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The Lighthouse/Timeball Tower situated at Point Gellibrand in Williamstown was erected in 1852, and replaced earlier navigational aids established from the time of the first settlement in 1835. The unusual square plan form is distinctive amongst lighthouses in Victoria, and is of technical and creative interest.

The first lighthouse was built at Point Gellibrand, Williamstown, in 1839-40. This timber structure was replaced with a square bluestone lighthouse tower, designed by Henry Ginn. The bluestone section has battered lower stories featuring rusticated masonry with smooth string courses and originally had a castellated parapet with mast and spherical, copper plate timeball above. The masonry was quarried and worked by convict labour. Four lamps were shining in May 1849; a larger lamp was installed in August 1849.

A timeball apparatus mounted on top of the bluestone tower operated regularly until 1926. Its original use was as a signalling device to ships. From 1858 until 1926 the large ball on the top was dropped each afternoon at one o'clock to allow shipmasters moored offshore to correct their chronometers. The Timeball Tower/Lighthouse had an additional time signal at eight o'clock each night by means of eclipsing the lantern of the lighthouse.

The timeball ceased to operate in August 1926 and the apparatus was dismantled. In 1932, the Timeball Tower was adapted for use as a lighthouse by increasing the height to 98ft by the addition of a circular brick tower 30ft in height. A large copper ball encircled the mast and rested in a catcher cup of iron when not in use. The lighthouse operated in this fashion until 1987. In 1989, the circular brick tower was removed by the Williamstown Historical Society so that the square tower could be restored and the timeball apparatus replaced. 

Location: 3835'S 14320'E
Nearest Town: Williamstown
Operator: Port of Melbourne Authority
Built: 1849
Structure: Square bluestone tower
Open to public: Grounds only
Access: Road
Accommodation: No
Character: Flashing every 7.5 seconds
Green & red sectors
Flash 2.5 seconds
Eclipse 5 seconds
Power source: Mains power
Height: 17 metres
Elevation: 22 metres
Range: 24 kilometres

* Heritage Register of Victoria
* Australian: Lighthouses
* Lighthouses of Australia Inc


Photographed by K. Eggleston, 13 May 2001 & 15 July 2000 Kristie Eggleston



The lighthouse/timeball tower is located in a reserve accessible to the public, at the south end of Nelson Place. The tower is spotlit at night. (Melway reference 56 F10).


Grant & Tracey's Lighthouse pages State Library of Victoria (c. 1961)

Lighthouses of Australia Inc State Library of Victoria (c. 1961)
Garry Searle's Australian Lighthouses Heritage Register of Victoria
Images of Old Williamstown Parks Victoria

Page last updated:  29 December 2003

Copyright 1999-2003 Kristie Eggleston. All rights reserved.
Email: kristie_eggleston@hotmail.com