Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery - May 2016

Object of the Month

April's Object of the Month is a beloved Barque ship model that has been on display for almost sixty years. A Barque ship had three or more masts, which meant they could easily be manned by smaller crews, making them ideal for commercial use. Famous examples of Barque ships include the Cutty Sark and Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour. This particular model represents similar ships used in the Australian Wool Trade towards the end of Queen Victoria’s rule.

Throughout the late 1800s Australia had a booming wool trade, specialising in Merino wool. Merino sheep were imported from Spain in the 1800s and became an important part of the national economy. The popularity of the wool trade led to Britain importing wool from Australia to redistribute to mainland Europe. The journey from Australia to Great Britain lasted several months and was often met with disaster. Many newspaper articles reported damaged ships and loss of lives. One article reports that when a Barque was sailing to Australia it was stranded and drifting off the coast of Tahiti for seven weeks before being towed to land.

The prize-winning model was made by Peter Guthrie-Smith and was kindly gifted to the museum in 1953. The model underwent minimal conservation in 2006 to be cleaned and to fix rigging before being redisplayed.  Why not visit the museum or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to find out about more wonderful objects on display and in the collection.  

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