Historical information

The Port of Warrnambool -
In the early years the Port of Warrnambool was a busy port. Steamships and sailing ships were frequent visitors to the port. Steam navigation companies were plentiful, carrying passengers and freighting cargo such as coal, timber, food, livestock, furniture, hardware and haberdashery between Melbourne and the ports along the southwest coast of Victoria, including Warrnambool. The carts would take their loads into the township for distribution.
The Breakwater was built (using 32 ton blocks of concrete) between 1874 and 1890 to provide ships with greater protection from the Southern Ocean.

The Lifeboat and Rocket House -
The coastline of South West Victoria has had over 600 shipwrecks and many lost lives; even in Warrnambool’s Lady Bay there were around 16 known shipwrecks between 1850 and 1905, with eight lives lost. In 1859 the first Government-built lifeboat arrived at Warrnambool Harbour and a shed was soon built to house it, followed in 1864 by a rocket house to safely store the Rocket Rescue equipment. In 1878 the buildings were moved to the Breakwater area, and in 1910 the new Lifeboat Warrnambool arrived with its ‘self-righting’ design. For almost one hundred years the lifeboat and rocket crews, mostly local volunteers, trained regularly to maintain and improve their skills, summoned when needed by alarms, gunshots, ringing bells and foghorns. Some became local heroes but all served an important role. By the end of the 1950s the lifeboat and rescue equipment had become obsolete.

Joseph Jordan -
Joseph Jordan was born in 1841 in Leicester England. When he was 16 he joined the 7th Queen's Own Hussars and was sent to India at the outbreak of the mutiny. He took part in the relief of Lucknow and remained in India for eleven years. It was during this time, he became interested in photography. He was posted to New Zealand and later came to Victoria, becoming a sergeant major of the Mounted Rifles. In the mid 1880s he came to the Western district where he was responsible for establishing units of the Mounted Rifles in various country towns such as Dunkeld, Mortlake, Panmure, Bushfield, Koroit etc. He resigned from the army in 1889 and set up a professional photography studio in Liebig Street, Warrnambool. He became very well known in the Western District for family photographs, official photographs of local councillors and groups as well as views of local scenery. In 1891 he photographed the wrecked barque "Fiji" at "Wrecks Beach" near Princetown. His business was taken over by his son Arthur around 1917. Joseph was a keen rifle shot and in 1924 he donated the "Jordan Shield" as a prize to the Victorian Rifle Association. He was made a "Life Honorary Member" of the Warrnambool Returned Soldiers League and in 1933 he was recognised as being the oldest living soldier in Victoria. Joseph died in 1935 aged 95.


This photograph is significant for its association with the Port of Warrnambool and the Warrnambool Breakwater as it shows a point in time when shipping activities were an important part of Warrnambool's commerce and social development. It is also a record of the Warrnambool Lifeboat and Rocket house which was important in aiding ordinary citizens, harbour employees and the volunteer boat and rescue crew in saving the lives of sailors and passengers due to the high number of shipwrecks that occurred along the coastline.
Joseph Jordan is a significant figure in Warrnambool history as he helped to establish early units of the Mounted Rifles (G Company) in local towns during the late 1880's and later, photographed local scenes, groups and citizens of early Warrnambool.

Physical description

Sepia photograph showing the beach and the Breakwater in Lady Bay Warrnambool, two ships (a steamship and a barque), a small sailboat, and the Lifeboat and Rocket House plus two smaller sheds.

Inscriptions & markings

Back of photo - "From: P Gregory / 365 Beach Road / BLACK ROCK 3193"