PSS Prince Regent 1822

Wooden paddle steamer; owned John Wilson, William Rigby and Thomas Parr
b William Rigby, Runcorn 1816; 69' x 14'; 58 tons.
Captain Dimond
Lost 6 December 1822 in Mersey Estuary.
23 crew and passengers; 9 lost.

LOSS OF THE LIVERPOOL AND ELLESMERE STEAM PACKET. - The following melancholy particulars of the loss of the steam packet are from the Chester Guardian: -

The packet [Prince Regent] left Liverpool about three o'clock on Thursday afternoon [5 December 1822], having 23 persons on board including her crew. The wind at this period blew fresh, and was a-head of the packet, and there was no appearance in the weather to justify a suspicion of danger. About 5 o'clock, the wind had greatly increased, and at six the packet had reached within a quarter of a mile of Ellesmere port. It now blowing a complete hurricane, the Captain found it impossible to make the port. He then contemplated a return to Liverpool, and steered the vessel round for that purpose, but was soon convinced it was impossible, the tide having so far receded. The vessel then beat about for several hours, it being impossible to steer for any particular point. At nine they cast anchor, but she continued to drift; and about twelve ran foul of a flat, whose cable was also cut, but dragging her anchor. The concussion was tremendous, every person on board expecting she was going down. Several of the passengers were at this time in the cabin, and were violently thrown down by the heaving of the packet, one side of which was under water. The confusion and alarm were now at their height. As the flat remained some time alongside the packet, four of the crew and two of the passengers caught hold of its side and got on board her. There was now one foot of water in the cabin, it was determined to cut the cable and let the vessel drift - the sea dashing over her in all directions. About one o'clock the tide began to flow, and the packet was driven about two miles above Ellesmere port, where she ran against a sandbar; continuing for several times to recede from and approach it. At length she stuck fast in the mud, nearly opposite Stanlow-house, and the feeble glimmering of the moon discovered the shore at about 70 yards distance, most of the intervening, sand or rather mud.

It was now near four in the morning of the 6th Dec 1822. Captain Diamond here pressed as many of the passengers as he could prevail upon to make the shore; when Mr. Whittell, son of Dr. Whittell; Mr. W. Leatherberrow, of the Exchange, Chester; and Mr. Nixon a farmer, near Saltney, leaped into the water, and succeeded in gaining the land. There were now 14 individuals on board, five only of whom got safe on shore. The captain, with his son in his arms, was washed overboard, while in the act of endeavouring to disengage himself of his great coat; Mrs. Deakin, a stone mason's wife of Flookersbrook [now part of Chester], with her infant in her arms, and her niece about ten years of age; the blind fiddler who accompanied the boat; the son of Mr. Burt, a promising youth about ten years of age; Mr. Davis, millwright, of Chester; and an elderly person, all perished in the attempt to gain the land. We are informed that the steam-packet has been got up, is found to have sustained comparatively little damage, and has been taken to Runcorn.

The flat-boat, John, weathered the storm. The safety of this vessel, under all the difficulties of the night, astonishes the most experienced seamen. For several hours, and for a distance of eight or ten miles, she was incessantly driving upon the banks, till she finally took the ground near Weston Point, about four in the morning. From this period till about eight, the waves rushed over the deck, and those on board were obliged to lash themselves to the masts and shrouds. From their quitting the packet, it required the utmost exertions of all hands at the pumps and buckets to prevent her filling. Soon after eight o'clock, the individuals took the sands, and walked to Weston Point, where their exhausted frames and spirits were recruited by the kindest attention.

There was later discussion that some of the crew had abandoned the steamer and boarded the flat. It was reported that men aboard the flat shouted: "Come aboard, your vessel is sinking". The Captain of the steamer refused to leave, saying he would stay until all aboard were safe.

Newspaper report of Coroner's INQUESTS.- We have been favoured a copy of the depositions upon the Inquests held by F. Thomas, Esq. on the loss of the following persons, who were on board the Ellesmere Steam Packet, the time the unfortunate accident befell her: -

Elizabeth Deakin and her infant, William Davies, James Dimond, sen. and J. Dimond, jun. Two or three witnesses were examined, but we shall only give the account of Martha Patton, the others being exactly similar. She deposed that the Prince Regent Steam Packet left Liverpool, with number of passengers on board, the 5th inst.[5 Dec] for Whitby [now part of Ellesmere Port], at about ten minutes before three o'clock; it was quite calm when they started, but at half-past four o'clock, the wind blew hard against them, and the tide being also unfavourable, they made but little way. It was then becoming very dark, and Captain Dimond, finding that it was impossible reach Ellesmere Port that night, cast anchor, intending to let the vessel ride on the river all night. A little after eight o'clock the waves washed over the vessel with great violence, and came through the windows of the cabin so very fast, that they were in a short time up to their middles in water. Captain Dimond came down into the cabin and said, "It's all over with us". All the people then went upon deck; the vessel was filling very fast; the witness saw several persons washed overboard; she had hold of Mrs. Deakin's hand, when a wave coming over the vessel, washed Deakin and her infant overboard; shortly after James Dimond, jun. was swept off the deck; and the violence of the waves carried away Captain Dimond and Patton's husband, who had hold of each other by the hand. The next wave that came forced the witness from her holding, and carried her a considerable way up the shore, but she was too weak to raise herself; another wave drove her still higher, she was carried by two men to a place of safety. The bodies of the unfortunate female and her infant daughter (about three years of age) when found were lying close beside each other; those of the two Dimonds, Davies's, and also that of a man unknown, in different parts of the river. All the bodies were carried to Stanlow House.

There was also conformation of further bodies found: The body Mr. Burt's son, who perished in the Ellesmere packet on the fatal night of the 5th inst., was found near the place where the packet sunk, Wednesday, and was interred at Stoke [Stoak, between Chester and Stanlow] on Friday [grave inscribed Nelson Burt, aged 9, drowned in the River Mersey in the hurricane of 5th/6th Dec 1822]. This will at least be some consolation to the disconsolate father and family. We understand that the body of the blind fiddler has also been discovered.
  Mr. Burt (who survived, but his son Nelson was lost) collected pebbles on the seashore at Pargate, where he owned a cottage, and embedded them in the parapet: reading "NELSON" in memory of his lost son. This memorial remained for many years.

More on the 1822 Hurricane.

The steam ferry service from Ellesmere to Liverpool provided a link, via canal, with Chester and was initiated in 1817. This was one of the earlier steam ferries in the Mersey.

A curiosity: The Elizabeth, built 1813 by John Wood of Port Glasgow; 40 tons burthen, 60' x 12', was the first steam powered ferry on the Mersey - serving the Liverpool-Runcorn route from 1815. She was a wooden paddle steamer with a 9hp engine built by John Thompson of Glasgow. Presumably after many engine problems, she was sold in 1816 and subsequently converted to a more reliable form of propulsion, and renamed "Safety" to emphasize this.
  In 1818, her new propulsion was of 4 hp: provided by 4 cart-horses on a treadmill driving the paddles. This form of propulsion was sometimes used in the USA on inland lakes and rivers at that time. However, it was reported that the horses got seasick on the Mersey, so she was sold again and registered as a sailing boat.

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