Historical information

This padlock has been salvaged from the wrecked sailing ship SCHOMBERG. It is not known whether the padlock was a part of the ship’s equipment or if it was among personal effects or cargo. At some point in time the padlock has been mounted and sealed in resin, perhaps for both display and preservation purposes.

When SCHOMBERG was launched in 1855, she was considered the “Noblest ship that ever floated on water.” SCHOMBERG’s owners, the Black Ball Line, commissioned the ship for their fleet of passenger liners. She was built by Alexander Hall of Aberdeen. Overall she had accommodation for 1000 passengers.

SCHOMBERG’s 34 year old master, Captain ‘Bully’ Forbes, (James Nicol Forbes) was born in Aberdeen in 1821 and rose to fame with his record-breaking voyages on the famous Black Ball Line ships; MARCO POLO and LIGHTNING. On this, the SCHOMBERG’s maiden voyage, he was going to break records.

SCHOMBERG departed Liverpool 6 October 1855 flying the sign “Sixty Days to Melbourne”. She carried 430 passengers and 3000 tons cargo including iron rails and equipment intended to build the Melbourne to Geelong Railway and a bridge over the Yarra from Melbourne to Hawthorn. She also carried a cow for fresh milk, pens for fowls and pigs, 90,000 gallons of water for washing and drinking, 17,000 letters and 31,800 newspapers. The ship and cargo was insured for $300,000, a fortune for the time.

The winds were poor as she sailed across the equator, slowing SCHOMBERG’s journey considerably. Land was first sighted on Christmas Day, at Cape Bridgewater near Portland, and Captain Forbes followed the coastline towards Melbourne. Forbes was said to be playing cards when called by the Third Mate Henry Keen, who reported land about 3 miles off, Due in large part to the captain's regarding a card game as more important than his ship, it eventually ran aground on a sand spit near Curdie's Inlet (about 56 km west of Cape Otway) on 26 December 1855, 78 days after leaving Liverpool. The sand spit and the currents were not marked on Forbes’s map.

The crew from the scouting party advised Forbes to wait until morning before trying to take the passengers to safety in the lifeboats because the rough seas could easily overturn the small vessels. The ship’s Chief Officer spotted SS QUEEN at dawn and signalled the steamer. The master of the SS QUEEN approached the stranded vessel and all of SCHOMBERG’s passengers and crew were able to disembark safely. The SCHOMBERG was lost and with her, Forbes’ reputation.

The Black Ball Line’s Melbourne agent sent a steamer to retrieve the passengers’ baggage from the SCHOMBERG. Other steamers helped unload her cargo until the weather changed and prevented the salvage teams from accessing the ship. Later one plunderer found a case of Wellington boots, but alas, all were for the left foot! Local merchants Manifold & Bostock bought the wreck and cargo, but did not attempt to salvage the cargo that was still on board the ship. They eventually sold it on to a Melbourne businessman and two seafarers. In 1864, after two of the men drowned when they tried to reach SCHOMBERG, salvage efforts were abandoned. Parts of the SCHOMBERG were washed ashore on the south island of New Zealand in 1870, nearly 15 years after the wreck.

The wreck now lies in 825 metres of water and the shape of the ship can still be seen due to the remaining railway irons, girders and the ship’s frame. A variety of goods and materials can be seen scattered about nearby.

Flagstaff Hill holds many items salvaged from the SCHOMBERG including a ciborium (in which a diamond ring was concealed), communion set, ship fittings and equipment, personal effects, a lithograph, tickets, menu and photograph from the SCHOMBERG.


This brass padlock is registered as an artefact in the SCHOMBERG collection.

The SCHOMBERG collection as a whole is of historical and archaeological significance at a State level, listed on the Victorian Hertage Register VHR S612.

Flagstaff Hill’s collection of artefacts from the SCHOMBERG is significant for its association with the Victorian Heritage Registered shipwreck. The collection is primarily significant because of the relationship between the objects, as together they have a high potential to interpret the story of the SCHOMBERG.

The SCHOMBERG collection is archaeologically significant as the remains of an international passenger ship.

The shipwreck 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 shipwreck and the ship, which was designed to be fastest and most luxurious of its day.

The SCHOMBERG collection meets the following criteria for assessment:
Criterion A: Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history.
Criterion B: Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history.
Criterion C: Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural

Physical description

Brass Padlock lying in a wooden block and encased in resin. The wood encasing the padlock has seven man-made holes in it, perhaps used to hand as a display. There was a paper label with an inscription on the top and bottom of the wood immediately surrounding the padlock. the brass has tarnished. Recovered from the wreck of the Schomberg in 1974.

Inscriptions & markings

Marked on block - "Recovered 1974 'Schomberg'"