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Clipper Ship Orient 1032 Tons - Messrs James Thomson and Co Owners, Thomas Bilbe and Co Builders RMG PY8541.jpg
Orient by Thomas Goldsworthy Dutton and William Foster, about 1860
United Kingdom
Port of registry
BuilderThomas Bilbe, Rotherhithe
Completed14 December 1853
FateScrapped 1925
General characteristics
Tonnage1,133 GRT, 1,032 NRT
Length184.4 ft (56.2 m)
Beam31.7 ft (9.7 m)
Depth21.1 ft (6.4 m)
Sail plan

Orient was a wooden-hulled, three-masted sailing ship that was built in England in 1853 and scrapped in Gibraltar in 1925. She served in the Crimean War, and then spent two decades with James Thompson & Co's "Orient Line" of ships sailing between Great Britain and South Australia.

Orient was built as a full-rigged ship. In 1886 she was reduced to a barque. In 1890 she was converted into a hulk, and in 1925 she was scrapped.


Thomas Bilbe built Orient at Nelson Dock, Cuckold's Point, Rotherhithe, launching her in 1853 and completing her on 14 December that year. Her registered length was 184.4 ft (56.2 m), her beam was 31.7 ft (9.7 m) and her depth was 21.1 ft (6.4 m).[1] Her tonnages were 1,133 GRT and 1,032 NRT.[2]

She had a composite hull with an iron frame and timber planks. Beneath a 61-foot (19 m) poop she was fitted with cabin space, not included in any earlier Bilbe design.[citation needed]

Orient's first owner was James Thomson & Co (also spelt Thompson), who registered her in London.[2] Her United Kingdom official number was 12981 and her code letters were VTHC.[3]


Orient did not immediately enter the trade with Australia for which she was built. The Crimean War began in October 1854, two months before Bilbe completed her. As soon as she was completed, the UK Government chartered her as "Transport No. 78".[1] She started her war service as a troop ship, carrying military materiél and members of the 88th Regiment of Foot to Crimea.[citation needed]

From October 1855 Orient was a hospital ship.[1] In 1856 the UK Government returned her to her owners.

In 1856 Orient finally made her first voyage to Australia. Commanded by Captain A Lawrence she took prospectors to Sydney who were headed for Australia's goldfields.[citation needed]

In 1857 Orient sailed direct from Portsmouth to Adelaide. She made similar trips every year until 1877. It was at the inauguration of a liner service to Australia in 1861 that Thompson & Co began trading as "The Orient Line of Packets", commonly called the "Orient Line".[citation needed]

In January 1862 Orient was sailing from Cape Town to London when she caught fire in the South Atlantic and was nearly destroyed.[1] A Dutch ship was standing by to rescue those on board, and the captain and crew could have left the ship, but resolutely over the course of a day brought the fire under control. She was able to reach Ascension Island, where her damaged cargo was discharged and she was given temporary repairs. Captain Lawrence, his officers and crew were handsomely rewarded by the insurance underwriters for their efforts.[citation needed]

Orient's second Master was Captain Harris, under whom she made some of her fastest passages from Plymouth to Port Adelaide, notably 72 days in 1866. Later Masters were Roland De Steiger 1868–1871, WH Mitchell 1873–1876, and Martin Haffner 1876–1878.[4]

In April 1879 Cox Brothers bought Orient and registered her in Waterford, Ireland, who used her in trans-Atlantic trade. In 1886 they had her rig reduced to a barque. In 1890 Smith, Imossi & Co, agents for the P&O, bought her and turned her into a coal hulk at Gibraltar. In 1925 she was scrapped at Gibraltar.[1]


Some other clippers on the England to Adelaide run


  1. ^ a b c d e "Orient". Shipping and Shipbuilding. Shipping and Shipbuilding Research Trust. Retrieved 28 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping. London: Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping. 1857. O. Retrieved 28 May 2022 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Mercantile Navy List. 1871. p. 262. Retrieved 27 May 2022 – via Crew List Index Project.
  4. ^ "Some famous Clipper Ships of Olden Days". The Observer. Vol. LXXVIII, no. 5, 841. Adelaide. 1 January 1921. p. 26. Retrieved 5 April 2017 – via Trove.