Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Lady Lyttleton (1867/07/17)

Albany, Oyster Harbour, Emu Point Channel

Lady Lyttleton formerly Sultan (?-1867)

Official Number: 32704
Port of Registration: Melbourne
Rig Type: Barque
Hull: Wood
Length: 94.4 ft (28.77 m)
Breadth: 21.1 ft (6.43 m)
Depth: 9.7 ft (2.96 m)
Tonnage: 178.3 gross, 139.37 underdeck
Port from: Adelaide
Port to: Fremantle
Date lost: 17 July 1867
Location: Emu Point
Chart Number: WA 1083, AUS 110, AUS 118 & BA 2619
GPS position: Lat. 34º 59.86302’ S
Long. 117º 57.0186’ E
Finders: Joe Castlehow & John Bell
Protection: Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. Gazetted 8 September 1977
Significance criteria: 2

The Lady Lyttleton was originally built as the Sultan and had one deck and a full female figurehead. To date endeavours to find when and where it was built have proved unsuccessful. It was registered at Sydney in 1861 (No. 40/1861), the owners being Alex Young and John Howard, and was then stated as being ‘foreign built’. It was sold to Harold Selwyn Smith of Melbourne in 1866, and registered at that port (No. 13/1866). In 1867 the barque was under the command of Captain John McArthur with a crew of ten, and was sailing from Melbourne for Fremantle, calling at Warrnambool and Adelaide en route. Part of the cargo consisted of 224 bags of barley from Melbourne and 1 410 bags of potatoes from Warrnambool to be offloaded at Adelaide. However the bulk of the cargo was destined for Fremantle.

The Lady Lyttleton departed Adelaide on 29 May with three passengers, Mrs Hogan and Mr and Mrs Carmody, plus a very mixed cargo. This included, amongst other items, two bales of paper, kegs of tobacco, stationery, hardware, drapery, dried fruit, oatmeal, saddlery, 18 tons bran, 10 tons pollard, 443 tons of barley, barrels of pork which had been loaded at Adelaide, plus the remainder of the cargo which had been loaded at Melbourne. Also included were 10 cases of ‘oilmen’s stores’ consigned to prominent Fremantle businessman Elias Solomon.

On 16 June 1867 the Lady Lyttleton sailed into King George Sound leaking badly. One report states that it had also been dismasted (Perth Gazette, 5 July 1867: 2c). Part of the cargo had been jettisoned prior to the Lady Lyttleton arriving at Albany. The bulk of this jettisoned cargo consisted of flour. Having removed the remainder of the cargo (most of which was damaged), the barque was taken to Emu Point to be hove down for examination and repairs made to the underwater section of the hull. (See Appendix on Careening.)

The Lady Lyttleton was hove down by tackles from the mastheads to the shore. Somehow the vessel slipped, and, being unable to return to an upright position because of the tackles on the masts, it filled and sank. There is no indication of exactly when this occurred but it was probably about 17 July 1867. As late as January 1927 it was reported that ‘her stem and stern posts can still be seen on the east bank of the Emu Point channel’ (Western Mail, 27 January 1927: 14a).

The cargo which had survived aboard the Lady Lyttleton had been subsequently off loaded on its arrival at Albany. Part of this, consisting of 537 bars of iron, 98 bundles of iron, 60 axles, and general merchandise consisting of 72 boxes, 400 cases plus various bales and packages. This was subsequently shipped to Fremantle on the Emily Smith (142 tons, Captain W. Davidson), arriving on 16 August 1867. A further shipment of 41 packages of merchandise, 20 cases of geneva [gin] and 30 packages of tobacco arrived at Fremantle on board the Midas two months later.

The following year the Albany Police Station ocurences book had the following entry:
28 June 1868. Sub-inspector Finlay and PC Foley started for Oyster Harbour, it having been reported that a quantity of wreckage had drifted ashore in various places on to that part of the coast from the ship Lady Lyttleton, which sank there about June 1867. PCs Rafferty and Hayman started by boat to join up with the other party at the wreck site (quoted in Dickson, 2012: 60).

The following day the entry noted their return:
29 August 1868. The search parties return from the wreck at Oyster Harbour. They found 2 dishes, 1 canteen, 2 coils of rope, some blocks, 23 tins of blacklead, 1 pair of can hooks, 1 drag chain and 2 marlin spikes. These items had been taken from the wreck of the Lady Lyttleton and not found on the shore as reported (ibid.).

The figurehead of the Lady Lyttleton was purchased by Campbell Taylor. It and the figurehead from the hulk Larkins, which he also bought, were taken to his farm at Candyup.

The wreck of the Lady Lyttleton lies off the north-east point of the channel leading in to Oyster Harbour.

A section of the hull of the Lady Lyttleton lies buried in the sand in 7-13 m of water about 15 m off the shore. The keelson, frames and planking have been excavated. The wreck lies with the keelson parallel with the shore, and the bow pointing northwards. A large windlass is near the bow and a corroded iron tank (probably a water tank) lies some 2-3 m aft of this. Nearby are two large trypots lying on their side, with a third trypot lying upright deeper in the channel. A corroded iron drum and a fragile wooden spar are also visible.

On 25 September 1868 Sub-Inspector William Finlay of Albany reported to his superintendent that on 29 August he had recovered from the wreck of the Lady Lyttleton:
2 coils rope, 3 paint brushes, ½ tin black paint, 2 marlin spikes, 1 pr can hooks & drag chain, 2 dishes (earthen), 1 plate (do), 2 mugs (do), & 1 old block (SRO Acc 129, File 12/416).

He wished to know what to do with the items. The receiver of wrecks, Worsley Clifton, wrote a reply on 9 October 1868 stating that the items must be handed to the nearest sub-collector of customs. He went on to state:
If claimed by a lawful owner I can dispose of the case at once and if unclaimed they must remain twelve months and a day in my hands before they can be sold.
The salvor is entitled to one third their price under any circumstances as well as any legitimate expenses in handing them to the proper officer.
The Merchant Shipping Act is very clear on these questions and I enclose an extract from my instructions on the subject (SRO Acc 129, File 12/416).

In 1961 local divers recovered some artefacts including an anchor, the rudder and pintles and an extremely corroded sextant. These items are now in the Western Australian Museum, although prior to their acquisition by the Museum part of the rudder was sawn off. This piece was used to make a bench now at the Spencer Park School. A Western Australian Museum excavation in 1978 recovered a number of other items including a pair of nested iron pots, part of a slate log, some Muntz metal sheathing and a pulley sheave.

In 1990 two students of the Graduate Diploma of Maritime Archaeology course, Tom Vosmer and Jim Wright, carried out further excavations and research on the Lady Lyttleton in an endeavour to find when and where it was built. They took 17 timber samples, and samples of ballast stone, coal, possible caulking material, a square-section copper alloys spike, a coin and the remains of a pair of shoes. The timber samples proved to be mainly oak and pitch pine, northern hemisphere timbers found in both Europe and America. A coin recovered at this time was identified as a Chilean medio centavo, or half cent, dated 1853.

Despite the number of timber samples taken and subsequently analysed, and a close perusal of available records, the date and place of building of the Sultan later renamed Lady Lyttleton remains a mystery. Further research may resolve this problem.

Dickson, R., 2012, Maritime Matters of the South Coast of Western Australia: Every Known Maritime Incident from the Leeuwin to Eucla. Hesperian Press, Victoria Park.

Gainsford, M. & Souter, C., 2005, Albany Wreck Inspection, Terrestrial Inspections and Perth Conservation studies, 2005. Report – Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum, No. 206.

Marshall, G., 2001, Maritime Albany Remembered. Tangee Pty Ltd, Kalamunda.

Perth Gazette and West Australian Times, 17 May 1867: 3a, 14 June 1867: 3a, 5 July 1867: 2c, 12 July 1867: 2c, 16 August 1867: 2c & 25 October 1867: 2c.

South Australian Advertiser, 20 May 1867: 2a-b, 31 May 1867: 2a & 1 June 1867: 2b.

Vosmer, T., 1990, Field project for Graduate Diploma Course in Maritime Arcaeology, Albany, July 1990. Unpublished manuscript, Battye Library.

Vosmer, T. & Wright, J., 1990, Lady Lyttleton: A Search for Origins. Bulletin of the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, 15.1: 19-30.

Western Australian Museum, Department of Maritime Archaeology, File No. 195/72 – Lady Lyttleton & 193/79 – Coal hulks Albany.

Western Mail, 27 January 1927: 14a.

Figurehead purchased by Mr Campbell Taylor and erected at gateway to Candyup Homestead. Later offered to WA Museum Board by Mr H.C. Poole, together with figurehead Lady Lyttleton.


Ship Built

Owner Harold Smith of Melbourne

Master John McArthur

Country Built WA

Port Registered Melbourne?

Ship Lost

Gouped Region South-Coast

When Lost 1867/07/17

Where Lost Albany, Oyster Harbour, Emu Point Channel

Latitude -34.997717

Longitude 117.95031

Position Information GPS 2005

Port From Adelaide

Port To Fremantle

Cargo Flour

Ship Details

Engine N

Length 28.80

Beam 6.40

TONA 178.00

Draft 3.00

Museum Reference

Official Number 32704

Unique Number 1320

Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk

File Number 2009/0148/SG _MA-352/77

Chart Number AUS 118

Protected Protected State

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected 1991/07

Confidential NO