Historical information

The artefact is a damaged brass cow bell recovered from the 1878 shipwreck of the LOCH ARD near Port Campbell. It was raised by Flagstaff Hill divers in 1973 and is in storage at the Maritime Village.

The LOCH ARD was constructed on the Clyde in 1873 for the prestigious Loch Line of colonial clipper ships, designed for the Australian run. She sailed from England on 1 March 1878 carrying 37 crew, 17 passengers and a diverse general cargo ranging from luxury items to bulk railway iron. On 1 June 1878, emerging from fog and hearing too late the sound of breakers against the tall limestone cliffs, the vessel struck the southern foot of Mutton Bird Island and sank in 23 metres of water. Of the fifty-four people on board only two survived, one young male crewman and one young female passenger.

A century later, despite the pounding seas and the efforts of looters, the wreck site continued to provide ample evidence of the extraordinary range of goods being imported into the Colony of Victoria in the post-Gold Rush era. Flagstaff Hill divers in the 1970s reported finds of “Bottles of champagne, window panes, rolls of zinc, barrels of cement, iron rails, clocks, lead shot, corrugated iron, lead, marble, salad oil bottles, ink bottles, copper wire, gin bottles, rolls of carpet, floor tiles, copper rivets, gas light fittings, pocket knives, toys, crystal chandeliers, beer mugs, cutlery, candles sticks, wick scissors, cow bells, and sauce bottles.”

From this array of objects on the ocean floor emerged the humble brass cow bell. Cow bells were common to colonial agriculture and transport, used wherever animals were turned out to graze overnight and had to be rounded up again next morning. Bells were fastened around the necks of household milking cows, domestic goats, bullock teams, horse teams, and camel teams, to help find them in the pre-dawn light. Station shepherds and cattle drovers also used them to warn of any disturbances to their flocks and herds overnight.

The bells were a necessary item in a largely unfenced continent. So important, that Anthony Mongon began making his pot-bells at Yackandandah from 1861, August Menneke produced the “Wagga Pot” from 1867, and Samuel Jones started manufacturing his distinctively shaped “Condamine Bell” in 1868. However, these deeply resonant Australian bells were made from iron — Mongon and Jones were blacksmiths who simply beat old pitsaw blades into shape. Few genuinely brass cow bells were made here, the vast majority being imported from Britain where the industry of brass founding was already well established. (Some bells were also imported from the United States, but these too were nearly all of iron).


This bell is historically significant as typical of a cow bell used by farmers and herdsmen in Colonial Victoria. It was included in the cargo of the Loch Ard.

Its significance is increased by being one of a collection of artefacts recovered by the Flagstaff Hill Divers from the wreck of the Loch Ard in the early 1970s. Items that come from several wrecks along Victoria's coast have also been recovered for Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village’s museum collection under a Government permit, 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; a small brass bell, blunt-wedge shaped. The sides expand outwards from the smaller rectangular roof of the bell to a larger open rectangle or bell mouth. The handle, now missing, was fixed in two places at the top. A neat half-circle piece has been cut from the base on a long edge. Recovered from the wreck of the Loch Ard.