This Minton floor tile is from the wreck of the LOCH ARD and is currently on display in the Great Circle Gallery at Flagstaff Hill. The iron hulled clipper ship from the Loch Line was heading for Port Phillip from London, when it ran into the cliffs of Mutton Bird Island near Port Campbell.
The LOCH ARD was laden with a high value cargo including luxury goods intended for display at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. One notable survivor from the ship’s freight manifest was the well packed Minton porcelain peacock, a two metre high ceramic masterpiece of vivid glazed colours. (This is also on display in the Great Circle Gallery).
The almost total loss of life and property from the LOCH ARD registered as a shocking tragedy for the Colony of Victoria, at a time when social confidence and economic optimism were otherwise high. Wealth generated from Gold and Wool was increasingly being spent on grandiose private residences and imposing public buildings. The demand for quality furnishings and fittings was therefore strong.
Among the products consigned to burgeoning colonial markets by the Milton pottery at Stoke upon Trent, were their new range of colourfully patterned but very durable floor tiles – ideal for the high-traffic spaces in the large civic buildings then being constructed in Australia and America. These new floor tiles were “encaustic”, meaning that their designs and colours were encased “within” the depth of the tile.
Rather than their decorative patterns being glazed onto the surface of the tile, their inlaid designs were created during the manufacturing process, as “coloured slips” (or liquid clay) were poured into a deep pre-moulded casting. When fired, the resulting tile was colour-fast and design-fast.
HISTORY OF THE LOCH ARD
The LOCH ARD belonged to the famous Loch Line which sailed many ships from England to Australia. Built in Glasgow by Barclay, Curdle and Co. in 1873, the LOCH ARD was a three-masted square rigged iron sailing ship. The ship measured 262ft 7" (79.87m) in length, 38ft (11.58m) in width, 23ft (7m) in depth and had a gross tonnage of 1693 tons. The LOCH ARD's main mast measured a massive 150ft (45.7m) in height. LOCH ARD made three trips to Australia and one trip to Calcutta before its final voyage.
LOCH ARD left England on March 2, 1878, under the command of Captain Gibbs, a newly married, 29 year old. She was bound for Melbourne with a crew of 37, plus 17 passengers and a load of cargo. The general cargo reflected the affluence of Melbourne at the time. On board were straw hats, umbrella, perfumes, clay pipes, pianos, clocks, confectionary, linen and candles, as well as a heavier load of railway irons, cement, lead and copper. There were items included that intended for display in the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880.
The voyage to Port Phillip was long but uneventful. At 3am on June 1, 1878, Captain Gibbs was expecting to see land and the passengers were becoming excited as they prepared to view their new homeland in the early morning. But LOCH ARD was running into a fog which greatly reduced visibility. Captain Gibbs was becoming anxious as there was no sign of land or the Cape Otway lighthouse.
At 4am the fog lifted. A man aloft announced that he could see breakers. The sheer cliffs of Victoria's west coast came into view, and Captain Gibbs realised that the ship was much closer to them than expected. He ordered as much sail to be set as time would permit and then attempted to steer the vessel out to sea. On coming head on into the wind, the ship lost momentum, the sails fell limp and LOCH ARD's bow swung back.
Gibbs then ordered the anchors to be released in an attempt to hold its position. The anchors sank some 50 fathoms - but did not hold. By this time LOCH ARD was among the breakers and the tall cliffs of Mutton Bird Island rose behind the ship. Just half a mile from the coast, the ship's bow was suddenly pulled around by the anchor. The captain tried to tack out to sea, but the ship struck a reef at the base of Mutton Bird Island, near Port Campbell.
Waves broke over the ship and the top deck was loosened from the hull. The masts and rigging came crashing down knocking passengers and crew overboard. When a lifeboat was finally launched, it crashed into the side of LOCH ARD and capsized.
Tom Pearce, who had launched the boat, managed to cling to its overturned hull and shelter beneath it. He drifted out to sea and then on the flood tide came into what is now known as LOCH ARD Gorge. He swam to shore, bruised and dazed, and found a cave in which to shelter. Some of the crew stayed below deck to shelter from the falling rigging but drowned when the ship slipped off the reef into deeper water.
Eva Carmichael had raced onto deck to find out what was happening only to be confronted by towering cliffs looming above the stricken ship. In all the chaos, Captain Gibbs grabbed Eva and said, "If you are saved Eva, let my dear wife know that I died like a sailor". That was the last Eva Carmichael saw of the captain. She was swept off the ship by a huge wave.
Eva saw Tom Pearce on a small rocky beach and yelled to attract his attention. He dived in and swam to the exhausted woman and dragged her to shore. He took her to the cave and broke open case of brandy which had washed up on the beach. He opened a bottle to revive the unconscious woman.
A few hours later Tom scaled a cliff in search of help. He followed hoof prints and came by chance upon two men from nearby Glenample Station three and a half miles away. In a state of exhaustion, he told the men of the tragedy. Tom returned to the gorge while the two men rode back to the station to get help. By the time they reached LOCH ARD Gorge, it was cold and dark. The two shipwreck survivors were taken to Glenample Station to recover. Eva stayed at the station for six weeks before returning to Ireland, this time by steamship.
In Melbourne, Tom Pearce received a hero's welcome. He was presented with the first gold medal of the Royal Humane Society of Victoria and a £1000 cheque from the Victorian Government. Concerts were performed to honour the young man's bravery and to raise money for those who lost family in the LOCH ARD disaster.
Of the 54 crew members and passengers on board, only two survived: the apprentice, Tom Pearce and the young woman passenger, Eva Carmichael, who lost all of her family in the tragedy.
Ten days after the LOCH ARD tragedy, salvage rights to the wreck were sold at auction for £2,120. Cargo valued at £3,000 was salvaged and placed on the beach, but most washed back into the sea when another storm developed. The wreck of LOCH ARD still lies at the base of Mutton Bird Island. Much of the cargo has now been salvaged and some was washed up into what is now known as LOCH ARD Gorge. Cargo and artefacts have also been illegally salvaged over many years before protective legislation was introduced.
One of the most unlikely pieces of cargo to have survived the shipwreck was a Minton porcelain peacock - one of only nine in the world. The peacock was destined for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. It had been well packed, which gave it adequate protection during the violent storm. Today, the Minton peacock can be seen at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool. From Australia's most dramatic shipwreck it has now become Australia's most valuable shipwreck artefact and is one of very few 'objects' on the Victorian State Heritage Register.
The shipwreck of the LOCH ARD is of State significance. Victorian Heritage Register S417.
Flagstaff Hill’s collection of artefacts from LOCH ARD is significant for being one of the largest collections of artefacts from this shipwreck in Victoria. It is significant for its association with the shipwreck, which is on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR S417). The collection is significant because of the relationship between the objects, as together they have a high potential to interpret the story of the LOCH ARD.
The LOCH ARD collection is archaeologically significant as the remains of a large international passenger and cargo ship. The LOCH ARD collection is historically significant for representing aspects of Victoria’s shipping history and its potential to interpret sub-theme 1.5 of Victoria’s Framework of Historical Themes (living with natural processes). The collection is also historically significant for its association with the LOCH ARD, which was one of the worst and best known shipwrecks in Victoria’s history.
A square Minton floor tile with a black and apricot pattern against a chocolate brown glaze. There is a large chip missing. This decorative floor tile was recovered from the shipwreck of the LOCH ARD. Other examples of this manufacture have been recovered from the wreck site and form part of the collection. Artefact Reg No LA/3.
Inscriptions & markings
On the back, or base, of the tile is inscribed the number “46” and the letters “Minton & Co Patent Stoke upon Trent”.
- flagstaff hill,
- shipwrecked coast,
- flagstaff hill maritime museum,
- maritime museum,
- shipwreck coast,
- flagstaff hill maritime village,
- great ocean road,
- loch line,
- loch ard,
- captain gibbs,
- eva carmichael,
- tom pearce,
- glenample station,
- mutton bird island,
- loch ard gorge,
- minton floor tile,
- encaustic tile,
- melbourne international exhibition