1864: The Ship Inn Street Lamp, Port Albert, Victoria

The Ferguson & Urie stained glass Company crafted thousands of Ecclesiastical and Secular stained glass windows but little is known of the company’s diversity in other areas of art which extended to ornamental stained glass screens, lanterns, chancel and altar decorations and many other decorative items such as advertising signage.

In June 1864 the historical seaside town of Port Albert had a decorative gas street lamp installed outside the ‘Ship Inn’ and was reported to have had three colourful stained glass ships painted on it.

Gippsland Guardian, Vic, Friday 1st July 1864, page 2.

“The danger which existed on dark nights at the culverts at the intersection of Bay street with the main road, is much reduced by the excellent lamps at each of the hotels immediately adjoining. That at the Ship Inn deserves passing notice as a very excellent specimen of a new process of painting on glass, patented, we believe by Messrs. Ferguson and Urie of North Melbourne. The execution of the three vessels on the lamp is very good, and the colouring gay, striking and indelible.”

No extant examples of this kind of work on public street lighting by Ferguson & Urie have been found to date, although there are unconfirmed examples of lantern covers/shades at the private estates of Werribee Mansion and Rupertswood at Sunbury which are extremely likely to have been replicas of original designs by the company.

Very early Victorian street lamps were erected by private citizens and businesses and were mostly oil or candle powered. As early as 1847 gas street lighting was being erected by Innkeepers in an attempt to reduce the large number of injuries occurring to their patrons as a result of falling into ditches, gutters and culverts after leaving their establishments late at night. Call me sceptical, but I’m reasonably sure that this was not the root cause!  By the late 1850’s it became law within Victorian municipalities for Publicans and Innkeepers to keep a light burning outside their premises from dark to dawn. The city of Ballarat in Western Victoria took great pains to enforce this law and the weekly ‘cause’ list was regularly filled with publicans fronting the magistrate for “not keeping a proper light burning” outside their premises[1]. Overall public safety was the real reason for the proliferation of public lighting. The streets of early Melbourne were rife with drunkards, thieves and vandals who took every opportunity of the darkness to reap their lawless rewards. Any respectable law abiding citizen would have been taking a gamble with their lives or possessions by venturing out after dark in the early streets of Melbourne. In this day and age we’d probably call it an “Extreme Sport” which could have applied to both the victim and the perpetrator as it was a possible death or serious assault for the victim and an almost certain death sentence if you were found and convicted as the perpetrator.

[Some examples of original gas lamps used in Melbourne and country Victoria]

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The gas jets for the early street lamps were extremely inefficient and each lamp consumed up to a massive six cubic feet of gas an hour to only provide the mere equivalent light output of three candles[2]. By the late 1880’s electric light was the new up and coming invention that would eventually replace gas but the old gas lighting remained for many years past the turn of the century, thanks to the invention of the Welsbach gas mantle, which both increased light power considerably whilst reducing the amount of gas used at the same time. Many wealthy speculators re-invested heavily in the gas companies based on this new efficiency but it would inevitably succumb to electricity.

Public Street lighting had spread throughout Victoria and the other Colonies and the tiny township of Port Albert was just one of many. What is extraordinary though is that the decorated street lamp outside the ‘Ship Inn’ in Port Albert is only three and a half years after the Ferguson & Urie Company had started creating stained glass art on a commercial basis.

About Port Albert:

Port Albert is one of the earliest seaside townships in Gippsland and was discovered in 1841 as a result of the wreck of the steamer ‘Clonmel’ which struck a sandbar off Wilson Promontory, five kilometres south of Port Albert, in the early hours of January 2nd 1841[3].

Fortunately there was no loss of life but the wreck of the Clonmel is recorded as one of the events which lead to the discovery and establishment of the township of Port Albert a short time later.

When rendering assistance to the survivors, the Harbour Master, Captain Lewis, made some important observations in the vicinity of the wreck of the Clonmel and a location known as Corner Inlet which he deemed to be entirely suitable for shipping to enter[4]. This report was probably followed up via a land expedition by explorer Angus McMillan later in the same year and the first inhabitants settled in Port Albert circa May 1841.

The location where the steamer Clonmel was grounded is today called “Clonmel Island,” located about 5km south of Port Albert. A very detailed account of the grounding of the Clonmel was recorded by a Mr. D. C. Simson in early January 1841 as follows:

The Courier, Hobart, Tas, Tuesday 19th January 1841, page 2-3.

“LOSS OF THE CLONMEL.”
“The following is Mr. D. C. Simson’s narrative, who came up from the wreck in an open whale boat:-
On Wednesday afternoon, the 30th December, I embarked on board the team-ship Clonmel, Lieutenant Tollervey, commander, bound from Sydney to Port Phillip. The passengers and crew consisted of seventy-five individuals. At four P.M., rounded the south head of Port Jackson; wind from southward, blowing fresh. Next morning, 31st, found us off Jarvis’s Bay; wind still adverse with a strong head sea, the vessel progressing at an average of seven knots an hour. At daylight, the 1st January, Cape Howe bore W.S.W. of us; in the course of the morning sighted Ram Head, and took a fresh departure, steering for Wilson’s Promontory. The wind was now fair with smooth sea, and our course S.W. ½ W.; the wind and weather continuing favourable during the day and night. A little after 3 A.M., of 2nd January, all the passengers were startled by the ship striking heavily. On reaching the deck I discovered breakers a-head; the captain, who had been on deck during the whole of the middle watch, giving orders to back astern, and doing all in his power to rescue the ship from her perilous situation. Finding that the engines were of no avail in backing her off the bank on which we now found she had struck, orders were given to lighten her by throwing overboard cargo, &c., but without desired effect, the vessel still surging higher upon the reef. The anchors were then let go, when, after a few more bumps, she swung head to wind, taking the ground with her stern, and bedding herself, with the fall of the tide, upon the sand, rolling hard and striking occasionally. During the whole of this trying scene the most exemplary conduct was shown by the crew in obeying the orders of the captain and officers. Daylight had now made its appearance, and we found ourselves on shore on a sand spit, at the entrance of Corn Inlet, about half a mile from the beach, between which and vessel a heavy surf was rolling. It is necessary here to remark, that the course steered and the distance run, would not have warranted any person in believing us so near the shore as we actually found ourselves. The sea was smooth, the wind fair, and the vessel going at the rate of at least 10 knots an hour, and it was impossible for any navigator to have calculated upon such an inset carrying a vessel, under the circumstances above alluded to, 30 to 40 miles to leeward of her course, in eighteen hours. Captain Tollervey’s conduct had hitherto been that of a careful and watchful commander; he was on deck during the whole of the middle watch, which he himself kept, anxiously on the lookout, and was on the paddle box at the time the vessel struck, but the night proving misty, nothing could be seen beyond the length of the vessel. Had it pleased Providence to have retarded our voyage by half an hour, the calamitous event would have been avoided; but it was otherwise ordained.
Captain T., on finding all attempts to get the vessel off, by running kedges and warps out, throwing overboard cargo, &c., unavailing, and a strong sea rising with the flood tide, turned his attention to the safety of the passengers and crew. After several trips by the whale-boats first, and assisted by the quarter-boats afterwards, every soul was landed in safety by 2 p.m., the captain being the last to leave the vessel. A sufficiency of sails, awnings, and lumber, was brought on shore to rig out tents for all hands; and everybody set to work to form an encampment. In a short time the ladies and females were comfortably housed, having beds placed for them in a weatherproof tent; the male passengers and crew were equally accommodated by means of spair [sic] sails and awnings brought from the ship, and we found ourselves at sundown as well provided for as we under the circumstances could desire. A sufficiency of provisions, consisting of live stock, hams, bread, flour, biscuit, rice, tea, sugar, wines, and beer, had been landed during the forenoon, to keep the whole party for about ten days; water was found in abundance by digging, but was rather brackish to the taste. Captain T. now brought order into the chaotic mass, by establishing watches, previously haranguing the passengers and crew, explaining to them the stronger necessity which existed under their unfortunate circumstances for discipline and punctual obedience of orders, than would have been deemed necessary on board of his noble vessel had she been afloat. Universal assent was given to his exhortation, proper watches appointed, provisions, &c., stowed under a boat turned upside down, to guard them as well from petty depredations as from the weather, sentinels being posted in all directions round the encampment, who were relieved every two hours. When order was thus established and provisions distributed for supper, Captain T. and myself laid down in the tent and talked the events of the day over. The anxiety of mind and fatigue of body which our worthy commander must have undergone during that eventful day, were scarcely visible, either in his manner or appearance, whilst we were now quietly discussing the means of getting assistance brought to us. He agreed with me that is would be desirable for a boat to be sent to Melbourne for relief, and having obtained his consent to head the party, I had no trouble in finding a crew of five volunteers to join me in the undertaking. One of my fellow passengers, Mr. Edwards, of the firm of Messrs Edwards and Hunter, also volunteered to join us, and the next morning, amidst the cheers of our fellow sufferers, we were launched from the beach by them in a whale boat. We proceeded in the first instance to the vessel to lay in a store of provisions, not wishing to deprive those on shore of any portion of their scanty stock. Owing to the very heavy surf which was rolling on the beach, we were nearly two hours before we reached our ill-starred ship, being every moment in danger of swamping. The scene which now opened on ascending the deck, was harassing in the extreme; a few hours before, this stately vessel had been cleaving the waters, buoyant, like its living inmates, with life and hope – now an immovable wreck; her cabins that had a short time before been the picture of cleanliness and order, now one mass of confusion, and strewed with luggage and lumber of all descriptions; however, as our time was short, we supplied ourselves with such provisions as came within our reach, and after hoisting the Union Jack to the main-mast upside down we shoved off an committed ourselves to the care of a merciful Providence. At eight a.m., the 3rd instant, we took our departure outside the bank, steering for Sealer’s Cove. Our boat was manner by five seamen, and besides oars we had a small lug-sail made out of the awning; Mr. Edwards and myself made up the number to seven. Our provisions consisted of biscuit, a ham, a breaker of water, three bottles of wine, 12 of beer, and one of brandy; of the latter article I would not take more, dreading its effects upon the crew; the small quantity I took, however, I found very beneficial administered to them in minute portions.
Shortly after leaving the Clonmel the wind came from the westward; we were obliged to down sail and pull, and after six hours’ vain struggling against the wind to reach the mainland, we were under the necessity of running for one of the seal islands, where we found a snug little cove, which we entered, and after refreshing the crew by a three hours’ rest and hearty meal, we once more pulled for the mainland and reached Sealer’s Cove about midnight, where we landed, cooked our supper, and passed the remainder of the night in the boat which we anchored in deep water. We closed our eyes grateful to the Providence which had that day watched over us. At half past three a.m. on the 4th instant, I started three men on shore to get the breaker filled with water; they had scarcely filled them and brought them down to the beach, when I observed the natives coming down upon us; I hurried them on board and got under weigh, the wind blowing hard from the eastward at the time. After a severe pull of four hours we were at last enabled to weather the southern point of the cove to hoist sail and run for Wilson’s Promontory, which we rounded at 10 a.m., the sea running very high. The crew ever since we left the scene of our shipwreck behaved remarkably well, being perfectly satisfied with the scanty allowance which I put them as well as myself and fellow passenger upon, who in this trying time kept up spirits and assisted me in cheering on the men. At 8 p.m. we brought up in a small bay at the eastern entrance of Western Port; we were glad to get on shore to stretch our wearied limbs. After a refreshing night’s repose on the sandy beach we started the next morning at the break of day, happy in finding ourselves so near the end of our voyage. Having a strong and steady breeze from the eastward we sailed along very fast before it, although we were in imminent danger of being swamped, the sea having risen very considerably and breaking over us repeatedly. At 2 p.m. we were abreast of the Port Phillip Heads, but to our extreme mortification when within a mile of being in a secure harbour we found the strong ebb tide created such a ripple and so much broken water that I did not consider it prudent to run over it. We were, therefore, obliged to keep the boat’s head to winward from that time until the flood-tide would make; we were in this tantalizing situation for four hours, when to our inexpressible relief and joy we saw a cutter making for the heads, and bearing down upon her, found her to be Sisters, Captain Mulhall, to whose hospitable reception I cannot do sufficient justice. He took our boat in tow and ourselves on board, and landed us at William’s Town at 11 p.m.; having thus 63 hours from the time we left the ship to the time we landed at the beach. I cannot conclude this narrative without expressing my high sense of the extreme good conduct of the men who accompanied me on this voyage. Not a murmur escaped them, though continually wet and working hard during the whole passage.
Mr. Edwards, on finding himself in safety, was attacked by a spasmodic affection of the heart, which gave me much uneasiness, but from which I hope, by the kind treatment of his Melbourne friends, he will soon recover. The crew suffered much from over exertion and wet, occasioning in some cases dysentery. I suffered much in my eyes and face from constant exposure to the sun and salt water.
It was so early in the morning when I started, and I was so much hurried in making my arrangement, that I could not bring with me a correct list of the passengers on board; it is, however, satisfactory to know that no lives were lost, or bodily injury sustained whilst I was there. The mails were landed in safety, but I did not consider it prudent to bring them away with me.

Since the above was in type we have ascertained the following additional particulars:- Amongst the passengers were Mr. and Mrs. Walker, (Mrs. W. is daughter of Mr. Blaxland, M.L.C., and the present is the second ship wreck she has suffered;) Mr. Goodwin, (of the firm of Hamilton and Goodwin of this town,) to whom one-half of the cargo belonged; Mr. Robinson, of the Union Bank, having in his charge £3,000 of the banks notes, received at Sydney. The whole has been lost and is supposed to have been stolen – the Bank of course will sustain the loss; Mr. and Mrs. Cashmore, newly married, and bringing a large quantity of goods for the new establishment intended to be immediately opened at the corner of Collins and Elizabeth-streets. There were on board 300 tons of coals and 200 tons general cargo. At the time Mr. Simson [sic] left, her false keel and part of the sheathing was floating about the vessel, but she was not making any water, and he is of the opinion that should the weather continue moderate, she would be got off. When she first struck her rate of speed was upwards of 10 miles an hour. We are very sorry to have to add that the firemen, and some others, acted in a most disgraceful manner. – Port Phillip Herald, Jan 8.”

The Sydney Monitor & Commercial Advertiser, NSW, Monday 25th January 1841, page 2.

“The Revenue Cutter ‘Prince George,’ was dispatched on Friday, to the scene of the ‘Clonmel’s’ disaster, to render assistance towards saving that noble vessel.”

The Sydney Monitor & Commercial Advertiser, NSW, Wednesday 3rd February 1841, page 2.

“THE CLONMEL.- The ‘Sisters’ and ‘Will Watch’ have both returned from the ‘Clonmel’ with the passengers and part of the crew of that ill-fated vessel…”

External Links (about the wreck of the Clonmel):

History of the Clonmel:

http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/heritage/maritime/shipwrecks/shipwreck-stories/clonmel

Artefacts recovered from the Clonmel:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/heritage_victoria/sets/72157607371474539/

Footnotes:

[1] The Star, Ballarat, Vic, Wednesday 6th April 1859, page 2.

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2 comments on “1864: The Ship Inn Street Lamp, Port Albert, Victoria

  1. I never realised that F&U were into lanterns Ray,makes interesting reading,hope you find one??

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