Model Sailing Ship


Wingham Museum


Model Sailing Ship

About this object

This well detailed hand crafted wooden model of a Barquentine sailing ship was built by Thomas Thornley [1865-1933] lighthouse keeper at Crowdy Head from 1892 until 1920 when the lighthouse was automated. It is believed Thomas built the model as a gift for his daughter Nell and survives today in its original sealed glass case.

Crowdy Head lighthouse and keeper’s cottage was built in 1878 and became operational in 1879. Thomas Thornley was the lighthouse’s third keeper. Lighthouse keeping was often a family job and in this case, Thomas’ wife Alice was employed as assistant lighthouse keeper and his daughter Nell as housekeeper.

Lighthouse keepers usually worked in isolated and lonely areas, and model ship building was a common hobby of lighthouse keeper’s reflecting their affection for the sea and the many ships that sailed past them. Many lighthouse keepers built models to help pass the time and as a relief from the many monotonous and daily repetitive tasks of tending to the lighthouse maintenance.

Thomas Thornley had a long association with the sea and his observation of grain ships passing the lighthouse was likely the inspiration for this model. Each element of the model is detailed and well crafted including its masts and rigging. Perhaps Thomas built the model to capture a large timber ship going out of fashion.

This model is a reminder of the beauty of sailing ships of a bygone era and reflects Thomas Thornley’s love of the ocean, and the ships he helped protect and guide in his role as a lighthouse keeper.

Barbara Waters
1 August 2014

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