Great Storm of December 1822

On 5 December 1822, a storm developed, initially from the south and then veering north-east with extremely strong (hurricane force) gusts. There was much damage on land: roofs removed, walls collapsed and trees uprooted. Here I focus on damage to shipping, particularly in the Liverpool area.

Some of these losses are recorded separately:
  Hero (false report);
  Britannia Dee Estuary;
  Rockingham Point of Ayr;
  PSS Prince Regent Mersey, 9 lost;
  PSS Belfast Bootle Bay;
  Pilot Boat no 4 Abergele, 3 lost.

Most of these vessels, and those mentioned below as being driven aground, were refloated and repaired. The Pilot Boat and Britannia were reported as severly damaged, while the Rockingham was refloated and taken to Liverpool, but then not put back in service.

The comparison with the Hurricane of 1839 is striking: the later hurricane caused over 100 shipping fatalities, mainly as a consequence of the Northwest Lightvessel (marking the entry channel to Liverpool) being driven from its designated location. Also, since it was a neap tide in 1822, the offshore sandbanks gave more protection to vessels aground in the channels.

Here I describe the many other losses to shipping at that time (mostly from a summary in the Chester Courant of 17 December 1822):

MERSEY. The Nantwich, one of Mr. Fletcher's flats of Chester, loaded with timber for Liverpool, at the commencement of the storm from the south, ran under the Cheshire shore, and anchored; but the wind veering and increasing in violence, she was compelled to slip her cables about half-past 10 o'clock, and in consequence was drifted, at the mercy of the sea, without any direction knowledge of the men board. After rolling about in the most tremendous sea, for four hours and upwards, she grounded on a sand-bank, about half a mile off the port, when she sunk. The men climbed the mast, where they remained four or five hours exposed to the most inclement hardships, when they were released from their distressing situation, by a fishing boat and we are happy to say are in good health. The cargo will be shortly recovered, the recovery of the vessel is doubtful.

See also loss of PSS Prince Regent in the Mersey.
  The Brig Ardent from Liverpool to Cork [built Newport 1817, 140t] was driven ashore (reported as on 6 December) at Ince [on the South side of the Mersey Estuary opposite Garston - not far from where the Prince Regent went ashore].

DEE. The Britannia and Rockingham were driven ashore and wrecked in the Dee Estuary.

LIVERPOOL DOCKS. Secure one might imagine the docks to be against the effects of the storm, yet the vessels in most of them sustained considerable damage on this dismal night. The Prince's dock was crowded with vessels, and very few of them escaped without damage. The Alice and Amelia [schooner, b Chester 1811, 106t], for Dundalk, sunk in the middle of the dock, having been crushed by vessels driving against her. Most of the ships sustained serious damage in their hulls, spars, etc. Several of them lost their bowsprits, injured their cutwaters, their cutwaters carried away their figure heads, or had their stems stove in. One vessel's bows cut through the stern of a large ship, and the figure-head of the former was forced into the cabin of the latter. In several instances the cutwater and figure-head of one vessel rested on the quarter-deck of the one a-head. The dock, next morning, was strewed with fragments of wreck. The vessels, especially on the east side of the dock, were locked and jammed together in a most surprising manner, and such as human ingenuity never could have effected. - The other docks presented similar spectacles, and in all of them the vessels were more or less damaged. The Robert and Ann, from Waterford, sunk in King's dock. The ferry-boats and small craft, lying in the basins and at the different slips, sustained much injury; great number of them were stove in and sunk, and some almost shattered to pieces.

BOOTLE BAY. Often as we have beheld the destructive effects storms on our shore, never did we witness such a scene destruction as Bootle Bay presented on Friday morning. Its monotonous flatness was completely changed, and it exhibited a spectacle at once melancholy and interesting. Two fine vessels, the Chili [brig, Captain F. Cook, built 1821 Ulverston, 200t, owned C. Taylor, 15 ft draught, trading Liverpool - South America] and La Plata [brig, Captain R. Ainslie, 181 tons, built 1819 Chepstow, owned Hurry and Co., 13 ft draught], laden with valuable cargoes for South America, lay stranded at the Mile Rocks [one mile north of Liverpool Pierhead - now covered by the dock area]. The Chili had lost her foremast and maintopmast, and was considerably damaged in her rigging. The La Plata had lost her foremast, bowsprit, and a melancholy loss of life occurred from the wreck of this vessel: soon after she went on shore, several persons got into the boat, among whom, a Mr. M'Nabb, a woman and a boy, were unfortunately drowned. The others happily saved themselves by regaining the vessel. The Caledonia, fine outward bound ship [full-rigged ship, b Chester 1807, 445t], for Demerara, lay at little distance off shore, and full of water, with the loss of her mizenmast. A little farther northward, opposite Sandhills, the Otho [full-rigged ship, b New York 1806, 348t], for New York, lay in a similar situation. About three miles more to the north, lay the Gilbert Henderson [full-rigged ship, b St. Johns 1815, 316t], for Savannah, on her beam-ends, and full of water, with the loss of masts, yards, and running rigging, all blown away as clean as if they had been cut by design. The Topaz, a new inward bound vessel, on her first voyage from Boston, lay full of water on Crosby Point. The British Tar, a timber ship, from Narva, Russia, with loss of bowsprit and foremasts, lay nearly opposite the Waterloo Hotel, Crosby. The Thomas Naylor [snow, b Liverpool 1815, 295t], from St. Petersburg, was ashore, with loss of foremast, bowsprit, and rudder unshipped. About four miles more to the northward, and about ten miles from Liverpool, at the mouth the river Alt, the Belfast, steam-packet, lay on the sands, the most distant object in this melancholy of desolation.
  Apart from the destruction of property and the melancholy loss of lives caused this awful visitation, the shore presented a scene of animation, bustle, and variety seldom before witnessed, and one which, we trust, will not soon occur again from a similar cause. Groups of persons were seen, in various directions, collected round the different wrecks, employed in discharging their cargoes, or brought together by curiosity to witness the dreadful effects the storm. Carts, laden with bales and packages from the wrecks, were being dragged through the swatch and over rocks, to places of greater security in Liverpool; men, bending under trunks, boxes, etc. which they were bearing away on their shoulders; boys, dragging into the sand-hills fragments of wreck which the tide had left upon the strand; parties of seamen, from the different vessels, bivouacking in the sandhills, surrounded with chests, boxes, sails, and various articles of ships' furniture which they had brought with them, piled in heaps, ready to be conveyed away in carts that were waiting for the purpose; the varied costume and the hardy weather-beaten countenances of the seamen, with the sable visages of some of the crew of the Boston vessel; these altogether formed a scene which would have formed a fine subject for the pencil of a Morland.

See here for a fuller description of the loss of the PSS Belfast in Bootle Bay.

THE PRINCIPALITY: Report from Bangor: the hurricane of Thursday last was experienced in these parts of the Principality in all its violence, though we are happy to state not with the fatal effects in the loss of life, which resulted from it in many other parts of the kingdom. The morning was tolerably fine, but about noon the rain descended in torrents, accompanied with a stormy wind from the S. W. which at the close of the evening became a perfect hurricane, and shifting suddenly to N. W. The mischief done to the roofs of houses, and chimnies blown down, are too numerous for insertion; providentially this storm took place during the neap tides and when the vessels were all aground in the different harbours, or the loss to the shipping interests in these parts would have been truly calamitous. Two sloops (one called the Mary) bound from Liverpool, and laden with goods from Pwllheli, went down at their anchors off Carnarvon, crews saved, but the goods are totally spoiled or lost; a large brig called the Alciope, of Boston, U. S. and bound from Glasgow to Richmond, was driven ashore near Dinas Dinlle, crew all saved, but it is feared the vessel must be sold for her materials.

DUBLIN PACKET. The following narrative of the progress of the packet Annesley (also called Earl of Annesley), from Liverpool for Dublin in early December 1822, is of a nature which, we doubt not, will excite the sympathy of our readers, and may tend to allay the apprehensions of the friends of those board : -
  The packet Annesley, under the command of Captain Julius Brett, left Liverpool for Dublin, Tuesday, the 3rd instant[December 1822], about four o'clock in the evening. Besides the master and crew, she had on board sixteen cabin passengers, namely, seven ladies, six gentlemen, and three children, with about fifty passengers in the hold. At four o'clock on Wednesday morning she was off Abergele, with wind at west and a heavy sea running; at seven in the evening, wind N. W., making little way; and, at daylight on Thursday morning, found themselves nearly in the same place. About six in the morning, got round the Lesser Ormshead; about ten o'clock the wind shifted a little to southward, the vessel beating to the land for smooth water; at four o'clock in the afternoon, abreast the Middle Mouse, wind W. S. W., obliged to reef close under the storm jib and peak; wore [tacked], and kept the land on board; wind getting N. W., wore again off Point Lynas and, under the dreadful gale which then ensued, lay to the whole night.
  Those who are acquainted with the dangers of the sea will be able to appreciate the feelings of those on board, under such circumstances, expecting, every moment to be engulphed in the raging waters. And here it ought to be mentioned, to the honour of every female on board, that not one of them suffered a complaint to pass their lips; indeed, every one seemed to vie with their companions in keeping order and quietness in every part of the vessel, and in evincing their resignation to that fate which appeared to be inevitable. During this dreadful night, so teeming with destruction to numbers at sea, and with irretrievable distress to still greater numbers on shore, the Annesley was combatting these imminent perils - perils which could only be surmounted by that cool, and, yet conciliating, conduct which, from the first to the last of this eventful expedition, distinguished every act of the humane commander, who, alternately cheering his seamen to their duty, and contributing to the comfort of his passengers, so far as, under such dreadful circumstances, comfort could be administered, showed what was guided by that humanity and consideration which ought to characterise all who are in so responsible a station as that under which Captain Brett was then placed. At daylight Friday morning, they found themselves about six miles N. E of the Greater Ormshead, the squall gradually abating; but it was not until noon that the Captain thought himself justified in spreading canvass. The vessel then made the best of her way back to Liverpool, where, after an absence of seventy-two hours, she arrived about five o'clock in the evening, when she landed all her passengers in safety, grateful, in the first place, to that Providence which had thus conducted them through the dangers of the elements, and, in the second place to the Captain, who had thus the satisfaction of being the agent of that Providence in saving so great a number of human beings from a watery grave.

Liverpool no. 4 Pilot Boat: Happy Return.
Square-sterned sloop with poop deck; b 1789 at Liverpool,
Wooden sailing vessel, 50' x 15'8" x 9', 46 grt
Captain Henry Hughes (described as second master)
Ashore off Abergele 5 December 1822; master and 2 apprentices lost.

The Liverpool Pilot Service had a fleet (about 12) sailing vessels which offloaded pilots (by going alongside or using a punt) to incoming vessels and took off pilots from outgoing vessels. These pilot boats were seaworthy and remained at sea for several days at a time to perform their duties.

In the atrocious weather of 5 December 1822, the No. 4 Pilot-boat, Happy Return, was wrecked ashore near Abergele. The master, Henry Hughes, and two apprentices were drowned. It is supposed, that the master must have been washed overboard with the punt - before the pilot-boat stranded - as the punt has been picked up at Dove Point, near to Hoylake. The master has left a wife and six small children. The two apprentices were interred (on Tuesday) at St. Asaph.
  There has not been a Liverpool pilot-boat lost since the
year 1770 (on Hoyle Bank); and it is rather singular that she was also No.4.
  A new No.4 Pilot Boat was built at Liverpool in 1822 - to replace that wrecked.

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