Often compared to the wonderful Thermopylae, Norman Court was also a remarkably fast as well as beautiful thoroughbred. Built for the famous British firm of Baring Brothers by A. & J. Inglis on the Clyde at Glasgow, she was designed by the great William Rennie and was undoubtedly his masterpiece. Launched on 29th July 1869, she was registered at 855 tons gross (834 net) and measured 197 feet in length with a 33 foot beam. No expense was spared when she was fitted out, such as the solid brass rail all around her bulwarks, and the final cost of her construction totalled just over #16,000, a remarkable sum for a sailing vessel at that time.
By the time Norman Court entered service however, the China tea trade was already in decline for the sailing ship as steamers became ever more reliable and able to make use of the new Suez Canal to reduce passage times dramatically. Thus, although she was able to attract good tea cargoes in the early 1870s, as freight rates began to fall she was cut down to a barque in 1877 to save on crewing costs, and loaded her final tea cargo in 1879. Sold out of the Baring fleet in 1881, she was bought by Jamieson, Grieve & Co. of Greenock who placed her in the Java sugar trade. On 29th March 1883, she arrived off Queenstown (Ireland) with her first sugar cargo after a homeward passage of 103 days from Batavia. Departing for Greenock the very same day, she encountered a violent gale off the isle of Anglesey and was driven ashore in Cymmeran Bay at about 8.30 in the evening. Twenty of her twenty-two crew were rescued after spending 25 hours lashed to the rigging but Norman Court herself was declared a total loss.