Of all the ships ever built, none were more beautiful or better built than the tea clippers of the 1860's. All of them were lavishly built using the finest material. Each line owner had their favorite pet ship and would spare no expense in her upkeep. Some believe that the most yacht-like of them all was the Baring clipper NORMAN COURT.
The clipper was launched from the Glasgow yard of A. and J. Inglis, her designer being John Rennie. Her tonnage and dimensions were as follows: 834 tons, 197 feet 4 inches length, 33 feet breadth, and 20 feet depth, and she was classed for 16 years as A1. There was some contention over her lines. When the builder examined the lines of the designer, they found she would come out over his estimate of tonnage. The designer, John Rennie, was indignant over this, but some changes had to be made since Lloyd's class designation depended on the final measurements and tonnage. As a result of the changes, the NORMAN COURT turned out to be one of the most weatherly of the whole tea fleet, but she was always rather tender, and this Rennie and her captain put down to the altered plans, though the builders stoutly declared that the stability of the ship was in no way reduced by the alterations. In reality, the NORMAN COURT was given a very tall sail plan. This is proven by the fact that, on July 4th, while laying in the Shanghai river, the American superintendent of the Hankow Wharf brought a huge American flag to the ship and asked her captain to fly it at his main-truck, noting that the stars and strips would then be flying higher than any other flag in the port.
This is not to imply that she was overspared. Like all tea clippers, she required skillful handling and could easily be destroyed by carelessness. She was always considered the prettiest-rigged vessel sailing out of London. The local shipwrights and riggers called her the Queen of the Thames. For someone who loves tall graceful masts and spars, this would be a magnificent model. Some of her spar and sail measurements are as follows:
• Bowsprit and jib-booms (extreme length) -- 68 feet, 4 � inches.
• Mainmast, deck to truck 139 feet
• Main yard 74 feet.
• Main lower topsail-yard 65 feet.
• Main upper topsail-yard 60 feet.
• Main topgallant-yard 44 feet.
• Main royal-yard 32 feet
• Main skysail-yard 24 feet.
• Mainsail: Head 61 feet, leeches 35 feet, foot 68 feet, bunt, 32 feet.
• Main skysail: Head 22 feet, leeches 10 feet 9 inches, foot 27 feet, bunt 9 feet.
• Main topmast staysail: Luff 71 feet, leech 56 feet 6 inches, foot 35 feet 6 inches.
• Spanker: Head 23 feet 6 inches, foot 45 feet 6 inches, leech 49 feet 9 inches, luff 27 feet.
The NORMAN COURT was named after the Hampshire home of her owner, Thomas Baring. Her figurehead was a beautifully carved and modeled nymph-like figure, which represented one of the family beauties. Her first commander was Captain Andrew Shewan, senior - he was relieved in 1873 by his son who commanded her until 1879. He in turn was succeeded by Captain "Dandy" Dunn who had her until she was sold to Messrs. Baine & Johnson, of Greenock. The NORMAN COURT proved over and over again that she was one of the best tea clippers of her day and she was always in the top flight of the China trade. Her record passage was 94 days out from Macao to the Lizard in 1872. Her best week's work was in 1874 when she went 2,046 miles. The daily runs were 308, 303, 319, 283, 271, 273, and 289. There were several instances when NORMAN COURT had the better of SIR LANCELOT, another of the fastest tea clippers of her time.
By the time Captain Dunn took command in 1879 cargoes were becoming hard to get for the little China clippers. As a result, Captain Dunn no longer took the NORMAN COURT to China. She went to the Coromandel Coast in 1880-1881 and brought home a second-class cargo of jaggery or palm sugar, myrobalans (a kind of dye nut) and bales of buffalo and deer horns. Barings was not content with the small return on this voyage when she came home and thus sold NORMAN COURT to Baine & Johnson. Her new owners put her into the Java sugar trade and appointed Captain McBride as her commander. She sailed this trade until 1883. On March 29th, when leaving Queenstown, she was wrecked in Cymmeran Bay, Anglesea, in a violent SW gale.
The poor little NORMAN COURT stranded about � mile from the high-water mark and quickly filled with water, the crew taking to the rigging. Early the following morning the Rhosneigr lifeboat made an attempt to reach the wreck, but she was driven back to the beach by the heavy surf. All that day the crew of the NORMAN COURT hung lashed to the rigging, without food and exposed to the bitter wind. Two of the crew, the old steward and one able seaman died before nightfall. At last, after 25 hours in the rigging of the ship, the 20 remaining crewmembers were rescued by a volunteer crew in the Rhosneigr lifeboat.
The wreck of the ship was condemned and sold for the price of the copper. Her iron ribs were seen for a long time sticking out of the sand at very low tide and her beautiful figure-head now graces a neighboring garden.
The design stamp is made after painting of Jack Spurling.
Sources:http://www.shipmodelersassociation.org/ ... am9809.htm. http://www.spurlingandrouxwatercolours.com/mptc2.html
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