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Australian National Maritime Museum Presents Macquarie Tower of Vaucluse Lighthouse Exhibition

The history of Australia’s first lighthouse, Macquarie Tower of Vaucluse, is revealed in a new exhibition now showing at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Open through 7 November 2010.

Macquarie’s Light chronicles the story of the two Macquarie Towers… the original and its 1880s replacement… through artwork, plans and historical photographs.

The original Macquarie Tower was commissioned in 1816 by then Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie. The lighthouse is widely regarded as one of his most enduring legacies and certainly his most significant maritime contribution to the colony.

Visitors to the exhibition will see a number of historic artworks including watercolours and drawings of Outer South Head, where Macquarie Tower was built in 1818.

Outer South Head quickly became a popular location for daytrippers following the lighthouse’s construction, particularly because of its panoramic views of the harbour.

By the 1870s however Macquarie Tower was in a very poor state, and a decision was made to replace it with a new – almost identical – lighthouse just 2.5 m away.

A selection of black and white photographs capture the phases of construction of the new lighthouse together with striking images of the two lighthouses standing side by side.

Key objects on display include a Holey Dollar and a dump recovered from beneath the foundation stone of the original lighthouse when it was demolished following the construction of its replacement.

It’s believed they would most likely have been placed there by Macquarie during the original lighthouse’s foundation stone ceremony on 11 July 1816.

Also on display are architectural drawings of the new tower by James Barnet which show how his design was closely modelled on convict architect Francis Greenway’s original design with some reconfigurations inside to accomoadate electric engines.

Macquarie’s Light coincides with statewide celebrations marking 200 years since Governor Lachlan Macquarie became Governor of New South Wales.

The exhibition will remain on display, admission free, until 7 November 2010.

Image: Macquarie Tower of Vaucluse

The Australian National Maritime Museum, in Darling Harbour, is open daily from 9.30 am to 5.00 pm. All inquiries (02) 9298 3777 or visit

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