8 July 2022

Historic light shines bright once again to guide Goulburn locals home

| Claire Fenwicke
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Beacon light

The beacon light at the Rocky Hill War Memorial shines once again following a year-long restoration. Photo: Goulburn Mulwaree Council.

Goulburn’s night sky is now complete following the restoration of the Rocky Hill War Memorial beacon.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council’s museum coordinator Kerry Ross said the year-long project to refurbish the light was challenging, but seeing the tower’s beam sweep across the region once again was worth it.

“We had difficulty finding a motor that would fit the light and still allow for the same rotational speed,” she said.

“Modern motors go too fast, so it took the engineers a long time to find one that worked.”

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The aircraft beacon light atop the war memorial tower was originally purchased in 1956 from the Commonwealth Department of Aviation for one pound following lobbying from the community.

Ms Ross said it has held a special place in the heart of locals ever since.

“By the mid-50s the beacon had become synonymous with the commemorative function of the memorial,” she said.

“When it became inoperable, due to difficulty finding parts, the council would be constantly contacted about where the light had gone.

“It’s seen as an intrinsic part of the tower and memorial.”

The original beacon’s light bulbs were no longer manufactured, with an LED light now used to make it shine bright.

Locals expressed their excitement to see the beam once more, which for many signified they were home.

“Fabulous news and worth the wait, generations of locals have connected that memory to ‘home’,” one commented on social media.

“Great to have the beacon overlooking Goulburn working again. I have certainly missed it filtering through the clouds,” said another.

The rotating light was first installed at the memorial in 1936 as an aircraft navigational aid. The tower itself was opened in 1925 and included a sandstone and marble honour roll with the names of 1413 people from Goulburn and the surrounding districts who served in World War One.

A basement was carved out underneath the tower and furnished as a museum in 1927. Then in the 1930s a caretaker’s cottage was built onsite, which housed caretakers for the tower until 1999.

Restoration works on the light began in the 1990s when the motor failed, with an identical beacon found in Victoria and transported to Goulburn. Its motor was removed and placed into the existing Goulburn light, and the Victorian beacon’s casing was stored offsite.

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But it’s not the only structure at the site that has undergone a transformation.

A new museum building was opened in 2020, as the site’s exhibits had extended beyond the capacity of the caretaker’s cottage.

“We have continued to collect memorabilia, particularly in the past two years,” Ms Ross said.

“We have a group of about 13 volunteers aged 19 to 85 who attend one day a week to catalogue and care for the collection, and undertake on-site maintenance and gardening.”

Exterior of The Rocky Hill Museum

The Rocky Hill Museum opened in 2020. Photo: Goulburn Mulwaree Council.

The new $2.2 million building was designed by Ashley Dennis from Crone Architects and was awarded The Blacket Prize for best regional project at the NSW Architecture Awards 2021. It was also commended in the Public Architecture category.

Despite COVID restrictions and lockdowns, Ms Ross said the museum had significantly increased visitor numbers.

“In the 12 months following the opening of the new museum building, annual visitor numbers doubled from around 25,000 in previous years to 51,292 from July 2020 to June 2021,” she said.

Now the bright light of the beacon could also welcome visitors back to the region.

The new LED beacon light was provided by Power Rail Australia and installed by K&H Ainsworth Engineering, along with the new motor. Hollingworth Cranes and JDY Electrical also contributed to installing the new light.

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Wow, grew up in Goulburn and was used to the beam from Rocky Hill, sad when it was discontinued, well done!

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