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Cape Egmont (1881)


Lighthouse at Cape Egmont, [ca 1910]       Reference Number: 1/1-005693-F                                                      Photo (2007)

Lighthouse at Cape Egmont, photographed circa 1910 by the Northwood Studio (or possibly James McAllister). Two unidentified men sit on rocks in the foreground.



Photos (2000)

Cape Egmont Lighthouse, 191-?                 Reference Number: 1/1-026521-G

Cape Egmont lighthouse. Photograph taken ca 1910s by Northwood brothers of Kaitaia.


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Cape Egmont is the westernmost point of Taranaki, on the west coast of the North Island. It is located west of the volcano Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont. 

It was named Cabo Pieter Boreels (Boorel) by Dutch explorer Able Tasman, after one of the members of the council of Batavia. Tasman who sailed past  in 1642 did not actually sight Mount Taranaki/Egmont, due to bad visibility, but when British explorer Captain James Cook passed in 1769, he renamed the mountain and cape after the First Lord of the Admiralty during that time, the Earl of Egmont. 15


Mana Island (1865-1877)

Mana Island is a three-kilometre long, 2.17 square kilometres, with cliffs covering much of its coast and a plateau occupying much of the centre. It lies three kilometres off the North Island coast in the Tasman Sea, west of the city of Porirua and to the south of the entrance to Porirua Harbour. The name Mana is an abbreviation of "Te Mana O Kupe ki Aotearoa". It acknowledges Kupe the great Polynesian navigator who discovered New Zealand (Aotearoa). 13

In 1856,  the northernmost of The Brothers islands, off the north-east tip of the South Island, was considered an excellent site for a lighthouse. But Marine Board members visiting on a still, fine day in 1863 nevertheless found that neither island offered easy access. The precipitous coastline and choppy waters were a danger to anyone landing, and building would be expensive. The board opted for Mana Island, off the south-west coast of the North Island as the lighthouse site. 18

The Mana lighthouse is the twin to the tower at Tiritiri Matangi It was designed by McLean and Stilman, civil engineers of Great George Street, London  4  and prefabricated  by Simpson and Co, of Pimlico, London 15  57   

The cast iron tower, lens and lantern were shipped from Pimlico, London in March 1864 and were erected on the northern side of the island. The overseeing was supervised by Richard AyIner, the Marine Boards lighthouse artificer. 100

The Mana Island light was first lit on February 1, 1865, and along with Pencarrow Head and Nelson Bolder Bank were the only lights serving the Cook Strait area.

The first principal keeper on Mana was William Hendle. He was born in London in 1831 and sailed to New Zealand in 1856, where he married Jane White. Hendle joined the Marine Board as the Principal Keeper for Mana Island and was paid a salary of £190 per annum. He moved to the island with his wife and 2 children, George Norton (born 1862) and Robert White (born 1864). They had a previous son, James White (born 1857) but he died in 1863. 100

While on the island, two more children were born, George (1867) and Alfred John (1869). Unfortunately George Norton died in February 1866. 100

After five years, the Hendle family left the island in July of 1870 and moved to Cape Campbell. 100

Unfortunately the Mana Island light displayed the same characteristics as Pencarrow Head lighthouse at the entrance to Wellington Harbour and this may have caused the loss of two ships the City of Newcastle and Cyrus, in 1870, with their masters confusing the two lights. 3

Therefore, in 1874  a decision was made to move the lighthouse to Cape Egmont where a lighthouse had been planned since the 1860's 10 and a lighthouse was planned for  The Brothers a rocky inlet in Cook Strait. 18

In 1876 construction commenced on The Brothers lighthouse and was first lit in September, 1877, at the same time the light at Mana Island was extinguished. 10


Cape Egmont (1881)

Four year later in 1881, the lighthouse was removed and shipped to Cape Egmont, aboard the lighthouse tender Hinimoa. The steel-built tower which weighed 90 tons was brought to shore by surfboats in sections. Bullock teams were used to drag the segments into position, where they were bolted back together.  57

To haul the lighthouse in place, existing bridges needed to be strengthened and as the road was so soft the bullock teams could only drag 3 tons per trip. 10

Originally costing £5513 3  to install on Mana Island, it cost an additional £3353  10  to have it installed on Cape Egmont. It was tendered by two keepers. 10

The lighthouse site is near the settlement of Parihaka, where at the time a Maori non-violent movement led by Te Whiti O Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi were based. The Maoris believed the land was tapu and protested the erection of the lighthouse. The authorities stationed about 100  2  or  40  57  Armed Constabulary at the tower to ensure its completion, and the light finally shone on 1 August 1881. 57

Much to the new keepers dismay the Constabulary stayed on at the lighthouse, living on the first floor of the building. The new principal keeper, Mr. Simpson wrote to the Marine Department with his concerns. The letter said he was indignant about having to knock on his own lighthouse door to be let in and it was only opened when the constabulary felt like it, letting clouds of dust settle on the lamp and lenses. 57

The Constabulary also insisted that a wrought iron door and shutters (now removed) be installed on the light house for protection. 10

Mr. Simpson's complaints were received with disdain and the reply from Marine Department secretary William Seed was scathing: "It is considered necessary for the men to occupy the ground floor of the lighthouse for the present, and that I trust you will exert yourself to get on amicably with the Force and not let me have further complaints of the trivial nature of these now made by you."  57

On 5 November 1881, 1500 troops invaded the peaceful, unfortified village of Parihaka, Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested, and their followers harassed and dispersed and the village and crops destroyed.  57

The troops finally left mid-February the following year. 57

There is some debate over who was the first principal keeper at Cape Egmont. While some lighthouse authorities believe it was Mr. Simpson, others say the original keeper was a Swedish man called J. F. Ericson. There is a possibility that both men may have been there at the same time, because for many years it was a two-man station. 57

After the land dispute, the surrounding area was settled by mainly Pakeha dairy farmers and the lighthouse became one of the least isolated stations. 10

The lighthouse was linked to the telegraph system in 1898 and in 1906 or 1907 a telephone was installed linking New Plymouth, however could only be used after 5 p.m. 10

In 1929 the station lost the assistant keeper position when new automatic light was installed. The new light, a revolving lens with a fixed incandescent acetylene burner with sun-valve attached was the most up-to-date light in the country. 10

In 1951 the light was electrified by installing diesel generators 1 , the following year it was connected to the national grid. 10  It was intended that the keeper would remain on the station to provide weather reports, but when the current keeper Mac Cranston retired  3  /  the keeper was transferred to another station, 10  he was not replaced due to staff shortages. 1

A neighboring farmer was enlisted to check the operation of the light on a daily basis, but in the event of a power failure had no alarm attached to the house. 3 Unfortunately on 14 July, 1956 during a storm the light was extinguished through a power failure and the vessel Calm run aground. As the Nautical Almanac stated the lighthouse was still manned a Marine court of inquiry found the Maine Department negligible and compensated the owners of the vessel £50,000, and ordered a keeper reinstated. 3

The light was automated on 20 February, 1986. But the first night, the automatic light failed. A nearby ship sent in a report and the installers were dispatched back out to fix the light. Bryan Richards, the last resident keeper who had been kept on as an observer for six months, says it was a mechanical failure. "A pin sheared off the lens-turning motor."  57

Richards, together with his wife Janet, bought the remaining keeper's house and retired there. 1

The original light was replaced in August 1999 with a modern rotating beacon, illuminated by a 50 watt tungsten halogen bulb. The new light is powered by mains electricity and backed up by battery in the event of power failure. 1

Cape Egmont Boat Club displays the original lens and lantern. 332 Bayley Road, Warea. 58


Registered with the New Zealand Historical Trust

Register Number: 820
Date Registered: 11 December, 2003

Historic Place  - Category 2




The Cape Egmont lighthouse has along with others been featured on New Zealand postal stamps issued by the Government Life Insurance Office. 

Part of the lighthouse series that was released in 1969 when New Zealand changed to decimal currency, the Cape Egmont stamp had a value of 4 cents. 

The stamps in the series, Moeraki  1/2 cents, Puysegur Point  2 1/2 cents, Baring Head  3 cents, Cape Egmont  4 cents and Dog Island  15 cents.


In 2009 the New Zealand Post announced a lighthouse commemorative stamp issue celebrating the 150th anniversary of New Zealand’s lighthouses. A technological first, the stamps have special glue whereas the beams from the lighthouse actually glow in the dark,. This is activated by sunlight or holding the stamp under a light for a short time. The five stamps are in different denominations, ranging from fifty cents to $2.50 and feature Pencarrow Head  50 cents, Dog Island  $1.00, Cape Brett  $1.50, Cape Egmont  $2.00 and Cape Reinga  $2.50.


Stamp Web Sites



From New Plymouth take the "Surf Highway" Hwy 45 south west to about 45km to Pungarehu. Just south of town, turn right on Cape Road. Drive 5km to the lighthouse which is at the end of the road.


Island North
Province Taranaki
Location Taranaki
Number K4088
Date Commissioned August 1, 1881 (tower built 1864)  1
Date Decommissioned  
Automated February 20, 1986  57
Latitude 39° 17' South  1
Longitude 173° 45' East  1
Elevation Above Sea Level 33m  1
Height 20.4m             20m  1  19
Character White flash 3 times every 30 seconds  1   
Range 22 N. miles (41km)  19  
Made Simpson & Co, Pimlico, London, England  15
Construction Cast iron sections  1
Converted Kerosene To Diesel 1951  1
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity 1952  10
Present Tower Original
Authority Owned and operated by Maritime Safety Authority
Date Visited February 16, 2000


New Light

Date Commissioned 1999  1
Character White light flashing every 8 seconds  1
Range 19N. miles (35 km)  1
Wattage 50w  1


Principal Keeper From To
  1st lit, August 1, 1881  
Norman Simpson  197 June, 1881  197 May 5, 1887  197
Donald McNeil  22 July 13, 1890  22  January 20, 1896  22 
Fitzroy Montague Smith  c  August, 1896  22 October, 1896  59  (Retired due to poor health)  59
Charles Tregurtha October, 1896  59             ( c  1898)  181  
George Ager  188 February 17, 1925  188  
John Frederick Ericson  16   1904  16  245
Edward Robert Wilson  199 May 1904  199  245 June 1908  199
Mac Cranston  3 1953  3  
Charlie Mallowes    
Bryan & Janet Richards  57 1976  57 February 20, 1986  57
  Automated and Keeper Withdrawn February 20, 1986  57


Assistant Keeper From To
  1st lit, August 1, 1881  
Robert Cathcart  22 c 1893  83
  Reduced to a one keeper station 1929  10




Additional Sources:

22. Akaroa Museum

57Puke Ariki interview with Cape Egmont's last keeper Bryan Richards

58Papakura Radio Club

59. Evening Post, Volume LII, Issue 133, 27 October 1896, Page 4

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

188. George Ager (Jill Stuthridge, (nee Ager), September 9, 2010)

199Edward Wilson (Lynda Webster, March 9, 2012)

197. Norman Simpson (Gayle Dickison, Nov 4 2011)


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


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Text and photographs. Copyright © 1999-2013  Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.

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

Last Updated: September 10, 2010