Historical information


In an article dated 26 March 1963, the Warrnambool Standard reported: “A cannon which has lain on the ocean floor since the barque, Children, was wrecked at Childer’s Cove on January 15, 1839, was raised by three Warrnambool skindivers at the week-end…The cannon, weighing about 750 lb. and 4-ft. 6-in. in length…is in excellent order considering the length of time it has remained under-water”. No conservation measures were taken at that time, other than chipping off the marine growth with hammers and cold chisels.

The minutes for the 4 February 1974 meeting of the Flagstaff Hill Planning Board recorded that “a cannon recovered some time ago was lying in the garden of [one of the three original divers] and that it could be picked up at any time”. Peter Ronald, past Manager and Diver for Flagstaff Hill, notes that the CHILDREN cannon would have been recovered by the other divers around 1964. When the cannon came into care of Flagstaff Hill it was given basic conservation relevant to the time. (At the same meeting the Board was advised of the recovery of an anchor from the wreck of the CHILDREN by Flagstaff Hill divers (Peter Ronald, Colin Goodall and Gary Hayden, and Hank Howey and Andrew Coffee), and its interim relocation in the sea at the end of the Warrnambool Breakwater while awaiting conservation).

The CHILDREN was owned by the pioneering Henty family of Portland. She was en route from Launceston to Adelaide, when she foundered in rough conditions at Childers Cove on 14 January 1839. The CHILDREN was a small three-masted barque, only 29 metres long and 254 tons weight, with 14 crew members and 24 passengers (including 9 children) on board. The ship was also carrying an awkwardly ballasted cargo of 1500 sheep, 8 bullocks, 7 horses, 5000 London house bricks, 6 whaling boats, and general trade goods. When the CHILDREN was driven into the limestone stack at the entrance to the cove, the seas smashed her into pieces within half an hour, and 16 lives were lost.

The CHILDREN was an all-wooden ship, built in 1825 at Liverpool, and her shipwreck in 1839 is one of colonial Victoria’s earliest and most significant maritime disasters. There is little left to mark the tragedy on the seabed now, apart from some of the house bricks intended for the Henty’s Portland Bay settlement. Despite its poor condition, the CHILDREN’s signal cannon remains an important and interpretable record of her demise, (along with her anchor, the bottom half of her ship’s bell, and portions of a brass porthole - artefacts that are also in the Flagstaff Hill collection).

In 2015 the CHILDREN cannon will undergo further conservation.

(Conservation Management Plan for Victorian Guns and Cannon, South Western Victoria, May 2008, ref W/F/06)


The shipwreck of the CHILDREN is of state significance — Victorian Heritage Register No. S116.

Physical description

A 1.3 metre iron 6pdr cannon recovered from the wreck of the CHILDREN. The shape of the cannon tapers from a thick round breech to a flared muzzle, with an 8 centimetre bore, and two side trunnions for pivoting on a wooden gun carriage. It was recovered from the shipwreck site of the CHILDREN by local divers in 1963. This small muzzle-loading signal cannon is in poor and unrestored condition. The cannon’s upper profile of smooth grey metal casing has corroded off, leaving an extensively oxidised rough red surface of crumbling iron. The bottom half of the cannon remains intact although the outer smooth casing also appears to be separating from the iron core of the barrel. Original grey casting is also missing from the breech and muzzle ends of the cannon.

Inscriptions & markings

Corrosion and spalling of the upper surface layer of the cannon has removed the maker’s marks and specifications