Polly Woodside was one of thousands of merchant sailing vessels built for the booming international trade of the late nineteenth century, a remnant of the romantic era of sailing ships. Built in Belfast in 1885 and described as “the prettiest barque ever built in Belfast” she was named Polly, after Marian, the wife of her owner William Woodside.
Polly Woodside rounded the infamous Cape Horn 16 times carrying coal and nitrate between Europe and South America. Sold to New Zealand owners in 1904, she was renamed Rona and was a trading ship in the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean until 1924. The last 40 years of her working life, stripped of her masts and rigging, were spent as a coal hulk re-fuelling steamships in the Port of Melbourne. “Sold” to the National Trust for 1 cent in 1968, she was given back her original name Polly Woodside and lovingly restored by volunteers.
Since then, Polly has become a much-loved part of Melbourne landscape, with many thousands of visitors each year enjoying the opportunity to step aboard this famous ship and imagine life at sea. Polly Woodside was awarded the prestigious World Ship Trust Medal in 1988 for the quality of the restoration, joining ships such as Mary Rose (UK 1510), Great Britain (UK 1843) and Cutty Sark (UK 1869) to have received this honour.
Our CollectionThe collection includes the 1885 restored barque, "Polly Woodside", and a wooden walled dry dock and pumps dating from 1867. Also 10,000 photographs of ships, 2,000 library books (maritime) and 3,000 maritime artefacts.