Historical information

This bearing cap is thought to be from a donkey winch engine, (or steam donkey, or donkey winch), which is a small secondary steam engine with a cylindrical shaped boiler. In 19th century merchant sailing a steam donkey was often used in marine applications such as to help raise and lower larger sails, load and unload cargo or to power pumps.
The bearing cap could have been used on the donkey engine to hold the rod of the winch gear wheel in place, or bolted to another bearing cap around the neck on the top of the boiler’s cylinder, connecting it to the flue.
The Newfield was a three-masted iron and steel barque, built in Dundee, Scotland, in 1889 by Alexander Stephen and Sons. It was owned by the Newfield Ship Company in 1890 and later that year It was registered in Liverpool to owners Brownells and Co.
The Newfield left Sharpness, Scotland, on 28th May 1892 with a crew of 25 under the command of Captain George Scott and on 1st June left Liverpool. She was bound for Brisbane, Australia, with a cargo of 1850 tons of fine rock salt, the main export product of Sharpness.

At about 9pm on 28th August 1892, in heavy weather, Captain Scott sighted, between heavy squalls, the Cape Otway light on the mainland of Victoria but, due to a navigational error (the ship’s chronometers were wrong), he assumed it to be the Cape Wickham light on King Island, some 40 miles south. He altered his course to the north, expecting to enter Bass Strait. The ship was now heading straight for the south west Victorian coast.

At about 1:30am the Newfield ran aground on a reef about 100 yards from shore and one mile east of Curdie’s Inlet, Peterborough. The ship struck heavily three times before grounding on an inner shoal with 6 feet of water in the holds. Rough sea made the job of launching lifeboats very difficult. The first two lifeboats launched by the crew were smashed against the side of the ship and some men were crushed or swept away. The third lifeboat brought eight men to shore. It capsized when the crew tried to return it to the ship for further rescue

The rescue was a difficult operation. The Port Campbell Rocket Crew arrived and fired four rocket lines, none of which connected with the ship.

Peter Carmody, a local man, volunteered to swim about one mile off shore to the ship with a line to guide the fourth and final lifeboat safely to shore. He was assisted by James McKenzie and Gerard Irvine. Seventeen men survived the shipwreck but the captain and eight of his crew perished.

The Newfield remained upright on the reef with sails set for a considerable time as the wind slowly ripped the canvas to shreds and the sea battered the hull to pieces.

The Marine Board inquiry found the wreck was caused by a "one man style of navigation" and that the Captain had not heeded the advice of his crew.

According to Jack Loney ‘… when the drama was over . . the Newfield was deserted except for the Captain’s dog and two pigs.’

Peter Carmody was awarded the Bramley-Moore medal by the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society for Saving Life at Ssea, which he received by mail on January 21st 1893.

The medal and a letter of congratulations were donated to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum by Peter Carmody’s grand-daughter Norma Bracken and her son Stuart Bracken on 25th May 2006.

The Bearing Cap joins other items in the Newfield collection.


Flagstaff Hill’s collection of artefacts from the Newfield is significant for its association with the shipwreck Newfield, which is listed on the Victorian Heritage Registry. The collection is significant because of the relationship between the objects.

The Newfield collection is archaeologically significant as the remains of an international cargo ship.

The Newfield collection is historically significant for representing aspects of Victoria’s shipping history and its association with the shipwreck.

Physical description

Brass bearing cap from the wreck of the sailing ship “Newfield” is possibly from a donkey winch engine. The half-circle shaped cuff with a rectangular brass block attached to the outside of each end of the half-circle. Both blocks have a round hole in their centre and are approximately the same depth and width as the cuff. Midway around the half-circle cuff is another brass block that is about twice the depth of the cuff. It appears to have been a circular shape that has been modified to match the width of the collar, having had the sides of the circle cut off to leave straights edge parallel to the edges of the cuff. In the centre of this block is another hole, and there appears to be the head of a bolt inside this hole. The bearing cap is lightly encrusted.