Supreme Court of New South Wales

The Oar Mace of Admiralty

By virtue of an Order of Council of 1911 the Supreme Court of New South Wales acquired full jurisdiction in Admiralty, equivalent to that exercised by the Admiralty Court in England within the High Court of Justice in England.

There are several aspects of this jurisdiction, but in practice the Court when sitting in Admiralty is usually concerned with disputes arising by reason of the collision or grounding of ships, claims for salvage and disputes concenred with damage to cargo whilst being carried in ships. The jurisdiction is exercised both in personam and in rem. The Court in some cases has jurisdiction to arrest ships and make them security for the amount of the claim made against their owners.

A Judge of the Admiralty Court in England traditionally has before him/her on the Bench a silver oar resting in supporting brackets. The origin of this oar is lost in the antiquity of English legal history.

The oar is displayed in a glass case on Level 13 of the Law Courts Building, outside the Banco Courtroom, and is a replica of the oar so used in England. The Coat of Arms upon it show the ancient origin of the English oar from which it was copied. There are two sets of armorial bearings. The lower bearings are those of James, Duke of York, who, prior to his ascension to the throne as King James II, was Lord High Admiral. These carry the time when the oar assumed its present form back to the late 17th century. The upper bearings include the Arms of Henry VII, thus indicating the oar upon which James, Duke of York superimposed his Arms was in existence in the Tudor times of the 15th century.

This oar was presented to the Supreme Court on 24th April, 1970, by members of the legal profession in New South Wales who subsribed for its cost.

The inscription on the back of the blade reads:

Presented to
The Supreme Court of New South Wales
for its Admiralty Jurisdiction
by members of The Legal Profession
in New South Wales
This 24thday of April, 1970.

Last updated:

11 Sep 2023

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