Historical information

This ceramic cover 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.

The purpose of the cover is unclear. The holes could be for ventilation. The cover may have been used to protect food or keep it at an even temperature. It may also have been used for covering fragrant petals, allowing some scent to escape through the holes. The residue around the underside of the holes and their random placement indicate that the cover could be partially handmade. The discolouration could have come from its time in the sea.

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.


The ventilated cover is as an example of domestic ceramic ware of the 1880s.
The cover also holds significance as it was recovered by John Chance, a diver from the wreck of the George Groper 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 George Roper is considered historically and archaeologically significant and as such, is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database, VHR S286. It is an example of a vessel built specifically for fast travel to and from Australia with a large shipment of cargo. The George Roper’s 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

Cover; unglazed white ceramic, oval shape. The cover has holes randomly poked through its surface, one large hole is a six pointed star shape. Underneath there is a narrow rim placed slightly inside the edge. There is residue on the underneath around the holes. There is orange-brown discolouration and areas where the surface is lighter coloured.