Portuguese steamship wrecks 1823, 1832, 1852

Chris Michael

Here I discuss early Portuguese steamships - the link to Liverpool is that the vessels were built there. The first was newly built in 1820 and was the first ocean-going steamship, the second was built in 1822 but lost in 1823 - so it was replaced by a vessel that had been built as the St. Patrick in 1822 for the St. George Steam Packet Company. Two of these were wrecked as described below. See also Portuguese records. I also append details of the wooden paddle steamer Porto, lost entering the Douro in 1852, with considerable loss of life.

Conde de Palmela

In September, 1820, there was launched from the yard of Mottershead and Hayes, at Liverpool, a steamer of 88 tons. This was the Conde de Palmela (also known as Duque de Palmela; sometimes written Palmella also), fitted with engines of 20 horse-power made by Fawcett and Littledale. She was the first steamer built in the United Kingdom to foreign order, and sailed on 5th October, 1820, for Lisbon, for service on the river Tagus, where she arrived after an impressive passage, for those times, of eight days [Lloyds List 31 October 1820]. At Liverpool, she was entered outwards by A. J. da Costa and Company, merchants, of 9 Goree Piazzas, whose principal, Antonio Julia da Costa, resided at 18, Rodney Street, and was Portuguese Consul.

She was the first steamship to cross the Bay of Biscay and the first to be seen in Portugal. She was intended for service within the Tagus Estuary and inland up the river (Lisbon to Santarem). Her first service was to Vila Franca and Alqueidão [sic; near Valada do Ribadejo] on 27 January 1821. The river Tagus was too shallow, so she was unable to run a regular service up to Santarem.
  However, the route from Lisbon to Oporto (Portugal's two biggest cities) was potentially more lucrative and she was transferred to that from 9 June 1821. This first trip took only 16 passengers and was quite a long and rough trip since she had to stop over for 3 days at Peniche because of north winds. She made 5 trips that summer.
  In 1825, she was advertised as providing a ferry service in the Tagus all days of the week except for Sundays [Gazeta de Lisboa, 4 February 1825].

Paquete Lusitano

In 1822, a larger vessel was launched at Liverpool, intended to give a better service from Lisbon to Oporto.

From Liverpool Mercury - Friday 11 October 1822:
On Wednesday was launched, from the ship-building yard of Messrs Humble and Hurry, in Trentham-street, a beautiful three-masted schooner-rigged steam-packet, named Lusitano, intended to sail between Lisbon and Oporto, as a regular Packet: her accommodations are of the first class; her burthen per register 250 tons. [Wooden, paddles, engines of 90HP by Fawcett & Littledale].
  She was reported at Cove [Cobh] en route in November 1822.

After only a year of service, Portugal's earliest steam shipwreck, the PS Paquete Lusitano, occured in the surf zone near Torres Vedras. This location is outside the Tagus Estuary and 30 miles or so north of it (en route Oporto to Lisbon). There has been some confusion between the 1822 built Lusitano and the 1820 built Conde de Palmela. The former was a more sea-going vessel, and was built to provide an Oporto-Lisbon service; whereas the Conde de Palmela had returned to service within the more sheltered waters of the Tagus estuary.

At 3 o'clock in the morning on July 10, 1823, the Lusitano sailed from Oporto in the direction of Lisbon. She made a stop at Figueira da Foz, to load passengers, resuming the journey at 5:00 p.m. At night a dense fog fell and a maritime current swept the boat to Cabo Rendido [not a name now in use], near the beach of Cambelas, north of Ericeira, municipality of Torres Vedras, where she was shipwrecked at 3:30 p.m. on the 11th. Some aid to the shipwrecked would be provided by Justino da Silva Pereira, from Vila de Ericeira, who immediately went to the scene of the accident, taking with him three divers, who he had at his service to help salvage the wreck of a French frigate that had sunk nearby. Despite the effectiveness of the aid, it was not possible to avoid a large number of deaths (about sixty were reported).
  Approximate position of wreck 39° 4.88' N, 9° 25.16'W.

Restaurador Lusitano

Wooden paddle steamer, built 1822 Mottershead and Hayes, Liverpool as St. Patrick for St. George Steam Packet Company.
157 tons; 135' x 20'; 110 HP engines built Fawcett & Littledale, Liverpool.

The St. Patrick was launched at 10 a.m. on the 21st April, 1822. This event excited great interest in the town of Liverpool, as she was, if not the first steamer ever built in the port, certainly the finest specimen of the ship-building craft produced there up to that date.

Initially provided a Liverpool - Bristol - Dublin - Liverpool service, calling at Tenby in both directions, from May 1822. On 27th June 1823, when about three miles off Milford, the St. Patrick ran foul of the Hibernia and the Emerald Isle when wishing to hail. One passenger on the Emerald Isle was fatally crushed, and the vessel herself lost rails, bulwarks, waterways and thirty-feet of her starboard planking. The St. Patrick lost part of her head and cutwater.

After losing his steamship which provided the Lisbon-Oporto service, da Costa arranged to obtain another steamship from Liverpool. Thus the St. Patrick was sold to Portuguese interests (Joao Baptista Angelo da Costa and Co.) in 1824 and used to provide a service between Lisbon and Oporto named Restaurador Lusitano. She arrived on 12 April 1824 and was renamed Restaurador Lusitano (or Luzitano), meaning "restored Lusitano". In the first eight months of service, this vessel carried 4000 passengers between Lisbon and Oporto.

She was described by a traveller in 1827 as providing a poor service - under-powered and managing only 2 knots against a head-wind in rolling seas - and so taking 48 hours to get from Lisbon to Oporto, instead of the advertised 24 hours.

During the civil war in Portugal, from 1828-32, between supporters of the brothers Dom Miguel and Dom Pedro, the Portuguese navy mostly supported Dom Miguel (Absolutists) while British interests supported Dom Pedro (Liberals). The supporters of Dom Pedro chartered and bought vessels - including several paddle steamers from the Irish Sea service (Belfast, Leeds, Superb, Lord Blayney). Their first act was for a leading group of 29 to embark from Falmouth in the Belfast steamer (described as old and in poor condition) in June 1828 and land at Matosinhos near Oporto - a fiasco since they were soon repelled - this episode became known as the "Belfastada" [Bela afastada meaning "beautiful away" in Portuguese]. Later, in July 1832, a better organised expedition landed near Oporto at Mindelo and captured the town. They were then beseiged at Oporto for a year by forces loyal to Dom Miguel.
  The Restaurador Lusitano (ex St. Patrick) was unable to continue providing a passenger service between Lisbon and Oporto since Oporto was being beseiged. She was chartered by supporters of Dom Miguel in 1832 to assist military engagements. See drawing of Restaurador Lusitano.

She foundered off Aveiro, on 11 September 1832, as part of a fleet bringing support to the seige of Oporto, with the loss of 189 artillerymen and 19 crew, while carrying military supplies and towing the gun brig Audaz which had lost her fore and maintop masts. There was strong wind and big waves. The tow of the Audaz strained her stern and caused damage and a leak which resulted in her foundering. The fleet of the opposition force under Admiral Sartorius was close by, but did not attack. They reported seeing a frigate stand by as the steamer sank - taking off some men.

A painting of the wreck of the St. George, which was a sister ship to the Restaurator Lusitano, is here.

Approximate position (off Aveiro) 40°38'N, 8°52'W.

This loss of the Restaurador Lusitano was the first serious setback to the supporters of Dom Miguel. The eventual outcome of the conflict was decided by the naval battle of Cape St. Vincent in July 1833 - in which the forces supporting Dom Pedro, though out-gunned, prevailed. This sea battle was the last in which steam vessels took no significant part.

Porto 1852

Wooden paddle steamer Porto, built Porter & Dickinson, Liverpool, 1836, 360 tons burthen, two 75 hp engines by Rigby, Hawarden. Owned Duarte Brothers for service from Portugal.
Loss of the Porto 29 March 1852, off Oporto, all 36 passengers and 15 of the 22 crew lost [39 passengers and 13 out of 22 crew in another report]. Position Forçados rocks, only about 50 metres from the shore, near the mouth of the Douro river.

Full details.

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