Historical information

This attractively patinated artefact was raised from the wreck site of the CHILDREN (wrecked January 1839, recovered February 1974) and was quite reasonably catalogued as a portion of a ships porthole. This identification is unlikely however, because the CHILDREN was built at Liverpool in 1824, and round portholes were not in common use until the 1850s. The catalogue identification has since been changed to "Ship's Fitting"
Prior to the appearance of round portholes in the middle of the nineteenth century, the function of introducing light to lower decks was performed by square half-glassed ‘ports’ in the side of the hull (known as a port-sash) , or ground-glass ‘bullseyes’ inserted in the deck (scuttles). In historical terms, ports were always square, cut into the timber originally to allow the firing of a ships guns, and were closed in weather by a tight fitting square hatch.
Flagstaff Hill Shipwreck Museum has three portholes on display that illustrate the gradual development and adoption of circular brass portholes. First in sequence is a small 12.5cm diameter window (with a deep frame for thick wooden hulls) from the 1855 wreck of SCHOMBERG. The second and third are larger 25cm diameter windows (with a shallower frame for thinner iron hulls) from the 1892 wreck of the NEWFIELD and the 1908 wreck of the FALLS OF HALLADALE .
Once the apparently obvious use of the brass object is discounted, an accurate and reliable alternative classification is difficult to specify. One artefact register notes it was ‘found in about the centre of the wreck site’. This would mitigate against the possibilities of (1) ‘horseshoe frame’ joining pieces of the keel and hull at the bow of the vessel, or (2) ‘deckseat’ for a binnacle at the stern. It may support the idea of a ‘head frame’ on a cooped companionway or a ‘deckseat’ for a mainmast pump. But this is only speculation. The actual identification is not known.


The wreck of the CHILDREN is of State significance - Victorian Heritage Register S116

Physical description

Ship's fitting, of heavy gauge brass circle, previously classified as section of ship's fitting, which was raised from the wreck of the Children. One end is broken off at an original bolt hole and the other is severed or cut at an acute angle from the inner rim. The artefact is 6cm across and 1cm deep, indicating strength and function as a substantial and finished item of moulded metal. The upper face bears sedimentary accretion stained red/brown. The rear face has been gouged by hard or corrosive materials and bears brilliant blue/green oxidisation.