Barrenjoey, New South Wales
Barrenjoey is a locality in the suburb of Palm Beach, at the farthest southern tip of Pittwater. The headland is mostly made up of Hawkesbury sandstone which overlays Narrabeen shale. Around 10,000 years ago the headland was cutoff from the mainland due to the rising sea level; subsequent buildup of a sand spit or tombolo reconnected the island to the mainland. It is the location of Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse, a lighthouse which was first lit in 1881.

On 2 March 1788, Arthur Phillip named the headland "Barrenjuee" (meaning little kangaroo or wallaby). The area's name has been spelled differently over time, Barrenjoey now being the accepted name since 1966.

The Lighthouse
The Barrenjoey Head lighthouse was the third light constructed on the headland, and was completed in 1881. Designed by NSW colonial architect James Barnet, its construction cost £13,695, plus £2,210 for the lamp. At an elevation of 113 m, it is visible to a distance of 19 nautical miles (35 km; 22 mi) out to sea. A customs station was established in 1843, as the Headland marked the entrance to Broken Bay and Pittwater ”“ considered to be the back door to Sydney for smugglers. The first report of any lighted beacon on the headland was in 1855, when a fire was raised in a basket to assist mariners during storms. Broken Bay and the Pittwater were a safe haven in storms to vessels carrying coal from Newcastle to Sydney. Similarly, barges carrying food down the Hawkesbury River were a key food source for Sydney, and would harbour in the bay, awaiting favourable weather before making the 14 km journey to Sydney. Later, in 1868, two wooden lighthouses known as the Stewart Towers, were built at either end of the headland to guide ships in. The need for a permanent light led to the construction of the current lighthouse. The current tower is unpainted, and built of the rich-coloured local sandstone. The original lighting apparatus was a fixed red dioptric of 700 candlepower with 4 oil wick burners. In 1900, an explosion followed by a fire destroyed the ornamental roof on the adjacent oil house. The flames were subdued before reaching the tower. In 1932, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation with the installation of an acetylene Dalén light of 6,000 candlepower. It was turned off and on by a Sun valve. Although the acetylene gas apparatus was efficient, access to the tower for re-supply presented problems, so in 1972 the lighthouse was converted to electric operation, with a new lamp capable of 75,000 candlepower. Keepers and cottages There is a head keeper's cottage as well as 2 assistant keeper's cottages located on the headland. They are built from Hawkesbury sandstone quarried from the site, and have galvanized iron roofs. Keepers of the lighthouse were:
  • 1881 ”“ 1885 George Mulhall
  • 1881 ”“ 1891 George Mulhall Jnr
  • 1921 ”“ 1925 Richard Sullivan
  • 1931 ”“ 1932 John Berryman
  • 1932 ”“ 1960 Cottages were unoccupied and subject to neglect and vandalism
  • 1960 ”“ 1997 The cottages were leased
  • 1997 ”“ Present The cottages were taken over by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who removed many non-native plants and spent $230,000 restoring the cottages, lighthouse, and walking tracks.
For 31 years, from 1968 until 1999, Jervis Sparks leased Cottage 2 at Barrenjoey lighthouse, Palm Beach, NSW, Australia. It was an assistant keeper's cottage and had no electricity nor running water. When he took over the lease it was a vandalised ruin, and over many years he restored it to a comfortable 1800s era home, full of warmth and character. Sparks' Montreal born wife, Bridget, and he were married there in 1974. They were the unofficial caretakers of the lightstation and the headland. In 1992 Sparks published the first definitive history of that lighthouse, Tales From Barranjoey, written on a Macintosh PowerBook 100 and powered via a solar panel. 3,000 copies were printed and the few remaining copies are collector's items, as the book is now out of print. Sparks was forced to vacate to Queensland when the management of all Australian lightstations (now all automatic and without any keepers or other protective human presence) was transferred from Commonwealth control, under the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), to state control, which in this case was the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of NSW. Sparks continues to advise NPWS on all historical and environmental concerns concerning Barrenjoey headland. Before leaving, Bridget and Jervis Sparks were awarded the first-ever issued Pittwater Medal (modelled on the Australia Medal) by Pittwater Council for all their years of volunteer, historical and environmental work for the benefit of Barrenjoey, Palm Beach and the Northern Beaches in general. Jervis Sparks has decided to complete a quartet of books about Barrenjoey lighthouse, resulting in the second book, The Red Light of Palm Beach, detailing the lives of many of the lighthouse keepers who manned Barrenjoey from 1881 until 1932, when it became automated. The light itself is currently operated by NSW Maritime.