Reports (mostly from Lancaster Guardian and Lancaster Gazette of Feb. and Mar. 1861):
WRECK OF THE LYRA: The paddle steamer Lyra, plying between Morecambe and Belfast the last month, struck on what is believed to be a sunken wreck, near Shell Wharf, on Wednesday morning. The master, finding the water gaining on them, ran her as far on shore as possible, and asked a boat, the Prince of Wales steamer, for assistance. The latter immediately went, and succeeded in getting off all the cattle and pigs, except two, along with all passengers, and landed them at Fleetwood. The vessel afterwards went down and it is at present lying in twenty feet of water at low tide; provided the weather keeps moderate, divers will be employed to get out the cargo, but should it blow from westward it is doubtful but that she will become a total wreck.
SALVAGE OF THE WRECK OF THE LYRA. A fortnight ago, we announced that this fine
steamer of the
Morecambe and Belfast line, was wrecked on the Shell Wharf, near Fleetwood,
during the storm of the 13th Feb. She sank in deep water, and since that time
efforts have been made by divers from Donaghadee and Liverpool to recover
portions of the cargo. On Monday week, they succeeded in bringing two crates
of pigs, a few barrels of bacon, potatoes, and some sacks of oats. On Thursday
week, the wind blew from the south west, and seems to have materially affected
the condition of the vessel. The divers were able to reach the wreck on
Saturday, when they found that the after part was completely washed away; the
engines were standing, but the boilers had been washed off 30 yards on the
starboard side. On making their way to the fore hatch, they discovered the
front side of the ship entirely broken up, the iron plates of the sides
laid on the cargo, and the starboard side completely swept away. The only
remaining cargo, which they could meet with, was 18 bales of flax, which of
course was spoiled.
It was reported that much of the cargo had been washed up at Walney, Piel and Sunderland. We believe that four bales of bacon have been picked up at the latter place, and two barrels and one box of lard at Piel.
The Lyra had on board a large quantity of flax consigned to Messrs. Waithman, and 70 sacks of oats for Mr. Jas. Lewtas, but, in both cases, an insurance had been effected on the goods. The vessel was insured for its full amount, and it was valued at about £8000. The boat was only purchased in May last, and was considered a very serviceable one for the station. The value of the cargo was estimated at about £4000, and about half that amount was covered by insurance.
Yesterday [Friday 1 March], the boilers and other portions of the recovered wreck were submitted to auction at Fleetwood.
A summary of the Board of Trade Inquiry held on Thursday and Friday (6 and 7 March 1861):
Report of inquiry: That the Lyra, a paddle steamer, 350 tons register, sailed from Belfast to Morecambe, on the evening of the 12th of February, laden with a valuable general cargo. On the following morning, at half-past seven, Walney light bore ENE at a distance of two and a half miles (as the mate states) but the master computes the distance at five miles. From this position, a course was steered SE by S, till an object was seen on the south shore near Fleetwood. The weather was somewhat hazy, and it was difficult to define distant landmarks with precision. The object discovered was taken to be the Screw Pile light [Wyre light] by the master, and it was first seen on the port bow. Nevertheless the master states he did not alter his course for fifteen minutes, although the bearing of it at the time would have shown that it could not be the Wyre light. The vessel proceeded at full speed, at a rate of 9.5 knots per hour; and on approaching nearer, he discovered his error, the object being the Rossall land mark. He then gave direction to haul up more to the eastward, in the hope of getting into his proper course in Lune Deep, over which he had previously passed.
The captain's confusion: Images of Rossall Point Landmark (was at 53°
55.23N, 3°3.03W, now collapsed) and Wyre Light (part collapsed 2017)
The ship struck, quickly filled, the fires were put out, and the ship eventually sunk not far from where she first struck. Providentially no lives were lost, assistance having been rendered by the Prince of Wales steamer, then moored at the Wyre lighthouse. When a vessel is proceeding to Fleetwood or Morecambe across the bay from Walney, the real course is to get soundings in Lune Deep, particularly if the weather be so hazy as to obscure distant marks, a precaution which in this instance was entirely neglected by the master. Nor does it seem, though the weather was hazy and the object first but indistinct, that the engine was slowed, or any precaution taken on entering an intricate channel. On the contrary, when the master discovered his mistake, he continued full speed in the hope of regaining the deep channel, a proceeding which, in all probability, precipitated the destruction of the ship, for it would appear that at that time, though in shallow water, the vessel had not actually struck.
After considering the evidence, we are of the opinion that the Lyra was lost by the default of William Inch, her master. And in compliance with the 438th section of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, we forward his certificate of competency for a home trade passenger ship to the Board of Trade, to be dealt with as my Lords may think fit.
In the course of this inquiry, it was elicited that the Walney light and Rossall beacon are under the control and management of the Commissioners of St. George's Quay, Lancaster, who receive a toll of 3d per ton per annum from every vessel entering the estuary, and that formerly a buoy was placed on the SW prong of the Oyster bank, which has long since ceased to exist. We beg particularly to call attention to the fact that, as from the evidence of John Hesketh, a pilot of this port, it appears numerous small vessels have been lost near the spot where the Lyra grounded. A buoy placed in the position indicated would, in the opinion of this witness, be of great service when the landmarks are not easily distinguishable. In this opinion we beg to express our concurrence.
Several excellent testimonials were handed in giving Mr. Inch a good character for sobriety, good conduct, and careful attention to his duties, which will no doubt weigh with your lordships in your decision.
A fuller report is contained here.
Information: The rescuing vessel, PS Prince of Wales, was built 1842 by Tod
MacGregor, was owned by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company and
provided a Fleetwood-Belfast service. She was anchored, with steam up,
near the Wyre light, waiting for the tide to rise before heading in to Fleetwood.
She was alerted to the demise of the Lyra by Fleetwood Pilot John Hesketh who was
a lookout on the Wyre light.
A buoy "Shell Wharf" now marks this south side of the entry to the Lune Deep.
Location of wreck: bearings taken from the wreck by the Fleetwood Pilot are
reported by the newspapers: Wyre [or Pile] Light (EbyN 1/2 N); Rossall Mark
(E) and Danger Patch buoy (NE by N 1/2 N). These bearings are 73, 90, 28
degrees in modern notation. If they were magnetic bearings, correction for the
magnetic variation, which was about 24° at that date, would yield 49, 66,
04 degrees which seems rather too far from the Lune Deep so unlikely. The Rossall
Mark and Wyre Light were in positions now known accurately (see above for
Rossall Mark), whereas the Danger Patch buoy may have been moved as the
channel shifted. The pilot also states that the wreck was at 2.75nm from the
Rossall Mark and 0.5 to 0.75nm from the Lune Deep.
The Lyra was described by the captain as drawing 9ft 1in aft and 8ft 7in forward. HW was around 12:42, so she struck not long after LW, with a spring tide: so typically a tidal depth of 2-3m. She took on water soon after striking and the engineer described the sound as a "tear". So she is likely to have hit a boulder or rock, rather than sand or shingle.
Since Rossall Mark from the wreck was at approximately 2.75nm at 90° which corresponds to the region west of the end of the charted pipeline over Shell Wharf: an area called North West Boulders or Rossall Patches. This position (approximately 53°55.52N, 3°7.71W) is now charted as having a patch that has depth 1.9m; it is 2.81nm at 96° to the Rossall Mark, 3.9nm at 65° to the Wyre Light, 33° to the Danger Patch Buoy [2019 position] and about 0.27nm from the Lune Deep [2019 position]. There is (now) a depth of 5m not far away, so the vessel would end up in deeper water (20ft at LW quoted).
The only charted wrecks near this position are more recent than 1861 and there are no charted obstructions near this location. However, one of the charted wrecks, 0.7nm away, is also listed as "SS Lyra". This is the wreck that was reported to the Hydrographic Office in 1922 as "SS Lyra" at 53°55.090N, 3°6.755W at depth 0.3m. This wreck site was marked by a wreck buoy marked "Lyra" from 1924 until 1971. The Hydrographic Office lists that this may be the wreck of the SS Lyra (b 1881 Sunderland, ex-Kant, Finnish owned). However, there is no record of any SS Lyra sinking near Fleetwood in 1922, or shortly before, and the SS Lyra, which is named as a candidate by the HO, actually continued trading long after 1922. So, a likely scenario is that local knowledge of the location and remains of the wreck of the SS Lyra in 1861 continued thereafter, but was only communicated to the Hydrographic Office 60 years later, in 1922. Another scenario is that wreckage was detected around 1922 and was assumed from its location to be the Lyra (wrecked 1861) but was actually from some other source.
Note that this charted wreck position is 85° at 2.2nm to the Rossall Landmark, 54° at 3.6nm to the Wyre light and 15° to the Danger Patch Buoy. This is thus close to the area described by the pilot's bearings. Although, it is now 0.9nm from the Lune Deep - which is a little more than his estimate, and it is shallower than the reported 20ft at low water.