Monday, April 1, 2013

Where in Melbourne Puzzle - April 2013

Where in Melbourne Puzzle - April 2013.



Clue 1 - Originally erected as a timber structure in 1839, it was the first of its kind in Victoria.

Clue 2 - This is a heritage listed site. The location served  a number of early government activities related to defence and the penal system, as well as the first astronomical observatory in the Colony.

Clue 3 - The building has had a unique function of accuracy and still operates today, but it is no longer relied on as it once was. The site also included the first defensive shore battery to protect Melbourne from attack by hostile warships and a of the first telegraph station in Australia.

Clue 4 - The tower's unique feature is a large copper sphere mechanism mounted around a mast.

"... and a beacon or tower should be erected at this point ..."
Governor Bourke, 1837

Williamstown time ball tower


The original lighthouse was constructed in 1840, right on the point of Gellibrand's Point. It is most likely Victoria's first navigational aid of any distinction, though an unlit beacon had been on the site since 1835. It also may have been the first harbour light of its kind in Australia.
It was timber skeletal structure on a bluestone base with a fixed white light and claimed a visibility of 5 leagues (approx 15 miles).
The cost of construction was £50 (£500?). A further £85 was allocated for the annual wage of the Keeper.
In 1848, tenders were called for a new lighthouse on Gellibrand's Point - this is the bluestone section of the tower that remains today.
The successful tenderer was James Linacre who built the bluestone lighthouse in 1849 at a cost of £925. With the tower there was also accompanying timber keepers' quarters. It commenced operations in 1849.
It is interesting to note that the old lighthouse was advertised for removal by auction 'as is' a month after the new light commenced.
It appears that the second light may have been red in colour.
The second light operated until 1859 when it was replaced by a floating lightship anchored off the point in 4.5 fathoms of water.
The tower was yet to become a lighthouse again in 1934, but not before it served in an interesting role as a time ball tower.
In 1853, a Mr R. L. J. Ellery, the first Government Astronomer, commenced determining accurate local mean time, and established a time ball so that shipmasters to correct their chronometers "at the fall of the ball" at exactly one o'clock each day.

A time ball was a large copper sphere mounted around a mast.
After the discontinuing of the bluestone tower as a lighthouse, the time ball mechanism was moved to the top of the tower around 1860. It is definitely known to have been operating there in 1861.
The time ball operated from then until 1926 when the keeper fell ill and died. By then most ships had the more advanced technology of wireless communication time-signals. It is said that when the time ball was turned off not one person in Melbourne even noticed!

By 1934 the time ball had been removed. In this year the bluestone tower was extended by 30 feet with a circular brick tower on top. The extension was then painted with a coat of aluminium paint.
The tower operated as a lighthouse from 1934 to 1987. It is believed the lighthouse was re-established due to the loss of singularity against the light of the City behind the Point Gellibrand Pile Light.
It was electric, gave a green and red light and had a visibility of 15 nautical miles.

The Time Ball Tower, Williamstown, 1985 by Rick Amor (born 1948) 

oil on canvas
70.5 x 91 cm
signed and dated lower left: RICK AMOR '85
Sold for $9,600 in Auction 2 - 29 August 2007, Melbourne

Between 1987 and 1989, the brick extension was demolished and a functional new replica time ball mechanism was reinstalled restored by the Point Gellibrand Rotary Club to commemorate the history of the site. This was officially opened in 1990.
Under threat of subdivision and redevelopment the whole site was declared an historical site by the Premier, Steve Bracks, in 2000.
The tower today is operated by a computer, which drops each day at 1pm as when it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

 Information sign at the Williamstown Ball Tower.

 Location Satellite.

research links 

 Next Where in Melbourne puzzle will be published on Wednesday 1st of May 2013.

This page was last updated on the 22nd of April 2013