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Steam yacht SUNBEAM and smaller craft on Sydney Harbour

Date: July 1887
Medium: Emulsion on glass
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Mr and Mrs Glassford
Object Name: Glass plate negative
Object No: ANMS1092[211]

User Terms

    This image possibly depicts the arrival of SUNBEAM into Sydney Harbour on Monday 4 July 1887.
    SignificanceThe Hall photographic collection provides an important pictorial record of recreational boating in Sydney Harbour from the 1890s to the 1930s. The collection documents the lively sailing scene in Sydney during this period and features images of vessels ranging from large racing and cruising yachts to the great array of skiffs and the emerging technologies of motorboats. Images of many iconic vessels, such as SUNBEAM, are also included in this visual record.
    HistoryThe steam yacht SUNBEAM was designed by Mr St. Clare Byrne, of Liverpool, England, and launched in 1874. The yacht was built for politician Lord Thomas Brassey (1836-1918) who later became governor of Victoria, Australia. ‘Sunbeam’ was the nickname of Brassey’s daughter, Constance Alberta, who had died of scarlet fever, aged four, in 1873. SUNBEAM’s figurehead, a gold-painted depiction of a young girl, is now in the collection of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

    Between July 1876 and May 1877, Brassey, along with his wife, four children and two pugs, sailed SUNBEAM around the world. The family embarked on the circumnavigation with 30 crew members including a doctor, a carpenter, stewards and a cook. Brassey’s wife Annie published a book on the journey, titled 'A Voyage in the Sunbeam: Our home on the ocean for eleven months'. The book recorded their journey in detail and became a best seller, running to nine editions and being translated into seventeen different languages.

    The Brassey’s continued to travel throughout the next decade with Lady Brassey publishing several other accounts of her voyages. In 1887, several days out of Port Darwin and onboard SUNBEAM, Lady Brassey succumbed to malaria and was buried at sea. The completion of her final book, ‘The Last Voyage, to India and Australia in the Sunbeam’, was overseen by Thomas and published posthumously in 1889.

    In 1895 Lord Brassey accepted the post as governor of Victoria, a position he held for five years. Brassey sailed to Australia in SUNBEAM to take up his post, arriving in Melbourne in October 1895 with his new wife and young daughter. SUNBEAM was a regular and popular sight in Australia during Brassey’s time as governor as he continued to use the vessel as a means of travel during his official duties. The previous adventures of Brassey and SUNBEAM were already well-known to the public at this time due to Annie Brassey’s celebrated book on their circumnavigation.

    Brassey and his family returned to England on SUNBEAM in 1900. Fifteen years later the yacht was utilised as a hospital ship during the Gallipoli campaign of WW1 and in 1916 Brassey donated SUNBEAM to the Government of India to continue in use as a military convalescent ship.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Steam yacht SUNBEAM and smaller craft on Sydney Harbour

    Assigned title: Negative features a three masted topsail rigged schooner underway

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