The Lady Bay Lighthouse Complex was originally built in 1858-9 of basalt quarried on the Salt Water (Maribyrnong) River, Melbourne. The upper tower, chartroom, cottage and privy were originally located on Middle Island, and the lower light was formerly located on a timber tower on the beach. In 1871 the lights were moved to Flagstaff Hill as leading lights for the entry to the treacherous and shallow Warrnambool Harbour. The lower light was placed on a bluestone obelisk that had been erected there as a navigation marker in 1854. A flagstaff had been erected on the hill as early as 1853. The battery of two 80 pounder rifled, muzzle loading guns was added in 1887 as part of a general upgrade to the defences of Victoria which saw Port Phillip Bay transformed into a fortress and the nearby ports of Belfast (Port Fairy) and Portland receive a similar armament to Warrnambool. The fortifications and guns were in a derelict condition until they were restored after the complex was integrated into the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in the 1970s.
How is it significant?
The Lady Bay Lighthouse Complex is of historical, scientific (technological) and architectural significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Lady Bay Lighthouse Complex is of historical significance as a reminder of Victoria?s maritime heritage and the important role played by regional ports in the process of colonial expansion. When Warrnambool was first established, in 1847, its bay was considered to provide a safe harbour. This opinion changed after shipping first began to use it and the need for navigational aids was soon realised. Lighthouses were a vital part of the maritime infrastructure of a colony that was largely dependent on shipping for its communication with the metropolis, for its migrant intake and for its trade with the other Australian colonies and the rest of the world. These lighthouses provide an excellent example of the kind of navigational aids constructed in the early years of regional expansion in Victoria.
The Lady Bay Lighthouse Complex is of historical significance for its intact battery and guns, a strong reminder of Victoria's wealth and determination to protect itself from the perceived threat of invasion in the 1880s. The remaining guns are scientifically (technologically) significant as physical reminders of a time when these weapons represented advanced design in artillery.
The Lady Bay Lighthouse Complex is of architectural significance as a fine example of Public Works Department architecture of the 1850s and 1880s. The modest but dignified and sturdy lighthouse structures are indicative of the importance of lighthouses to the communities that relied upon them to facilitate safe passage for shipping, at a time when such transport was crucial to relatively isolated towns like Warrnambool. The battery revetments and mounds and the magazine chambers are typical of this specialised form of design.