Collections

The SA Maritime Museum preserves the oldest nautical collection in Australia. In 1872 the Port Adelaide Institute began a museum collection to complement its library and its educational and social programs. That collection grew over the following century reflecting the seafarers and the ships that visited Port Adelaide. It is now held in trust at the SA Maritime Museum.

The Maritime Museum’s collection ranges from the Port Adelaide Lighthouse that was first lit in 1869 to a plaque that explorer Matthew Flinders left at Memory Cove in 1802 to mark the loss to eight seafarers. It includes figureheads, nautical instruments, bathing costumes, shipwreck artefacts, paintings, models and vessels.

Our scope is the maritime heritage of South Australia from the coast to inland waters. The collection of over almost 20,000 objects and over 20,000 images is at once a window to the heritage of the local community and to the ships of the world..

Epergne

Decorative silver table piece from the head office of the Adelaide Steamship company.

An epergne is an elaborate table centerpiece, usually made of silver, popularised in the eighteenth century to accommodate large banquets. The design originated in France and the name derives from the French term épargne meaning to show thrift -  the concept being to maximize table space. It comprises a large central basket with branches radiating from it supporting smaller baskets which held exotic fruits, nuts, or sweetmeats.

This epergne in the neo-classical style was made by Thomas Pitts (1737- 1793) an English silversmith initially apprenticed to the Goldsmith Company (established 1744).  Pitt was famous for his finely crafted epergnes and silver basket work.

 

Creator: Thomas Pitts 

Caption: Sterling Silver Epergne dated 1788 from Adsteam

AccessionNo: HT2008682a-u(m)

Depth: 320 mm

Width: 655 mm

Height: 395 mm

Material: sterling silver, cut crystal

Date Created: 1788

Physical Description:
Elaborate, decorative sterling silverware with one large and six small basket-work, boat-shaped, glass lined bowls. Each bowl sits in an oval holder, six of which project from the open, oval stand on four legs. Regency style (1788). Acanthus leaves and swags of leaves decorate the stand. The object is partly dismantle-able - six arms can be removed. Each silver bowl bears a rooster and cockerel patriarchal cross engraved into its flank. The large bowl also bears a quartered shield with the words "IN LABORE QUIES". Each piece bears silver marks. A small pineapple finial sits at the centre of the stand. The object is comprised of 14 silver and seven glass pieces. The quartered coat of arms depicts the crest of the commissioner of the object William Helyar of Coker Somerset. The cockerel and patriarchal cross also represent that family.

Significance:
Part of the extensive collection of objects relating to the Adelaide Steamship Company in Australia. This epergne is illustrative of the style and association with luxury that the company attained during its height. The Adelaide Steamship Company (also known as Adsteam) was formed in 1875 and became Australia's largest shipping enterprise. Company ships touched almost every Australian port and were famous for their comfort and modernity. They carried passengers and cargo. The company also ran the famous Gulf Trips in South Australia. The company scaled back enormously in 1975. It was Australia’s largest and most successful shipping enterprise for over a century. Its vessels were famous for their comfort and modernity. This expensive table decoration reflected the company’s wealth and prestige.

Provenance:
Sterling Silver Epergne dated 1788. The epergne decorated the head office of the Adelaide Steamship Company (also known as Adsteam). An epergne is an elaborate table centerpiece, usually made of silver, popularised in the eighteenth century to accommodate large banquets. The design originated in France and the name derives from the French term épargne meaning to show thrift— the concept being to maximize table space. It comprises a large central basket with branches radiating from it supporting smaller baskets which held exotic fruits, nuts, or sweetmeats. This epergne in the neo-classical style was made by Thomas Pitts (1737- 1793) an English silversmith initially apprenticed to the Goldsmith Company (established 1744). Pitt was famous for his finely crafted epergnes and silver basket work.