First Fleet returns to Sydney…in miniature

‘To see all the ships safe in their destined port without ever having, by any accident been one hour separated; and all the people in as good health as could be expected or hoped for after so long a voyage, was a sight truly pleasing. And at which every heart must rejoice.’ - John White, surgeon embarked onboard Charlotte, 20 January 1788.

First Fleet ship models. Photograph Jenni Carter.

The First Fleet has returned to Sydney only this time on a much smaller scale – a scale of 1:48, to be precise.

The rare, full set of ships, not normally attempted by model builders, now stands proud in a display at the Museum of Sydney, corner of Bridge & Phillip Streets in the heart of the city open daily 9.30am to 5pm.

The ship makers, Lynne & Laurie Hadley, spent nine years intensively researching original plans, drawings and British archival documentation before embarking on building them.

The 11 replica ships, made from Western Red or Syrian Cedar, include the Supply, Charlotte, Scarborough, Friendship, Prince of Wales, Lady Penrhyn, Borrowdale, Alexander, Syrius, Fishburn and Golden Grove.

Purchased by the Historic Houses Trust in summer 2001, the replica ships are reminiscent of the motley assemblage of chartered vessels that carried over 1500 people, plus supplies, animal and plants, arriving in Sydney to set up a colony over 200 years ago.

The journey, which took just over eight months, was a tough one. Many of the vessels sailed poorly and sickness ran rife causing many deaths.

The successful arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay was cause for celebration. But to the aboriginal peoples looking on, the arrival of the ships marked the beginning of an era that would catastrophically affect their lives.

Take in the Trade Wall

Sydney has been a busy trading port for over 200 years. By the 1830s it was a bustling, multicultural, commercial port visited by ships travelling the world trade routes. The trade wall at Museum of Sydney is built of glass bricks containing goods available in Sydney shops of the 1830s as advertised in the daily papers of the time. An informative brochure is available providing fascinating information about each of the imports and exports depicted within the wall.

Museum of Sydney
on the site of first Government House
Cnr Bridge & Phillip Streets, Sydney
Open daily 9.30am – 5pm

For more information...
Historic Houses Trust Website

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