Historic ships of the world

Lady Elizabeth


The Lady Elizabeth some time between 1878 and 1913.
Photo: Mitchell Library of NSW: Small Photos Collection—Ships

The Barque


History and technical details compiled by Mori Flapan

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Technical Description


The sailing career of the Lady Elizabeth spanned some 34 years from 1879 to 1913. She then served as a coal hulk for a further 23 years or so from 1913 to about 1936.  

The barque Lady Elizabeth was built in 1879 by Robert Thompson &Sons of Sunderland . The firm of Robert Thompson built about 42 iron, steel or composite sailing ships between 1865 and 1892, most of which were barque rigged. They varied in size from 346 tons net to 2605 tons net. The Lady Elizabeth was the seventh largest of the vessels the firm built, having a net tonnage of 1155.  

1879 was a very quiet year for shipbuilding with only 27 or so iron, steel or composite square riggers being built world-wide. The Lady Elizabeth was just below the average size for the year, that average being 1218 tons net. The year’s launchings were 3 four-masted ships, 8 ships and 16 barques. As a barque of average size, the Lady Elizabeth is very representative of the sailing ships of her era.  

The first owner was John Wilson, believed to be a Western Australian shipping merchant. He purchased Lady Elizabeth to replace an earlier Lady Elizabeth that was wrecked in 1878 at Rottnest Island near Perth , Western Australia .  The second Lady Elizabeth was originally registered at London .  

John Wilson owned a number of vessels between about 1865 and the early 1880’s. His fleet included the barques Cubana (499nt), Elizabeth A.Oliver (619nt), Fitzroy (573nt), Helena Mena (673nt), Lady Elizabeth (1) (658nt), Lady Elizabeth (2) (1155nt), Lady Louisa (542nt), Sancta Bega (475nt) and the ship Wennington (882nt). The second Lady Elizabeth was the largest and last of the fleet. Within a few years of being acquired, the Lady Elizabeth was sold in the early 1880’s along with the remaining sailing ships under Wilson ’s flag.  

By 1885 the Lady Elizabeth was under the ownership of G.C.Karran of Castletown, Isle of Man. As well as the Lady Elizabeth, G.C.Karran at one time owned the ships Imberhorne (1997nt), Manx King (1703nt) and Macdiarmid (1560nt). Other members of the Karran family owned the barques Hope (250nt) and Manx Queen (303nt). Lady Elizabeth was G.C.Karran’s first ship and he kept the barque until 1906. G.C.Karran sold his last sailing ship just before the First World War.  

The Lady Elizabeth’s next owner was Skibsakties Lady Elizabeth (L.Lydersen) of Tvedestrand , Norway . Lars Lydersen owned a number of sailing vessels as single ship companies including the barques Glamis (1150nt), India (890nt) and Western Monarch (1315nt), the ship Heldos (ex Jessomene 1898nt) and 4 masted barques Sokoto (2193nt) and Vandura (2012nt). Starting with the India in the 1890’s, Lars Lydersen continued shipowning till just before the First World War.  

A number of other vessels were owned by Lars Lydersen's brother, Nils Andreas Lydersen, of the same port. These included the ship Arno (1685nt), Illawarra (1887nt) and Wasdale (1821nt) and the barque Canterbury (1245nt). Nils Andreas Lydersen later took over ownership of the Heldos, Sokoto and Vandura from Lars Lydersen. None of these vessels remained under the family’s ownership by 1919.  

In 1913, while on a passage from the West Coast of North America for Lourenco Marques, Lady Elizabeth was damaged off Cape Horn . Making for the Falkland Islands for repairs, she grounded on Ukraine Rock. On arrival at Port Stanley , she was condemned and converted into a coal hulk.  

The ship’s active service finished in 1936 when she blew ashore at Whalebone Cove and ownership eventually transferred to the Crown Receiver of Wrecks, Falkland Is.    


Technical Details



Lady Elizabeth


Official Number






R. Thompson, jnr., Sunderland , UK


Yard Number






June 1879




Riveted iron
1 deck (wood over iron beams)
2 tiers of beams.
1 watertight bulkhead (collision bulkhead)
Bar keel 8½" deep




3 masted Barque

Spike bowsprit
Royal & single topgallant over double topsails on fore &main
Gaff spanker




1208 gross
1091 underdeck
1155 net


Registered dimensions


223’ length x 35’ breadth x 21.4’ depth  

Deck erections


Poop 36' long of whaleback form having a rounded gunwale
Foc’s’le 21’ long of topgallant form raised above level of sheerline.
Deckhouse abaft foremast
Charthouse on poop abaft mizzen mast.


Moulded depth


22' 9"




4’ 3” by 1885
3' 11" by 1890
4' 0½" by 1898
3' 11½" by 1909




Lloyds Register of Shipping 1880, 1885, 1890, 1898, 1902, 1909.

Brouwer, Norman. International Register of Historic Ships

Gaby, Capt. John. Mate in Sail

Kenderdine, Sarah. Shipwrecks 1656-1942

Sea Breezes March 1962.

Various sources on the internet.



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