There are four principal building structures on the Island, comprising:
The cottages are linked to the relatively remote tower by a continuous wall that provided the Keepers with some protection from harsh weather conditions.
The Lighthouse tower is set on the southernmost end, at the highest elevation. It is accessed by a path and wall connecting directly to the two main cottages, located some distance away to the north. A small precinct of former barracks buildings lies between the Lighthouse tower and the cottages. These were used during the construction of the complex in the hue 1870s but are now only remnant archaeological sites.
The two cottage structures form a strong built environment in the centre of theIsland, each is surrounded by a walled enclosure that extends the lines of their external walls, forming tightly defined mini precincts, set against the harshness of the elements. The pathway continues past the cottages, heading north to the elevated steel framed jetty that projects from theIsland. The various high level jetties that have occupied this location provided the only form of reliable access from ships servicing the Island. The overall precinct contains numerous sites of archaeological potential, related to structures associated with the initial construction phase, site works and the extensive original drainage system.
The landscape within the lighthouse precinct consists essentially of the hardy grasses and herbaceous plant that exist across the whole island. There is some evidence of domestic planting in more sheltered courtyard areas adjacent to the quarters, but it is in extremely dilapidated condition, mainly due to extremely harsh conditions and its having been abandoned since 1975.
The Lighthouse Keepers kept goats and chickens. Beyond these there was little capacity for self sufficiency, unlike many of the mainland lighthouses. Sweet potatoes in the 1930s were the only vegetable known to have succeeded in the harsh climate. There was never a cow on the island and all milk was powdered.
The free standing, single storey Head Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage comprises the main cottage, the service pavilion and several small outbuildings, all enclosed in a perimeter wall. The cottage contains three Bedrooms, Living Room, Office or Dining Room and Store Room, now fitted out as a Kitchen. It is a good example of the typical Victorian Georgian style used by the NSW Colonial Architects Office for many of the late 19th century residences.
It was surrounded on four sides by a deep verandah, and was connected to the free standing former Kitchen block by a covered way. On either side of the Kitchen were fuel shed, toilets and fowl house. The building was constructed of mass concrete, with load bearing walls and a timber framed floor. The timber framed hipped roof is now sheeted with corrugated compressed asbestos, as are the verandahs, covered links and outbuildings. Several tall chimneys enliven the roofscape. Both externally and internally, the walls are plastered and painted.
Later alterations, in the 1960s included partial enclosure of the verandahs for weather protection and the installation of additional bathrooms, an enclosed laundry in the rear yard and the equipping of the former store in the cottage as a kitchen. The building is in dilapidated condition, but the survival of the roofing has stabilised deterioration.
These cottages are semi detached under a single hipped roof and share a set of outbuildings that are also joined by a common party wall.
Each cottage comprises two Bedrooms, Living Room, and former Store, arranged around a central through corridor. The outbuilding contains the former Kitchen, storerooms and laundry. Each cottage is enclosed by verandahs and has its rear yard defined by a perimeter wall.
Construction materials and architectural style match those of the main Cottage, as does the pattern of alterations and extent of deterioration.
Attempts have been made over the years since 1975 to stabilise the cottages,given the harsh environmental conditions. These attempts have slowed deterioration but the overall condition of the cottages can only be described as fair to poor, despite their solid construction. The asbestos roofs are gradually shattering along the caves-lines, progressively enabling water damage to penetrate into the interior fabric.
The remnant gardens within the enclosed yards and associated with the Lighthouse Keepers have been left to return to the dominant vegetation patterns on the Island.
The current steel framed jetty is the third structure to fulfil this function in this location. The first, a low level structure, was constructed in 1878 and stood five metres above sea level, while the second a larger structure, replaced it in 1904.
Archaeological evidence remains of both these structures.
The current steel framed jetty was constructed in 1959, standing some 13 metres above sea level. Like the second jetty, it has an outward leaning seaward support The jetty was provided with rails to move the crane and a metal mesh walkway with tubular iron railings on the north side of the access bridge and on both rides of the jetty proper.
The jetty is located on the north western side of the Island and faces the mainland It is the only such jetty within the NPWS collection and is a major visual expression of the isolated lifestyles of the Keepers.
The metal mesh walkways have rusted through and the jetty is unusable, with the crane stranded out at the seaward end. The steel frame of the jetty is in poor condition, with a number of proposals over the years by AMSA to demolish it for safety reasons.
It is considered likely that the current Jetty Storehouse was erected in 1879-80 to replace the earlier building that was destroyed in a gale. It is constructed of mass concrete and is a simple rectangle in plan with a pyramidal hipped roof sheeted in corrugated iron. It is in poor condition.
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