The Victorian Fleet in 1888

1872 Gregory painting

Vellacot painting of HMVS Nelson

mouseover on main image mouseover individual ships

The original painting, The Victorian Fleet, by Arthur Victor Gregory, painted in 1888, is held by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

According to The Argus, 21 June 1941, the painting was originally displayed in the Williamstown Town Hall.

From AWM 305447.
Shown in the painting above are:- (mouseover ships)

HMVS Cerberus, HMVS Nelson, HMVS Gannet, HMVS Batman, HMVS Fawkner,

HMVS Victoria, HMVS Albert, HMVS Lady Loch,

Childers, Gordon, Commissioner

Lonsdale, Nepean and Customs No. 1.

There is a mystery ship between Batman and Fawkner.

Photo courtesy of Lynne Moore

The purchase by Friends of the Cerberus of a copy of the above painting was made possible through donations by the following supporters :-

John Baragwanath, Lindsay Rex, Jeremy Graham, Greg Curzon-Siggers, Brian Russell, Edward Brazil, Frederick J. Howard, Terry Davidson, Max & Noreen Roberts, T. Newton, Maritime Museum of Victoria, Terry Sofian, John Morgan, Brian Russell, Terry Davidson, Edward Stanley, Ian Fletcher, Frank Noonan and Lorna Sprunt.

The vessels have been identified from the above item in The Argus on 21 June 1941.

Arthur Victor Gregory (1867-1957) & George Frederick Gregory (1821-1887)

Arthur was the son of George Frederick Gregory, who painted The Victorian Fleet in 1872 (below). Both George & Arthur were famous marine painters. Arthur was marine artist to Lord Brassey, K.C.B., Henry Loch, M.C.M.B., the Victorian Navy and the Marine Companies.

The Victorian Fleet in 1872

   CerberusNelsonMail Steamer

Note: The Mail Steamer, was not part of the Victorian Navy.

The Victorian Fleet in 1872 was generously donated to Friends of the Cerberus by Juanita Scott. This watercolour painting of Cerberus, Nelson & a Mail Steamer was painted in 1872 by George Frederick Gregory (1821-1887). It complements the painting by his son, Arthur Victor Gregory, of the Victorian Fleet in 1888.

Painted one year after the arrival of Cerberus in Australia, it would appear that the painter was more impressed with majestic sailing ships (with topgallant yards added) than with a modern battleship that looked quite different to a "real warship". It would be a mistake though to equate appearance with power. To quote John Bastock in Australian Ships of War, Cerberus "would have proved more than a match for the combined British Squadron then on the Australian Station". Ships such as Cerberus had made wooden Men-of-War obsolete. They sure looked good though.

HMVS Nelson

HMVS Nelson in 1874.

Watercolour painting of HMVS Nelson by John William Vellacott (1855-1914).

Courtesy of Ray & Betty Lewis, originating from Tom Marr of Williamstown

Given that Nelson did not carry topgallant sails (as depicted), the painting was most like done after 1886 when Vellacott arrived in Victoria, rather than had he been passing through in 1874.

Mousever for images of Nelson in the 1870s.

Click image at right to enlarge.

Nelson Timeline

John William Vellacott was born in 1855 in Didderford, Devonshire and served as a cadet on board HMS Worcester from 1868 to 1871. He then served in the merchant service in the Bay of Biscay, Cape Horn, Mediterranean and East Indian Trades.

In 1886 John was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London and arrived in Australia the same year.

In 1897 John was living in "Holyrood" Sandringham, Victoria, when he complained to the local council about the proposed paving of Little Richardson Street. He wrote stating "I see no reason why the public should be humbugged".

John was for many years the marine artist for Lord Brassey and was described as having a genial disposition. He posessed a fund of anecdotes which he told to his many friends.

In 1902 John was appointed the surveyor at Newcastle (NSW) to Lloyd's Register.

Within a few days of returning from holidaying in Europe and America John died in Newcastle on the 15th of July 1914.

Paintings by John William Vellacott

Clipper Ship Sobraon Image
Carlysle Castle Image
HMS Victory, Portsmouth Harbour
HMVS Nelson (above)
Reception of the Earl of Hopetoun on board the R.M.S. Rome, Port Phillip, 28 November 1889 Image
SS Bungaree
SS Narrung off Point Lonsdale. c. 1900
The Steamer
Three Masted British Man of War