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Napier Bluff (1873-1948)



Postcard (possibly circa 1905)                                                      Reproduced newspaper photo of Napier Bluff Lighthouse (date unknown)


Postcard (date unknown) courtesy John Elsbury   

Photo Date: 1876

Coote Road, Napier, showing Napier Prison (left middle), asylum (left foreground), Samuel Williams' house (top of hill, to the left), Bishop William Williams' house (top of hill to right), and Hukarere Native Girls' School (centre right). Photographed 1876 by W A H.

Coote Road, Napier. Bennett, Hemi fl 1950-1974 :Copy photograph of sketch of Paihia in 1835, photograph of prisoners of war from Omaranui at quarry at foot of Coote Road, Napier, 1866 and other photographs of Napier. Ref: PAColl-1761-05. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


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In 1854, Alfred Domett suggested that the port town he was surveying be named Napier after Sir Charles Napier.  When he laid out the first town plan of Napier, he named the town's principal roads, streets and a square after the most prominent men in British Indian history. At the time, he also suggested that a lighthouse be built on a reserve on Bluff Hill which overlooks Napier. 107

Later during a lighthouse survey, John Blackett, Marine Engineer and Captain Robert Johnson, Nautical Advisor selected Napier as a site for a coastal lighthouse. 20

It would be the first lighthouse to be erected on the east coast of the North Island. Originally the lighthouse was to have been sited on Lighthouse Road at the top of Bluff Hill in the reserve set aside by the Hawkes Bay Provincial Council,  but instead the light was mounted on the local gaol on Coote Road across the gully in the Goal Reserve. 20

The light was first lit on 5 January 1873 and displayed a fixed white light.  The light was powered by the town gas supply (the first in the country to do so) and the first keepers were actually the prison wardens. 20

During a parliamentary debate of 1897, it was noted the lighthouse was in the wrong location and should be in the reserve on Bluff Hill. And being a harbour light it should have been maintained by the Harbour Board. It was also noted a lantern for Cape Kidnappers had been purchased for 2000 but local shipmasters felt that a light on East Cape was more urgently required and the Napier light would be in range of a light on Cape Kidnappers.

In 1915 the lighthouse status was changed to a harbour light and administration duties were taken over by the Napier Harbour Board. The light was also changed from a fixed white light to an occulting white light. 20

By the late 1930's, the lighthouse was barely visible amongst the lights of Napier city and the Harbour Board proposed moving the light up to the originally proposed site in the reserve on Lighthouse Road. 20

However during World War II, the light was extinguished so nothing was done.  However gun emplacements were erected in the reserve on Bluff Hill. 20

After the war, in 1945 another proposal was made to move the light to Cape Kidnappers or again, up to the reserve. But before anything could be done, improvements were made to the west-shore beacons in the harbour and Napier lighthouse was decommissioned. 20

In 1948 the lighthouse was demolished by the prison authorities. 20

The prison is now open to visitors and the reserve developed into a park with memorials.



Removed from site, but you can visit the old Napier prison site.


Island North
Province Hawkes Bay
Location Napier
Date Commissioned January 5, 1873 20
Date Decommissioned 1948 20    or     June 1951 20
Elevation Above Sea Level
Height 20 ft 18
Construction Wooden 20
Converted Kerosene To Diesel
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity
Present Tower Demolished
Date Visited


Keepers From To
Alexander Connell 1882      c. 1872  216   



Additional Sources:

107Napier City Council

108Hawkes Bay Museum




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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: November 22, 2009.