From the Collection of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village 89 Merri Street Warrnambool Victoria
- A ship’s bell recovered from the wreck of the SCHOMBERG (1855). The bell is not fully restored but it appears marine and sedimentary accretion has been removed after retrieval. The cast fittings for the suspension of the bell have been severed. A hexagonal bolt remains fixed through the top of the dome but the clapper is missing. The shape of the bell is a distinctive straight sided ‘pot’ or cylinder style, with a vertical drop of 20 cm before a pronounced flaring out at the ‘mouth’ or rim. There are some minor dents or scratches to the outer surface of the bell. It is a dull bronze or khaki colour and has few spots of copper verdigris. The bell has been deeply engraved with the name of the ship in an arch shape, in deeply scored, clear, upper-case lettering.
- H 34cm X O 38cm (the top of the dome is flat – O 20cm)
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- The SCHOMBERG was built by Hall and Sons in their Aberdeen shipyards during 1854 and 1855. She was specifically designed for the emigrant run to Australia, and British-built to compete with the large North American clippers of Donald MacKay. 288 feet long and weighing 2248 tons, she was the biggest wooden vessel constructed by Halls or any other British shipyards, and her 200 foot masts were heavily sparred to carry 16,000 yards of canvas sail.
The SCHOMBERG’s owner was James Baines & Co of the Black Ball Line, Liverpool, and her master was Captain ‘Bully’ Forbes. Both parties expected great things of the new ship, having set the standard records for fast passage with the MARCO POLO in 1852 and 1853, and the LIGHTNING in 1854. Unfortunately the SCHOMBERG, heavily loaded with 2,000 tons of iron railway lines, proved a slow sailer. Then at 11.30 on the night of 26 December 1855, and believing he had more sea room than proved to be the case, Captain Forbes sailed her directly into the shore off Curdies Inlet. No lives were lost, with all passengers and crew (and the Royal Mail of 17,093 letters from Britain) were taken off safely. But the ship and her cargo, believed to have been insured for £300,000, were irrecoverable.
This bell is made of brass and is of substantial size, indicating its use as a ship’s bell on the SCHOMBERG. A ship’s bell was the vessel’s clock, marking the change of hours of work to the officers and crew. It was normally stuck every half hour by the lookout at the foreward part of the ship, following the order ‘Strike the bell’ given by the officer of the watch at the helm. Each half hour was determined by the turning of the ship’s hourglass. Within each 4 hour watch, the first half hour would end with one bell, the second with two bells, and so on.
The ship’s bell was also used as a warning device, being struck to alert other vessels when in thick fog for instance. Reports of the sinking of the SCHOMBERG, at night but otherwise in good weather, do not mention the bell being rung when crew members heard the sound of breaking surf. At the subsequent marine inquiry there was reference to the “piping up” of all hands on deck, which suggests the watch-officer’s whistle was used instead.
The SCHOMBERG bell was retrieved from the shipwreck site during early salvage efforts on the vessel. (Two salvagers were drowned in 1864, when their open boat capsized during an attempt to re-find the wreck and recover cargo). The recovered bell was at first used to summon the faithful at St John’s Presbyterian Church in Warrnambool, but it was replaced in 1887 by a bigger “Jubilee” bell cast in Adelaide. The SCHOMBERG bell was then installed at the Woodford Presbyterian Church, where it was rung for many years, before being donated to the Flagstaff Hill collection of shipwreck artefacts.
- The shipwreck of the SCHOMBERG is of State significance – Victorian Heritage Register S612
- On one side, and displayed in a half-circle or ‘sunrise’ shape, the recessed letters “SCHOMBERG”
- 3 Mar 2017 at 10:11AM