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Date: c 1887
Overall: 516 x 407 x 5 mm
Medium: Glass
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Glass panel
Object No: 00051336
Related Place:London, Melbourne,

User Terms

    One of a set of six painted glass panels, circa 1887, purported to be from the P&O head offices in London. Each panel depicts harbour scenes and views, painted in sepia and yellow tones, in a cricle surrounded by decorative leaf and scroll work. Each has a cartouche with the title of the scene; 'Sydney Harbour', 'Melbourne', 'Perth', Liverpool', 'Southampton' and 'Sandringham'.

    SignificanceThis series of panels are lavish examples of decorative and symbolic artwork that adorned successful business offices during the late 19th century. They are quite certainly from the P&O head offices in London. P&O moved its headquarters from Southampton to London in 1848. The scenes depict three Australian harbours; Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, as well as P&O's two major British harbours Liverpool and Southampton. The final panel is a view of Sandringham - the British Royal family's estate - refering to P&O's Royal Charter and possibly to the 1887 jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign as monarch.

    In March 1848, P&O moved into offices at 122 Leadenhall Street London. At various points in the company's history it had leases on nearby properties, since demolished from the 1960s. It is likely that the glass panes were from the main office or one of these buildings.

    The panels are rare surviving examples of the expression of the important connections between Australia and the UK by the iconic shipping line P&O. They show unique vistas and are important testimonies to the grand period of P&O lines during the late 19th century. The panels complement the signficant P&O archival material in the National Maritime Collection.

    HistoryThe Peninsular Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1835 and gained the mail contract to the Iberian Peninsular in 1837. By 1840 the company carried mail from Falmouth and passengers from London to the Peninsular ports as far as Gibraltar. Owned by the London shipbroking partnership of Brodie McGhie Willcox (1786-1862) and Arthur Anderson (1792-1868), the company in the same year successfully tendered for the mail contract from England to Egypt on the understanding that within two years the new undertaking would establish a line of steamers capable of taking the mail from Egypt to India. In the same year the company received the Royal Charter of incorporation constituting it as the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O).

    By 1842 the first steamer had sailed; two years later a regular mail service had been established from England to Alexandria and from Suez to Ceylon, Madras and Calcutta, with an extension, by 1845, to Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. By 1852 steam communication with Australia was established and in 1854 the Bombay mail service was taken over from the East India Company. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 initially posed difficulties since the company had sunk much capital into dealing efficiently with the overland route between Alexandria and Suez.

    The fortunes of P&O during this difficult time were guided by Thomas (later Sir Thomas) Sutherland (1834-1922), who became Managing Director in 1872. By economizing and modernization, which included moving the home port terminal from Southampton to London, he brought the company through to a position of strength. By 1913, with a paid-up capital of £5 1/2 million and over sixty ships in service, several more under construction and numerous harbour craft and tugs to service the fleet, the company owned half a million tons of shipping. In addition to the main mail route, and the recently inaugurated P&O Branch Line via the Cape to Australia, the company ran feeder services backwards and forwards across both the Atlantic and the Pacific, and at its height the whole complex exercise was serviced by over two hundred agencies stationed at ports throughout the world.
    Related People
    Maker: P&O

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