Captain Matthew Flinders Statue
Public Art: Captain Matthew Flinders Statue
Sculptor: © Charles Web Gilbert (March 18, 1867 -
October 3, 1925)
Date: Unveiled on the 7th November 1925.
Description: Bronze statue of Captain Matthew
Flinders standing proudly at the bow of his boat in his commander's uniform, as it is pulled ashore by two
Cast : Barbedienne Foundry, Paris, France.
Cost : £2,000
Background of Captain Matthew Flinders : Matthew Flinders (16 March 1774 – 19 July 1814) was a British naval navigator, chart maker and explorer
who was the first person to circumnavigate the Australian Continent (New Holland) in the ship 'Investigator', in
Matthew Flinders was born at Donington in Lincolnshire, England on the 16th of March 1774. As a child
he dreamed of becoming an explorer after being enthralled by Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson
Crusoe. By the age of fifteen he had joined the navy and begun training as a
navigator. Following his experiences at the battle of Brest Flinders headed to Australia for the first
time on the ship, HMS Reliance, in 1795. He returned to England and married Ann
Chappell until 1801, when the British Government invited Flinders to go back from whence he came, to head an
expedition to circumnavigate Australia and chart the coastline. He sailed back to Australia as commander of the
HMS Investigator and set sail from Sydney in July, 1802. By June 1803 he returned to
Sydney, having charted the east coast, Western Australia’s coastline (to include Cape Leeuwin and King George Sound) and the Gulf of Carpentaria, thus
successfully circumnavigating Australia.
Unfortunately fate was about to take a nasty turn. On his journey back
to England in 1803, he set ashore in Mauritius for repairs on his schooner. Unbeknownst to him, England was at war
with France (Napoleonic Wars) and he was promptly charged as a spy and interned by the French, in Mauritius. For
nearly seven long years Flinders remained a prisoner on the island until his release in 1810. Unfortunately poor
old Flinders never quite recovered from his ordeal. Shortly before his death in 1814 he completed a book,
'Voyage to Terra Australis'. Terra Australis meaning southern land which was derived from the word
"auster" which was a Latin name for southern wind. Flinders died at the age of forty on the day his book was
It was Matthew Flinders who suggested that the continent take on the name "Australia" which was later adopted in
1824. Click here History of Australia Online to find more info on Matthew Flinders.
History of the Captain Matthew Flinders Statue:
The idea of creating a memorial to Matthew Flinders was instigated by Henry Gyles Turner a
local banker, in 1913, who saw Flinders as important to Australia as Captain James Cook. In 1922 the grandson
of Flinders, Sir Flinders Petrie, offered as an incentive, all of his grandfather's papers to the first State in
Australia to erect a statue in Flinders' honor. Unfortunately for Melbourne it was Sydney who won the the
race. Today the papers of Matthew Flinders reside in Sydney's Mitchell Library. Three years later Charles Web
Gilbert, a self taught Australian sculptor, completed what was to be his most famous piece of work. Gilbert had the
sculpture cast at the famous Barbedienne Foundry in Paris, France (which operated from 1838-1952). Sadly
Gilbert would never live to see his final work displayed, he died a month before it was unveiled. Over 3,000
people gathered around St Paul's Cathedral as Governor Lord Stradbroke unveiled the Matthew Flinders
Statue and the Cathedral choir sang.
Trivia: Melbourne's Flinders Street and Station were
named in honour of the cartographer and explorer.
Other Matthew Flinders Statues :
Matthew Flinders Sydney