Historical information

This ceramic soap dish was recovered from the wreck of the 1882-1883 George Roper between the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. It is one of the shipwreck artefacts in the John Chance Collection.

Soap dishes were often part of a wash set that also included a water jug and wash bowl. The holes in the dish allowed water to drain out of the dish, keeping the soap dry for next use.

The GEORGE ROPER 1882 - 1883 -
The George Roper was a 4-masted iron sailing ship built in Liverpool, England, in 1882 for fast international trade with Australia. The large vessel was launched in February 1883. The ship was on its first trip, departing Liverpool for Melbourne, captained by John Ward and a crew of 31. She had almost reached her destination on July 4 1883, approaching Port Phillip Bay and being towed by the steam tug William. The weather changed to rough with fog and both the George Roper and the William hit the dangerous Lonsdale Reef at Port Phillip Heads. The Captain and crew were eventually rescued and taken to Queenscliff. Salvage syndicates were able to recover a lot of the cargo before the George Roper broke up and sank. Amongst the cargo was soft goods, draperies, household items, spirits of malt and distilled liquors, chemicals, dynamite, and 1,400 tons of steel rails for the Victorian Government. Also in the hold were Russell Stourbridge bricks, as paying ballast.


This 1880s soap dish is an example of personal hygiene accessories and may have been part of a set comprising jug, bowl and dish..
The soap dish is also significant as it was recovered by John Chance, a diver from the wreck of the George Roper in the 1960s-70s. Items that come from several wrecks along Victoria's coast have since been donated to the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village’s museum collection by his family, illustrating this item’s level of historical value.
The soap dish is significant for its association with the barque George Roper, which is considered historically and archaeologically significant and as such, is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database, VHR S286.
The George Roper is an example of a vessel built specifically for fast travel to and from Australia with a large shipment of cargo. Its cargo of steel rails adds to the historical significance of international trade to the growing colony of Australia and Victoria in particular, with rail transportation soon to become a faster and safer form of transportation between colonial towns.
Divers can still access parts of the scattered wreck and other artefacts recovered in the 1970s and 1980s can be viewed in both public and private collections.

Physical description

Soap dish; glazed white porcelain. Round shallow bowl with blue patterned border, resembling butterflies. Two raised, concentric rings are moulded into the base. Six pierced holes are evenly spaced between the rings, five holes are in the centre of the dish.