Historical information

This brass cow bell was recovered from the wreck of the sailing ship ‘Loch Ard’ at Mutton Bird Island, near Port Campbell, Victoria, from late 1960s to early 1970s. Cow bells were listed as part of the cargo on board the Loch Ard. This bell is now part of the John Chance collection.

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village’s divers also recovered similar bells from the Loch Ard wreck in 1973. One of them was found in a sandy hole in the centre of the wreck site. All of the recovered cow bells are without their hangers.

A bell of this size could have been used by horse or cattle teams. Cow bells were a common Colonial item. They were hung around the necks of grazing domestic cows and goats, bullock and horse teams, even camel teams so that they could be found again. Sheep and cattle drovers used them as a warning for night time disturbances such as wild animals.

The maker of the cow bell, James Barwell, was a bell founder established in Birmingham, England, from 1784. In 1842 he acquired Fiddian’s firm of ‘Steam and Water’, keeping its name and stamping it on some of his products. According to his advertisement in the Exhibitors guide for the Church Congress of 1887, he made bells and fittings for churches and schools. He also made bells for cloches and chimes, and made tuned musical handbells. He repaired and reproduced bells, and he had a team of experienced ringers to “inspect towers and report upon the tone and condition of bells and fittings.” In 1903 he became incorporated as a Limited Company, ‘engineers’ and plumbers’ brasswork, and bell founders.’ In 1914 he advertised as ‘Cock and Bell Founders’, specialising in plumbing and engineering fittings, church bells, and “every description of hanging and hand bells.” Some of Barwell’s products were stamped with his maker’s mark (his initials J. B. either side of a cross entwined with a ‘B’ in an oval of oak leaves (for Birmingham)). James Barwell bells were no longer made after 1920.

James Barwell was among makers who exported bells to the Australian colony from the 1860s. Early Australian iron animal bells were also made from the 1860s by blacksmiths such as Anthony Morgan from 1861, August Menneke from 1867, and Samuel Jones from 1868. Few brass bells were produced here in those times.


This bell is historically significant as typical of a cow bell used by farmers and herdsmen in Colonial Victoria. Its significance is increased by being an artefact recovered by John Chance, a diver from the wreck of the Loch Ard and other wrecks in the late 1960s to early 1970s. 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 cow bell is also significant for being part of Flagstaff Hill’s collection of artefacts from LOCH ARD, which is significant for being one of the largest collections of artefacts from this shipwreck in Victoria. It is significant for its association with the shipwreck, which is on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR S417). The collection is significant because of the relationship between the objects, as together they have a high potential to interpret the story of the LOCH ARD.

The LOCH ARD collection is archaeologically significant as the remains of a large international passenger and cargo ship. The LOCH ARD 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 LOCH ARD, which was one of the worst and best known shipwrecks in Victoria’s history.

Physical description

Cow bell; heavy brass, flat top, pyramid shape, rectangular head, shoulders flare out to rectangular mouth. The head has two same-sized tooled holes for adding the hanging yoke. Inscription on top and one side. Encrustations are on the metal in places. The hanger and clapper are missing. Made by James Barwell of Birmingham.

Inscriptions & markings

Stamped on the head "BARWELL / - - - / - - -- ING"
[Perhaps BARWELL - - - BIRMING. Could size be in centre? 3 3/4 IN?]
Stamped on side [motif] (undecipherable)