Historical information

Nails such as this solid copper nail were forged by blacksmiths. A nail of this length could have been used for the ship's decking. It was recovered from the shipwreck of the barque Children.

The Children wrecking:

The barque Children was one of the first vessels to be lost in the Western District the vessel was wrecked to the east of Warrnambool on 14th January 1838. When it ran ashore in hurricane-force winds, 22 passengers and crew were fortunate to escape being battered to death on the rocks. The Children broke up within 20 minutes, sweeping sixteen of those on board to their deaths. After eleven days, the survivors, all of whom were injured, were rescued and taken to Portland.

According to Lloyd's Shipping Register 1837-1839, the Children was built in 1825 at Liverpool and operated by owners Gordon & Co, of London. Registration number 123/1837, James Henty then bought her in 1837 as a three-masted barque of 254 tons, with a hull of “part pitch pine, felt sheathed” and “coppered in 1837” at Launceston registered number 6/1837. In 1838 the Children, under her master Captain H. Browne, completed a successful round trip from Launceston to London (carrying wool and whale oil loaded in Portland), returning in late November of that year carrying a general cargo including house bricks used for ballast.
On the 11th of January 1839, the Children sailed from Launceston for Adelaide, with 24 passengers, 14 crew, and an awkward mixed cargo, including 1500 sheep, 8 bullocks, 7 horses, and farming implements, and six whaleboats with associated whaling gear. One account states that when the Children were “put out from port she was light and badly ballasted”.

The vessel immediately encountered four days of hurricane-force storms, eventually clearing on the early morning of the 14th. However, it was too late to take accurate measurements of the sun or stars to establish their position relative to the coast.

The Children collided with a limestone stack at the entrance of Childers Cove, and the seas smashed her into pieces within half an hour. All the cargo and 16 lives were lost including 8 children. The Henty brothers contributed £150 towards a fund for the 22 survivors at a memorial service held in Launceston later that year.

It was a major financial setback for James Henty and his brothers, but one from which they recovered. In a submission to the Governor of New South Wales dated 24 March 1840, the Henty’s summarised their work over the previous six years of establishing the Portland settlement stating. “Six stations have been occupied, one at Portland Bay three at the open country about 60 miles inland called ‘Merino Downs’ They have erected two houses at Portland Bay and two others at Merino Downs”.


This nail is significant as part of the vessels original fixtures. The Children was delivering cargo intended for the Portland Bay settlement of her owners the James Henty brothers The wreck is also significant as one of the first vessels to have been lost in the Western District of Warrnambool. As a result the shipwreck of the Children is registered with the Victorian Heritage Register S116.

Physical description

Ship's nail, copper, with a washer attached. The nail has a round head, solid round shank and a flat end. It is bent, twisted and has indentations in the centre section. The nail was recovered from the wreck of the CHILDREN.