Height: 22 inches (56cm) Width: 54 inches (137cm) Depth: 10 inches (25.5cm)
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This wooden model is painted in both light and dark grey with a white gunport band and faux gunports, a golden lion figurehead and the name Vimiera in applied gold lettering on the bow. There are three masts, sparse deck fittings and mahogany rails. The boxwood decks and coach houses are painted with planking and portholes. Set on a mahogany plinth with a plaque stating, ‘Owned by Mr. Duncan Dunbar, London’. Three letters between an ancestor of Sir James Laing’s cousin and the Manager of Deptford Shipyard, Sunderland from 1937 accompany this piece. English, 1851.
Vimiera was built for Duncan Dunbar (1804-1862) by prominent Sunderland ship builder Sir James Laing (1823-1901) was intended to trade between London and Sydney. She was launched on June 16th 1851. At 165 feet and 1037 tons she was the largest ship ever built in that port. Newspaper reports from the time were fulsome in their praise. ‘The arrangements on board for a passenger ship, tire of the most superb description, and she being expressly built for this trade is the largest vessel in the line’ and ‘The Vimiera presents one of the most magnificent and exquisitely finished specimens of naval architecture ever produced by the shipwrights of the Wear, and one which will serve to keep up and extend their reputation as shipbuilders; whilst, it is enough to say that the model, so ably designed by Mr. Laing, has been completed with equal ability by his workmen.’ Numerous other accounts of the ship’s history mention a scale model commissioned by James Laing to be sent to the Crystal Palace Exhibition of the same year. One of the letters accompanying this model assert that the family believed this to be that very model, however, the ship’s original figurehead was described as ‘a graceful representation of Fame blowing a trumpet carved by Mr. Brooks, of Maryport’ and the Crystal Palace Official Catalogue describes the model as being finished on one side and open on the other side to reveal the interior.
There have been several ships, including a World War I Royal Navy destroyer, called Vimiera or Vimeira after the Duke of Wellington’s victory at Vimeiro on 21 August 1808. In fact, both spellings of the name were used for the Dunbar ship, causing some confusion with her registration. That aside, her career is very well-recorded. She had the registered number 806 and the signal HFKR and was sold on at least four occasions, being one of the first two full-rigged ships owned by Devitt and Moore, another famous shipping company concentrating on the Australian trade. In 1865 she acted as a convict ship, transporting 280 convicts to Australia. The vessel was converted to a smaller three-masted barque in 1872 and then, after a long period of distinguished service, broken up in 1903.
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A fine model of sailing ship Vimiera built for Duncan Dunbar, 1851