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Cape Campbell (1870) (1905)



 Photo courtesy of MSA.




Reference Number: 1/2-092146-F. Object #83428
Cape Campbell, Marlborough, with lighthouse, 1965. Looking over Cook Strait. Photographer unidentified.


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1st Lighthouse (1870 - 1905)

Cape Campbell is situated on the eastern coast of the South Island near the approaches to Cook Strait and was named by Captain James Cook after Vice Admiral John Campbell who circumnavigated the world with Anson. 4   The local Maori had named the cape Te Karaka. 118

The treacherous coastline has claimed over 18 shipwrecks  between 1845 and 1947. 120   The notable being the New Bedford whaler Alexander which wrecked in 1858 with the loss of one life and the ship a total loss. 1  

At that time Cape Campbell was chosen as a suitable site for a lighthouse. However it would be another 10 years before one was built. 1

With the formation of the Marine Board of New Zealand in 1865 (renamed The Marine Department in 1866) who took of operations of all lighthouses, James Balfour was appointed the Marine Engineer and Inspector of Steamers on October 11, 1866. 10

Balfour designed the lighthouse but before the lighthouse could be built Balfour was drowned in a boating accident in Timaru Harbour in December, 1869. 138  

Construction begun in 1869 on a wooden lighthouse and was first lit on 1 August, 1870.  The light was originally powered with a Colza oil-burning incandescent lamp. 1

 The light was a second order dioptric. 91

The first lighthouse keeper was William Hendle who was transferred from Mana Island where he had also been the first keeper. Hendle was transferred to Pencarrow Head lighthouse in 1872 but was to return to Cape Campbell in 1878. He died of a heart attack in the lamp house on 30 March, 1881 at the age of 50. His body was transported back to Wellington for burial aboard the lighthouse tender Stella. 100

Unfortunately another wreck occurred in 1871. The Rifleman en-route from Lyttleton to Havelock was lost with all hands.  4

The new lighthouse did not hold up well, and after two years had to be shored up. By 1898 the old wooden tower was found to be decaying and it was decided to construct a new tower.



2nd Lighthouse (1905)

The new tower was cast iron and was manufactured by Thames Iron Works (Judd Engineering). 18  

This new light was first lit in October, 1905 and the original wooden tower was demolished the same year. The original foundations for the old wooden tower can still be found near the new tower. 1

Cape Campbell, along with Cape Palliser and Dog Island are the only lights in New Zealand painted with strips so they stand out from the surrounding area. 1

In 1897 the light station was established as a Post Office, the first of about 15 light stations around the country. 4

In July, 1938 a diesel powered electric generator was installed and the original oil burning lamp was converted to a 1000 watt electric lamp. Later in the 1960's the station was connected to mains electricity. 1

The light was automated in 1986 and the last keeper withdrawn. 1

The original light mechanism was removed and replaced in November 2003 with a modern rotating beacon, illuminated by a 50-watt tungsten halogen bulb. 1

The new light is powered by mains electricity and backed up by battery in the event of power failure. 1

The light is monitored remotely from Maritime New Zealandís Wellington office. 1




The Cape Campbell 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. 

The stamps in the series were, Castlepoint  1/2d, Taiaroa Head  1d , Cape Palliser  2d, Cape Campbell  2 1/2d, Eddystone 3d, Stephens Island  4d, The Brothers  6d and Cape Brett  1/-.

On July 10, 1967, the stamps were over printed as New Zealand changed to decimal currency.

The overprinted stamps in the series were,  Taiaroa Head  1 cent , Cape Campbell  2 cents, Eddystone  2 1/2 cents, Stephens Island  3 cents, The Brothers  5 cents and Cape Brett  10 cents.




Stamp Web Sites


The lighthouse was also featured on a Universal Mail series of stamps in 2003, for a value of $1.50.



Take Hwy 1. 35-40km south from Blenheim. Just south of Lake Grassmere turn onto Marfells Beach Road. Drive about 9km to the campground/beach area. Walk around the headland to the light depending on the tides.

Views of the light can also be obtained from Lake Grassmere Road, which is north of the lake.

There are also several companies offering guided walks to the lighthouse.


1st Lighthouse (1870 - 1905)

Island South
Province Marlborough
Location Marlborough
Number K4274
Date Commissioned August 1, 1870  1
Date Decommissioned October, 1905  1
Elevation Above Sea Level
Construction Wooden  1
Converted Kerosene To Diesel
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity
Authority Owned and operated by Maritime New Zealand

2nd Lighthouse (1905)

Island South
Province Marlborough
Location Marlborough
Number K4274
Date Commissioned October, 1905  1
Date Decommissioned
Automated 1986  1
Latitude 41 44' South  1
Longitude 174 17' East  1
Elevation Above Sea Level 47m  1
Height 22m  1
Character White flash every 15 seconds  1
Range 27 N. miles (50 km)    19 N. miles (35km)  1
Made Thames Iron Works (Judd Engineering)  18
Construction White cast iron tower with black bands. 1
Converted Kerosene To Diesel July 1938  1
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity 1960's  1
Wattage 50w
Present Tower Not original
Authority Owned and operated by Maritime New Zealand
Date Visited January 21, 2000



Principal Keeper From To
  1st lit, August 1, 1870  1  
William Hendle  22 July 5, 1870  22  1872  22
Robert Leatham McIver  187 c 1883  187  
Donald McNeil  22 June 9, 1883  22  January 7, 1887  22 
William Hendle  22  April 16, 1878  22  March 30, 1881  22 
William Cunningham   91              (c February, 1894)  91  
Craig  247   1913  247
McAlpine  247 1913  247  
William Elijah Tutt    
William Samuel Hill Creamer and Eliza Louisa Creamer  191 1915  191 1919  191
Jim Smith  4 February, 1958  4  
Denis Lashlie  182   1986  182
  Automated and Keeper Withdrawn 1986  1


Assistant Keeper (1st) From To
1st lit, August 1, 1870  1
John Wheeler  22 December, 1870  22 c  December, 1871  22
J Murthy  22  end of  1871  22    
Alexander McKinlay  80 October, 1872  80 July, 1874  80
Fitzroy Montague Smith  July, 1874  22  
William Tait  22      (1851-1943)  22 March, 1877  22 December 13, 1878  22    (Resigned, refused move to Cape Maria Van Diemen)  22
Charles Edward Johnston  22  1878  22  December 16, 1880  22 
John Jess  22 c  August, 1899  82 September 23, 1902  22
William John Arnold  245 1904  245
Frederick Ford Powell  22         (Probationary)  22 June, 1908  22 December 24, 1908  22
Frederick Ford Powell  22  December 25, 1908  22 c April, 1909 (Services dispensed with)  22



Additional Sources:

22. Akaroa Museum


91Star , Issue 4872, 10 February 1894, Page 6. South Island Lighthouses

100Friends of Mana Island David Cormick Lighthouse Keepers on Mana Island,

118Marlborough Online,

120Cape Campbell Wines

138James Balfour, Engineering Heritage New Zealand Biographies

182.  Dennis Lashlie (Jeremy Mathews, Sept 2, 2012)

187. Robert Leatham McIver (Melvina Wise, March 23, 2013)

191. William Creamer (Noeline Fairchild (daughter of Charlotte May Creamer, eldest daughter of W & E Creamer), April 7, 2013)

245New Zealand Herald, Volume XLI, Issue 12544, 11 April 1904, Page 5

247. Dominion, Volume 6, Issue 1755, 21 May 1913, Page 6


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Text and photographs. Copyright © 1999-2011  Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.

If anyone has any information on this light please contact me.

Last Updated: November 28, 2009.