Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Vase alleged to have been recovered from the DUNBAR wreck

Date: 1879 - 1890
Overall: 210 x 260 x 12 x 480 mm, 2.02 kg
Medium: Earthenware, enamel glaze
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Linda Tuson-Hancox
Object Name: Vase
Object No: 00037647
Place Manufactured:England

User Terms

    This blue-green Burmantofts faience vase was alleged to have been recovered from the DUNBAR wrecksite. DUNBAR sank at the entrance to Sydney Harbour in August 1857 with a loss of more than 120 lives. However the production date of the vase is dated after 1857 so its recovery from the wreck of the DUNBAR is implausible. Such was the importance of the tragic loss of the ship that many relics are credited with having come from this famous wreck, when in fact they did not.

    SignificanceThe impact of the wreck of the DUNBAR on Sydney society in 1857 cannot be underestimated. Many souvenirs, pamphlets and brochures were published at the time telling the story of the wreck. Items recovered from the wrecksite were also sold as mementoes and memorials of the tragic event.

    HistoryThe gold rushes and the associated demand for passenger ships persuaded shipowner and merchant Duncan Dunbar to order the construction of a clipper ship from the English shipbuilder James Laing and Sons of Sunderland.

    Built in 1852, the 1167-ton, wooden, three-masted sailing ship DUNBAR was designed to cater for this new trade. Costing over 30,000 pounds and constructed of British oak and Indian teak and held together by copper fastenings and iron knees the vessel was designed to carry passengers and cargo quickly between England and Australia. As the vessel was re-questioned by the Royal Navy for use as a troop carrier during the Crimean War it was not until 1856 that the vessel made its first visit to Australia. The ship remained in Sydney for three months before returning to England in the same year.

    In late May 1857 the ship departed London for its second voyage to Australia, carrying at least 63 passengers, 59 crew and a substantial cargo, including metal dyes for the colonies first postage stamps, machinery, furniture, trade tokens, cutlery, manufactured and fine goods, food and alcohol. Many of the vessel's first-class passengers were prominent Sydney residents, returning to Australia after visiting their English homeland.

    After a relatively fast voyage the vessel was only hours out of Sydney when on the night of 20 August 1857, in heavy seas and poor visibility, the vessel struck the cliffs just north of the Signal Station at South Head - midway between the lighthouse and The Gap. Within a few minutes the ship began to break up. All sixty-three passengers and fifty-nine of the crew perished in the disaster. Only one person survived the wreck, a young sailor who was hurled from the deck onto to a rocky ledge.

    As dawn gradually unveiled the enormity of the event to the community of Sydney, the great loss of life (at least 121 men, women and children, many of whom were known to the local population) deeply affected the population. Thousands were drawn to the scene of the wreck to watch the rescue of the single survivor, the recovery of the bodies and the salvage of some of the cargo. For days afterwards the newspapers were filled with graphic descriptions of the wreck and the public interest in the spectacle.

    Many of the victims of THE DUNBAR were buried at St Stephens Church in Newtown. Some 20,000 people lined George Street for the funeral procession. Banks and office closed, every ship in the harbour flew their ensigns at half-mast and minute guns were fired as the seven hearses and 100 carriages went past.

    Pamphlets, engravings, poems, paintings and brochures soon began to appear in Sydney as part of the memorabilia industry associated with the tragedy. Salvors including Captain Miller, had acquired numerous bits and pieces associated with the vessel and were either selling salvaged items as mementos of the tragedy or manufacturing all manners of items - including a set of chairs marked with MADE FROM THE WRECK OF THE DUNBAR - FROM THE HULL OF THE UNFORTUNATE DUNBAR.

    The effect of the DUNBAR disaster is hard to imagine in these days of safe and efficient air and sea travel. Brennan (1993) tried to portray the disaster by comparing it to 2,619 Sydney-residents being killed by a plane crashing into Botany Bay in 1993. Even in 2007 the repercussions of the event still live on with the descendants of some of the victims attending the annual DUNBAR Commemorative Services at Camperdown Cemetery and St Stephens Church, Newtown.

    Burmantofts Pottery (Messrs. Wilcox and Co. (Ltd) of Leeds in Yorkshire England were active between 1842 and 1904. Originally the firm made bricks, sanitary tubes, architectural goods and other household pottery items. But when James Etches became manager in 1879 they began the production of ceramic tiles, art pottery and architectural faience. By 1888 the name of Wilcock and Co. ceased and the pottery became known as The Burmantofts Company Ltd.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Vase alleged to have been recovered from the wreck of the DUNBAR

    Web title: Vase alleged to have been recovered from the DUNBAR wreck

    Related People

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.