World Significance

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The significance of the City of Adelaide is not in doubt. It is:

  • the world's oldest surviving clipper ship,
  • one of only two surviving composite clippers (the other is the Cutty Sark; built 1869),
  • one of only four surviving sailing ships to have taken emigrants from the British Isles to any destination in the world – the others are the Edwin Fox, Star of India and SS Great Britain (also a steamer),
  • the last survivor of the timber trade between North America and the United Kingdom,
  • part of the National Historic Fleet of the United Kingdom and listed in the prestigious Core Collection of the United Kingdom.

The City of Adelaide is of major historical importance. Its status is conferred by a number of essential elements and the clipper fulfils, or largely fulfils, all ten of criteria for assessing historic ships as defined by the UK’s National Register of Historic Vessels. The City of Adelaide is of national significance specifically to the United Kingdom and to Australia and, because of its rarity, is of international significance.

Significance Criteria

What is the vessel’s ability to demonstrate technological innovation?

The City of Adelaide was built in the years prior to Lloyds publishing their rules for composite ship construction and thus is an important example in the development of composite ships.

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Is the vessel a good example of type (vessel) design and construction?

The City of Adelaide is one of only two surviving composite clippers and is in reasonably good condition for a vessel of its age.

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Is the vessel a good example of a maritime function (purpose for which it was built)?

The City of Adelaide is the only surviving purpose built passenger sailing ship.

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Does the vessel exhibit a positive aesthetic impact?

Clipper ships are regarded as being the most graceful of all the sailing ships. The City of Adelaide will need considerable husbandry to improve its cosmetic appearance.

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Does the vessel have historical associations with significant people, places and events?

The City of Adelaide is the only surviving sailing ship built to give regular passenger and cargo service between Europe and Australia.

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Does the vessel have significant socio-economic associations?

The City of Adelaide is regarded as a vital icon of the making of modern Australia, and of the relationship between Britain and the Australian colonies.

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Can the percentage of the original fabric (with reference to that surviving at the end of the vessel’s working life) be estimated?

Lower Hold of 'City of Adelaide'
Lower Hold of 'City of Adelaide'

The City of Adelaide has its original hull planking and composite framing and some of its deck timbers are believed to be of 19th century origin.

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Is the vessel of a significant age?

The 7th of May 2014 marks the 150th birthday of the City of Adelaide.

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How scarce are the examples of this vessel type or construction?

The City of Adelaide is the elder of only two surviving clipper ships.

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How scarce are examples of this maritime function?

The City of Adelaide is the only surviving purpose built passenger sailing ship.

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