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Cape Foulwind (1876) (1926)



Photo Date: 2007                                                                                Photo Date: 2000

Creative Commons photo                                                                                                                                             


 Photo Date: 2000

Light at dusk showing replacement light.                    


Group at lighthouse, Cape Foulwind, [ca 1910s]  

Group at lighthouse, Cape Foulwind. Heinz, William Frederick, 1900?-1976 :Photographs and negatives of gold mining and other facets of West Coast life. Ref: 1/2-054163-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.           



Date: [ca 1910]

Cape Foulwind lighthouse. Jones, Frederick Nelson, 1881-1962 :Negatives of the Nelson district. Ref: 1/1-010094-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Date: [circa 1910s-1930s]

Lighthouses, Cape Foulwind, Buller District, showing wooden foundations of hexagonal wooden tower, and cylindrical concrete lighthouse. Williams, Edgar Richard, 1891-1983 :Negatives, lantern slides, stereographs, colour transparencies, monochrome prints, photographic ephemera. Ref: 1/2-144282-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.



Photo Date: 2000

Steps to old wooden tower (Now demolished) 


Google has a satellite view


1st Lighthouse (1876 - 1926)

Originally called by the Maori Cape Tauranga meaning "sheltered anchorage", the cape is situated on the west coast of the South Island just south of the town of Westport. The first European Dutch explorer Able Tasman who sailed past in December of 1642, named the cape Clyppygen Hoek (Rocky Point), but it was Captain James Cook who was to give the cape it's current name Cape Foulwind when he encountered a huge storm while in the area in March of 1770 and hence the name foul wind. Major European settlement began in the 1860s when the settlers established flax (harakeke) and timber mills. 13

The Luna with John Blackett, Marine Engineer and Captain Robert Johnson, Nautical Advisor on board, left Wellington on November 12, 1873 bound for Farewell Spit lighthouse then on Cape Foulwind to select a site for the lighthouse.  121   Unable to land from seaward they landed inland up the Buller River and cut a track out to the cape from the Westport/Charleston Road to survey the land. Arrangements were made with the District Engineer Mr. Dobson to have some men make a clearing in the bush for the  lighthouse site and to avoid intercepting the proposed lights arc.  280 

By January 1874, work had begun on the clearing.  281 

During the lighthouse survey of 1874, the Luna made it's way up the west coast signaling to the Hokitika Harbour Master all was well and steamed on to Cape Foulwind anchoring north of the Steeples as they could not cross the Buller bay until morning. The next day Captain Johnson and Mr. Wilson surveyed the site for the Lighthouse.  274  Captain Johnson found the bush to be cleared sufficiently for him to select the exact site for the light. The site was 190 feet above sea level and to clear the surrounding cliffs he proposed a tower 36 feet in height which would illuminate an arc extending S. round by N. 68deg E.  280


From the ninth report of the Marine Department, laid before the Houses of General Assembly during the past session is extracted the following paragraphs referring to the projected lighthouse erection at Cape Foulwind. "The Luna then proceeded to Farewell Spit Lighthouse with stores, and thence to Westport, the distance from which place to Cape Foulwind is only about six miles. The road from Westport to Charleston passes about a mile and a quarter inland of the extremity of the Cape. The Cape is everywhere covered with dense bush, so that a track had to be cut from the road to reach the coast at a point where it is proposed to erect the lighthouse, as the spot could not be approached from Westport by the beach, and a landing could not be effected from the sea, owing to the heavy, swell and the rocky nature of the coast. On arriving at the end of the Cape, an excellent site was fixed upon but it was found that it would be necessary to have an extensive clearing made. This was required also to provide for the light being seen up and down the coast. Arrangements were therefore made with Mr. Dobson, the District Engineer, to set a number of men to work on this clearing, and on the return of the Luna, by way of the West Coast, from the trip she made afterwards, to Foveaux Strait, Captain Johnson found the clearing completed, and was enabled to take accurately all necessary bearings". 

The Secretary of Customs further says "The order for the apparatus was sent home in December and I expect very shortly to receive from Messrs Stevenson a drawing showing the exact size of the lantern, when the construction of the tower will at once be proceeded with, so that it may, if possible, be ready to receive the lantern and apparatus immediately they reach the colony. I venture to trouble you with this detailed account of the steps which had to be taken in connection with the Cape Foulwind light, because similar steps will have to be taken before the erection of many of the projected lights can be proceeded with, and because I believe that a very common opinion with regard to lighthouses is, that all that is to be done is to send to England for a complete lighthouse apparatus, of the most approved and modern design, in order to get out exactly what is wanted but a very short experience shows how entirely erroneous this opinion is. Lighthouses so ordered would, as a rule, be unnecessarily expensive, and would rarely be suited for the localities they were intended for." 

Captain R. Johnston, in his report to the Hon, Commissioner of Customs, details the result of his recent visit to the site of the proposed lighthouse. He reports thus "I found that the bush had been cleared sufficiently to enable me to select the best position for a light. This was done, and the exact position is marked by a large tree, marked with a crow's nest, and bears N. 40deg distant about 6 chains from the original rata tree marked by Mr. Blackett and myself on a former visit. This site is on a small schist granite ridge about 15ft high and 15ft broad on the top at an elevation of 190 ft above sea level. To clear the surrounding cliff both north and south, a tower, 36ft in height will be needed, when an arc extending from S. round by N. 68deg E., will be illuminated. Before the light is erected, a road will have to be made from the Charleston road, and the present track formed by the bush-clears seems a capital direction for it to run. In the neighborhood of the site, and in the direction of the highest land to the north and south, more bush will have lo be cleared to avoid intercepting the light. The exact places where this be required were pointed out to Mr. Home, the foreman in charge of the clearing party. Before concluding this report, I wish to call attention to the necessity of a better survey of the locality between the Steeple Rocks and the Buller River. When the Cape Foulwind light is erected, probably many vessels will run for shelter under the cape in south-west gales. The charts indicate neither soundings nor foul ground in this neighborhood and the 'New Zealand Pilot' states that under Cape Foulwind vessels may find shelter in southerly winds. I however observed from the Luna's deck, broken water far off the shore, and I therefore conclude that the shelter a vessel would find under Cape Foulwind is not altogether free from danger."  280


In November 1874, tenders were called for the construction of a road to the lighthouse site and the contract was won by Messrs McGaw, Forsyth and Simpson for 569.  127

In December, 1874 the lighting apparatus was ordered from England with the plans for the light being drawn up by Messrs Stevenson.  125

By March 1875, the lanterns for both Cape Foulwind and Tory Chanel had arrived, shipped aboard the Soukar.  122   The timber for the tower was to be shipped from Sydney, Australia aboard the Easby and to be landed at Westport, thereafter tenders for construction would be called.  122  

Tenders were called for the construction on August 9, 1875.  123

The tower was constructed from locally cut Rimu  1  timber and the bricks that were imported from Melbourne, Australia.  The tower was a lattice wood design, 53' in height.  124  

In June 1875, the Luna arrived with Jarrah timber and landed them at the South Spit.  128

In late June of 1876, the Luna arrived with the lighthouse keepers on board.  132


As reported in the Westport Times, Volume X, Issue 1371, 14 April 1876, Page 2.   130

Situated on the high upland ground overlooking the Steeple Rocks its light will be seen for many miles seaward. The lighthouse is easily reached from Westport, being about seven miles distant from the South Spit. About two miles from the Blow Hole on the Charleston road another new road branches off to the right, about a mile in length, leading to the lighthouse site. There, in addition to the lighthouse, is also erected two substantial dwellings for the first and second lighthouse-keepers and their families, and two smaller buildings designed for use as stores one for oil and lamp fittings and the other for dry goods. The lighthouse is an hexagonal shaped wooden structure, built on a solid rock foundation. The rock, leveled in circular form, bears six longitudinal beams of ironbark wood, radiating like the spokes of a wheel, and firmly fastened to the bed rock by iron bolts five feet in length. These traverse beams bear six upright spars, also of ironbark, forty-five feet in length, and forming the six angles of the building, the spars slightly inclining towards a centre point, and giving the building a pyramidal form. The corner timbers are very substantially braced together by diagonal placed stringers and iron clamps, and for a height of twelve or fifteen feet from the bed rock the structure is open. A flight of stairs leads up to the first landing, which is enclosed by weather boarding of Totara with strong double doors. The interior room is close lined with red pine boards and the doors so constructed that when closed all current of air upwards is cut off. This being necessary to prevent any flickering of the lamps in the lantern-room at the summit. From the landing-room another flight of stairs leads up to the store-room, a compartment built and closely lined upon the same plan as the one below, only slightly smaller in dimensions by reason of the gradual contraction in the shape of the building. This store-room is fitted up with cupboards, shelves and lockers, every available inch of space being utilised as in the cabin of a vessel. An iron ladder gives access to the next upward stage, called the light-room, and here the visitor can ,i^ea u of the method by from the bed rock upward to the floor of the light room there is built a hollow shaft of wood, within which the weights will work controlling the mechanism keeping the lights in motion. At the sides of the light-room are fixed three ventilators, designed for regulating the draft of air from the outside, either ventilator being used according as the wind prevails or changes from one quarter to another. These ventilators are wooden boxes covering openings through the walls of the building. The boxes are shaped like the letter I, but with the base longer than the top. In the longitudinal sections are placed small sliding panels, which shifted too and fro will regulate the supply of air. A door from the light-room opens on to a look-out balcony which surrounds the building, and which is guarded by a strong rail with diagonal bracings, breast high.. Above this, about seven feet from the flooring of the balcony, is a coping of wood covered with lead, which forms what is called the cleaning path around the lantern. This, when the lantern is in position, will be guarded by a light metal hand-rail, and around this narrow ledge thus guarded, the lighthouse-keeper will move when cleaning the outside glass work of the lantern. At present the apex of the building is covered temporarily by a bell-shaped tent. Lying in packing cases at the foot of the building, is the lighting apparatus, which Messrs Wilson and Mills, who have come down from Wellington specially for the purpose, will at once commence to put in position. The work will occupy them many weeks. The lantern in outward structure will be similar in shape to the building, namely, hexagonal or six-sided, and the light will flash every five second, and will be visible 25 miles from land. The height of the building is 45 feet, and the apex will be some 250 feet above sea level. The other buildings erected are, like the lighthouse, exceptionally strong in structure. The store-rooms are fitted up with convenient shelving and cupboards, and the dwelling-houses are roomy and commodious. They are both built on the same plan and of equal dimensions, and comprise parlor, large kitchen, three bedrooms, and pantry, with covered shed at the rear. The inner walls and ceilings are close lined, with tongued and grooved inch boards throughout, varnished and painted. The studs, beams, rafters, and every detail of framework are of extra thickness. The doors of the buildings are very massive, the floors are of stout planking, and the roofs of corrugated iron screwed and bolted down, and still further braced with timbers on the outside, forming in either instance, a building proof against all gales. The site chosen for the buildings though necessarily elevated and rocky yet shows evidence of an abundance of rich soil, and garden cultivation there will give prolific returns. The residents in these new abodes may, if they choose, soon make a little paradise of their secluded retreat. The contractors, Messrs Mahr and O'Connor, have completed their work well within the contract time, which does not expire until the 17th current, and have also done their work well. The sub-contractors for the carpentry work were Messrs Lowry and Murphy, and to Mr. McDonough was entrusted the painting and varnishing of the buildings throughout. In both instances there appears to have been a faithful attention to even the most minute details. The contract has been carried out under the superintendence of Mr. T. C. Bachelor as Superintendent of Works. The Lighthouse Point is likely to to be hereafter a favorite rendezvous for picnic excursionists. It is but an easy seven miles ride from the Spit, either on horseback or by conveyance, and splendid views are to be obtained there of a clear day, either seaward or landward. The surroundings, too, are all that picnic parties can desire.  130


The light was first lit on September 1, 1876. 1  

Customs Department (Marine Branch), Wellington, 9th August, 1876. Notice is hereby given, that on and after the first day of September next a light will be exhibited from a lighthouse which has been erected on Cape Foulwind, the position and characteristics of which are as follows:- The Cape Foulwind lighthouse, is situated on the Cape of that name on the West Coast of the Middle Island of New Zealand. The tower is 53 feet in height from the base to the top of the lantern, and is constructed of timber and painted white; the upper part being close boarded, and the lower part of open framed work. The light will be a Second Order Revolving White Light visible all round the horizon as far as the land; will allow. It will attain its greatest brilliance every thirty seconds. The light is elevated 190 feet above the sea, and, allowing 16 feet for the height of the eye, will be seen at a distance of 19 1/2 nautical miles in clear weather, and at lesser distances according to the state of the atmosphere. 124. West Coast Times , Issue 2316, 30 August 1876, Page 2

The light was a 2nd order dioptric revolving white light, flashing every 30 seconds and could be seen for 19.5 N. miles. 124   The cost to build the lighthouse was  6955. 137

In October of 1876, the Head Keeper George Smyth Hand  83 , was admitted to the Westport Hospital suffering from Bright's Decease. 129   Mr. Hand later died in November of 1876.  83

It is reported a Morse Code night signaling system is to be installed in September, 1909.  134

On September 5, 1913, the lighthouse was struck by lightening during a severe storm.  The Head Keeper, Robert McIvor was in the tower when a lightening bolt stuck the telephone pole outside the Head Keeper's house. The current went into the house, where the front door was damaged, and all the wiring inside the house caught on fire. Mrs. McIvor managed to extinguish the fire. The current also run along the wires to the lighthouse where more damage occurred, finally running to ground in the Assistant Keepers house. Damage also occurred to the signal house.  135


2nd Lighthouse (1926)

In 1924 the wooden tower was found to be suffering from rot and was replaced with the current concrete tower. 1   A new lens was ordered from Birmingham, England and an automatic light from the UK Aga Company. 18  The new automated light ran on acetone-acetylene 1  16  which only needed refueling twice a year. The lens was a 800mm Fresnel drum lens. 16  The new light was lit in 1926 and the 2 keepers were withdrawn. 1

In 1947, the original lantern room was relocated to Kaipara North Head  10  it is reported that the lantern room was from Hokitika g  This information is from an earlier NZ Historic Places Trust document found at and has been since updated with information that the replacement light was from Cape Foulwind.  See 

Judging by old photos of the Hokitika lighthouse, the current lantern room at Kaipara North Head looks very similar to the old Hokitika lighthouse.

It has also been reported the old lantern was sent to Godley Head.  I'm not sure of the source of this, but maybe it was in 1924 when the new tower was built. 18

In the mid 1950s the acetone- acetylene light was converted to electricity. 1

The original light has now been replaced with an LED Vega 250 16  flashing beacon mounted on the tower balcony and powered from battery banks charged by solar panels. 1

The old automatic light is displayed at the Coaltown Museum in Westport.  136 

There has not been many wrecks at the cape. In 1846, the most famous wreck was sighted by two early explorers, Heavy & Brunner. It is concluded the wreck was the Rifleman, which in 1825 sailed from Hobart, Australia for England loaded with wool but was never heard of again. 1

In 1970 a farmer digging drains near the cape, dug up what appeared to be a ship well above the present high water mark. Timbers from the ship have been identified as European larch or spruce. 1

The foundations for the original tower are still visible, along with other remains of the keepers houses. 1


Registered with the New Zealand Historical Trust

Register Number: 5023
Date Registered: September 21, 1989

Historic Place  - Category 2




The lighthouse is 11km from Westport on Hwy 67a which branches off Hwy 67 just south of town. Take the right hand road at the Star Hotel and 1 km further on is a car park. The light is 10 minutes walk. In the grass round the light you may see the New Zealand native bird the Weka.

A Department of Conservation walking track goes on further to a seal colony at Tauranga Bay.  Doc site


1st Lighthouse (1876 - 1926)

Island South
Province Westland
Location Westport (Cape Foulwind)
Number K4486
Date Commissioned 1 September, 1876  124
Date Decommissioned Replaced in 1926  1
Elevation Above Sea Level 190'  124
Height 53'   124  
Character 2nd order revolving white light, flashes every 30 seconds  124
Range 19.5 N. miles  124
Made Built on site
Construction Timber, painted white  124


2nd Lighthouse (1926)

Island South
Province Westland
Location Westport (Cape Foulwind)
Number K4486
Date Commissioned 1926  1
Date Decommissioned  
Automated 1926  1
Latitude 41 45' South  19
Longitude 171 28' East  19
Elevation Above Sea Level 70m  1
Height 9m  1
Character Flashes white every 12 seconds  1
Range 9 N. miles  1     10 N. miles (16 km) New Led Beacon  1   
Construction White concrete tower  1
Converted Kerosene To Diesel  
Converted to Mains Electricity 1950  1 
Present Tower Not original
Authority Owned and operated by Maritime New Zealand
Date Visited February 26,  2000



Principal Keeper From To
  1st lit, September 1, 1876  d  
George Smyth Hand  83 1876  83 1876  83         Died November 1876  83
George Edward Hand  83 Nov 1876  83 Feb 1877  83  Died at Nelson, June 29, 1877  83
Fitzroy Montague Smith  22  83 March 1, 1877  22  83 June 8, 1882  22  83         
William Cunningham  83 1882  83 1891  83
Anders Hansen  83  91  83 1891  83 1897  83
Richard Tregurtha  83   August, 1897  83   1902  83
Arthur Fletcher   1902  83 1904  83         (Resigned)  245
Robert Henry Leighton  83 1904  83  245 1907  83       1911  155
William John Arnold  83 1907  83 1909  83
Louis Thompson  22 April 9, 1910  22
George William Thwaites  83  22  133 April 7, 1909  22  83    1902  133 August 2, 1912  22  83 
Robert Leatham McIver  83 1912  83 1916  83
Charles Arthur Moeller  83 1916  83 1918  83
William Knight Cleverley  83 1919  83 1921  83
Alfred Herbert Saunders  83 1922  83 1926  83
  New Automatic Light Keepers Withdrawn 1926  1


Assistant Keeper (1st) From To
  1st lit, September 1, 1876  124  
John F Ericson  83   1876  83 1878  83
Donald McNeil  22  83 July 11, 1878  22  May 30, 1883  22 
John Marsh  83 1883  83 1884  83
Robert Cathcart  83  22   (Probationary) 1884  83 April 30, 1885   22
Robert Cathcart  83  22 May 1, 1885   22 1893  83
William Colley  83 1893  83 1895  83
David Partington  83  22 February 2, 1895  22  1898  22  212
Cunningham Hosier Reeves  83  202 1898  83 1903  83
James Anderson  83  22 August, 1902  83 September, 1902  83
William Townsend  83 1903  83 1904  83
William Noble Edmonds  83 1904  83 1905  83
Francis Brown  83 1905  83 1906  83
John Walter Arthur  83 1909  83 1911  83
Peter Wallace Grenfell  83  155 1911  83  155 1913  83
Robert Jones  83 1913  83 1914  83
Robert Stephen Wilson  83 1915  83 1916  83
John Pottinger  83 1916  83 1917  83
Rainsford Henry Neal  83  113  1917  83  113   1920  83
Eric Howard Tarlton  83 January, 1920  83 May, 1920  83
Frederick Norman Evans  83 1920  83 1922  83
Robert Stuart Sutherland  83 April, 1922  83 November, 1922  83
Hugh Owen Williams  83 1922  83 1924  83
Albert Moffitt  83 1924  83 1925  83
  New Automatic Light Keepers Withdrawn 1926  1



Additional Sources:

22. Akaroa Museum


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

113. Evening Post, Volume XCIV, Issue 82, 4 October 1917, Page 6

121. Otago Witness , Issue 1146, 15 November 1873, Page 18

122. West Coast Times , Issue 2959, 20 March 1875, Page 3

123. West Coast Times , Issue 3079, 19 August 1875, Page 1

124. West Coast Times , Issue 2316, 30 August 1876, Page 2

127Nelson Evening Mail, Volume IX, Issue 283, 30 November 1874, Page 2

128. West Coast Times , Issue 3033, 26 June 1875, Page 2

129Westport Times, Volume X, Issue 1424, 17 October 1876, Page 2

130Westport Times, Volume X, Issue 1371, 14 April 1876, Page 2

132Westport Times, Volume X, Issue 1391, 23 June 1876, Page 2

133. Otago Daily Times , Issue 12497, 30 October 1902, Page 12

134Oamaru Mail, Volume XXXVI, Issue 10180, 22 June 1909, Page 2

135. Dominion, Volume 6, Issue 1858, 18 September 1913, Page 7

136. Captain David Barnes, Westport Harbourmaster ... retired

137Colonist, Volume XLV, Issue 10246, 1 November 1901, Page 2

155. Evening Post, Volume LXXXI, Issue 120, 23 May 1911, Page 6

202. Cunningham Hosier Reeves (Mark Pascoe, August 23, 2013)

212. Press, Volume LV, Issue 10068, 21 June 1898, Page 6

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

274. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4063, 26 March 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 8)

280Grey River Argus, Volume XV, Issue 1902, 21 September 1874, Page 2

281Nelson Evening Mail, Volume IX, Issue 14, 16 January 1874, Page 2



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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: December 20, 2013