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Pencarrow Lighthouse Roof Restoration Completed

Pencarrow Lighthouse Roof Restoration Completed

In a testament to its remarkable durability Pencarrow Lighthouse has undergone its first roof replacement since its erection exactly 150 years ago.

The significant and unusual restoration project involving the replacement of the iconic domed cap was successfully completed recently by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. The 150 year old weather vane was also reconstructed.

“It was an extremely tricky piece of work compared to our usual restoration projects,” according to Elizabeth Cox, Heritage Destination Manager at NZHPT. “Getting the scaffolding wrapped around the octagonal shape of the lighthouse head was a mission in itself. The scaffolding couldn’t be erected from the ground up in the usual way, to prevent people clambering up the side. Only the upper part was erected, a challenging undertaking.”

A small internal scaffolding also needed to be erected in the space where the light used to be in order to replace the roof structure.

The remoteness of the site was also a challenge. The scaffolding and the new roof structure had to be helicoptered in, as alternatives were too expensive and time-consuming.

The project was lucky enough to find a local contractor to do the specialised work required.

Hartmut Reichelt of ARFI, a company specialising in the supply and installation of non-ferrous structures, admits the Pencarrow Lighthouse roof replacement project was one of the most challenging he has met in his thirty years of working internationally on buildings under historic protection.

Despite the challenges all the people involved took great pride in their work and enjoyed being involved, he says.

Two interesting discoveries were made by during the project.

According to Mr Reichelt the original cast steel lighthouse structure was found to be an extraordinary piece of work. “The workmanship was excellent. Obviously those workers of 150 years ago took great pride in their work. The original lighthouse was imported into New Zealand in the form of a numbered, metallic kitset and assembled here. They couldn’t afford to find mistakes and send back to England for a wrong or missing piece. Every piece was perfect.”

A less fortunate discovery was that the structure underpinning the roof was so badly damaged by moisture that it was literally crumbling away. This meant an extension to the scope of the project while that too was replaced.

Pencarrow was the first permanent lighthouse erected in New Zealand, at the demand of Wellington residents concerned about numerous shipwrecks and the destruction of all temporary lighthouse structures due to adverse weather conditions.

The first principal keeper of the new Pencarrow Lighthouse was Mary Bennett, widow of George Bennett who had drowned in 1855. She was New Zealand's first and only woman lighthouse keeper.

It was first lit on 1 January 1859. It is now a very popular for walkers and bikers. Large numbers visit the lighthouse every year.

The next restoration project on the agenda for NZHPT involving Pencarrow Lighthouse is to deal with moisture in the lighthouse caused by soil erosion surrounding the lighthouse.

NZHPT plans to commemorate the first lighting on 1 January 2009. It hopes to erect permanent information panels detailing the history of the lighthouse in time for next year’s celebrations.


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