Quarter block ship model, SS 'Lady Napier', wood, designed by Norman Selfe, made by G. Ellis, Balmain, Australia, 1892
Since 1861, ferries have provided a faster and more reliable means of transport for residents along Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River, helping to play an important role in the growth and development of such suburbs as Manly, Mosman, Circular Quay and Balmain. This half-ship model of the SS 'Lady Napier' represents the type of ferries that serviced the Balmain run, the only south shore ferry service which has continued uninterrupted to the present day.
The 'Lady Napier' was the second ferry commissioned in a series of 'Lady' vessels (after the 'Lady Mary' 1892) and is a class of ferry which is still in use today. The 'Lady' series, as shown with the 'Lady Napier', were double-ended ferries that characterised the refined operation of the double-ended type. They marked the beginning of the mainstay of ferry operations and also act as a legacy for Norman Selfe, the designer of the first double-ended screw ferry (the 'Wallaby'), who was to be succeeded by the eventual pioneer of this design, Walter Reeks.
The 'Lady Napier' was built in Sydney and attests to a once vibrant shipbuilding industry that operated on the shores of Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River, while this particular model, also made in Sydney, is an excellent example of the model making abilities and ingenuity of the Scottish expatriate shipwright, James Scott.
Ship models such as this one were made for shipbuilders to assist in their full-scale construction, helping to provide the builder with an idea of the vessel's fittings, riggings and sail plans, as well as helping to show the ratio of length to beam and the fining of her entry and stern. This ship model also acts as a legacy of the SS 'Lady Napier' which was disposed of in 1934.
Andrews, G., "A Pictorial History of Ferries: Sydney and Surrounding Waterways" (Sydney, 1982) p.116
Andrews, G., "Ferries of Sydney" (Sydney, 1994) pp.39, 90 & 110
Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, "Norman Selfe", http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A060115b.htm (Downloaded 24/4/2007)
This quarter block model of the 'Lady Napier' was designed by Norman Selfe and made by G. Ellis of the Balmain New Ferry Company, Sydney in 1892.
Norman Selfe was a civil and mechanical engineer, inventor and teacher who was born in Teddington, Middlesex, England on December 9, 1839. In January 1855, Selfe arrived in Australia and one year later (at the age of 17) began work as an apprentice for P.N. Russell & Co where he later became chief draftsman. From 1865-1868, Selfe was in partnership with James Dunlop and was responsible for designing and building major installations for the Australasian Mineral Oil Company, the Western Kerosene Oil Company and the Australian Gaslight Company. In 1869, he became chief engineer and draftsman for Mort's Dock & Engineering Co, designing the machinery for the 500 tonne 'Governor Blackall'.
In 1876, Selfe set up private practice, designing over 50 steamships including 2 torpedo boats for the New South Wales Government and the first double-ended screw ferry, the 'Wallaby'. Selfe reputedly introduced the compound engine in Australian boats and was also an expert in dock design, building the first concrete quay wall in Sydney Harbour and most of the wharves for deep-sea vessels. Furthermore, Selfe was a strong advocate of a 'Circular City Railway' linking Sydney's outlying suburbs to the ferries and was also responsible for introducing ice-making machines and lifts into Australian society.
Selfe died on October 15, 1911 at Normanhurst, Sydney (the suburb which is aptly named after him) and is buried in the Gore Hill cemetery.
The 'Lady Napier' was the second ship produced in a series of 'Lady' vessels after the 'Lady Mary', 1892 and before 'Lady Manning', 1893 and 'Lady Hampden', 1896. The 'Napier' was built for ownership and use by the Balmain New Ferry Company and was primarily used for servicing the Balmain run.
The Balmain New Ferry Company can be traced back to 1842 when Henry Perdriau established a Sydney ferry service to the city of Sydney (the Balmain Ferry Fleet). This company operated until 1882 at which time it was sold to the Balmain Steam Ferry Company. For 10 years the company operated uninterrupted until a rival group, the Balmain New Ferry Company was formed in 1892 to offer more competitive fares for passengers (one penny instead of three pence). The Balmain New Ferry Company bought out the Balmain Steam Ferry Company in 1900 and in 1906 also bought the Hunters Hill and Lane Cove Ferry Company from Jules Joubert. In 1917, the Balmain New Ferry Company was taken over by Sydney Ferries Ltd. The Balmain ferry service, however, is still in operation today and is the only south shore ferry service which has been able to continue uninterrupted.
The 'Lady Napier' worked until 1928 (at which time it was converted to a houseboat) before being broken up in 1934.