Morecambe Bay Light Vessel lost 1903

Iron Light vessel no. 70, 266 grt, 103.83ft, 24.0ft, 10.94ft.
Built 1902 John Crown & Sons Ltd., Strand Slipway, Monkwearmouth, 170 tons
Owned Trinity House: Morecambe Bay station.
Captain T. Williams plus 8 crew.
Run down and sunk on 16 July 1903 by SS Abbott of Newry.
Location: 53°54.415N, 3°30.914W, charted as wreck 17.7m.

From Preston Herald, Saturday 18 July 1903:

MORECAMBE Lightship Run Down.
  The new Morecambe Bay Trinity House lightship, valued at about £20,000, was run into by the coasting steamer Abbot, of Newry, Ireland, early in the morning [16 July 1903], and foundered in twelve fathoms of water quarter-of-a-hour after the collision. It seems that she was from Liverpool with a general cargo, and, through an untoward circumstance, she crashed into the lightship, near the forepeak on the port side. It was seen that lightship was doomed, and she began to fill rapidly. Indeed, but for the watertight bulkheads, she would have sank immediately. Captain Williams and crew of seven, who were on the lightship, lowered their boat and got some their belongings together just before the ship went down. The sea was perfectly calm at the time, and the men got on to the coaster without difficulty. The Abbot, which was badly damaged about the bow, then made for Fleetwood 20 miles distant, where they arrived shortly before noon, the Abbot berthing alongside the quay near the railway bridge. The Abbot is a new vessel belonging to Messrs. Fisher's, Newry, and Captain McBride is her master.

Abridged report of court case from Belfast News-Letter, 24 September 1903
 A CAPTAIN FINED. At Belfast, yesterday, the Trinity House authorities summoned Wm. McBride, master of the Newry steamship, Abbot, for negligently running foul of and sinking the Morecambe Bay light vessel on the 16th of July. Evidence was given that as a result of a collision: the lightship, which was valued at £12,000, became a total loss; that before the collision the Abbot was repeatedly hailed without response; and that after being struck, the lightship sank in 17 minutes, the crew having a very narrow escape. The defence was that there had been no culpable negligence, and that in any case the captain was not responsible. A fine of £20 was imposed.
  The Abbot was on a voyage Liverpool to Whitehaven, weather was calm without fog and the collision occurred at 6am when there was daylight. The crew of the Light vessel reported that no-one was to be seen at the helm of the Abbot and that her course was not straight. After they had no response from hailing her several times, they had not then enough time to fire a gun or operate the fog signal. She struck the Light vessel near the port bow.

Discussion: The 1948 West of England Pilot gives the location of the Morecambe Bay Light Vessel as 15.25m west of Rossall Point. At that date there was also another "Light and Bell boat" 3.25m WNW of Rossall Point named "LUNE". (The 1964 Pilot quotes the Morecambe Bay LV as 16.25 miles west of Rossall Point.)
  At a simlar date (to 1903), a lightvessel (called Morecambe and not Morecambe Bay) also marked the Grange channel into Morecambe - this was driven ashore in
1894, and again in 1903. It was discontinued after being driven from its moorings in 1903, since Heysham Harbour was opened in 1904 and was used for passenger traffic instead of Morecambe.

A wreck detected at 53°54.415N, 3°30.914W and charted as "wreck 17.7m deep": this location is 16.5nm at 267° from Rossall Point. This was surveyed in 1997 and is 38m long by 8m wide and rose 4.5m from the seabed, lying 178/358°. There is evidence of cables extending 60m NW of the southern extremity of the wreck. There is a significant magnetic anomaly. The size and location all tie in with the remains of an iron light vessel.
  A portion of anchor cable is also charted nearby (0.1nm away at 327°) as an obstruction.

Lightvessel no. 72 (same builder at similar date as LV no. 70) abandoned in the River Neath (note she has a taller light tower than originally fitted).

1901 Census list for Morecambe Bay Floating light. The court case quotes, among these, witnesses Thomas Williams (master), John Thomas (signal driver) and Hugh Owen (lamplighter). The census list has 7 crew aboard and 4 crew on shore.

Morecambe Lightship mishaps

Ashore 1894
Ashore 1903

Morecambe was developed as a harbour when the railway reached it, allowing passengers to take ferries to the Isle of Man and to Ireland. There was a lightship, provided by the Railway Company, marking the channel in - close to where Heysham is now.

This lightship was driven from her moorings in 1898, when the damage was sufficiently serious that a new vessel to act as a lightship was procured.

This second lightship was, in turn, driven from her moorings in 1903. Since Heysham was now being developed as a port, with better tidal access, it was removed in 1904.

There was no loss of life in either case - full details below:

Note that, confusingly, there was a Morecambe Bay Light-vessel, which was stationed many miles offshore, to act as a reference point for vessels heading into the ports of Morecambe Bay. This vessel was sunk by collision in 1903 - details here

Ashore 1894

Wooden schooner Fylde built Hugh Singleton, Fleetwod 1855
From 1863 in position as Morecambe Lightship (marking channel into Morecambe)
Driven from moorings in 1894 onto shore near Battery Inn/Hotel - abandoned

From Liverpool Echo - Monday 12 February 1894
  MORECAMBE LIGHTSHIP DRIVEN ASHORE. Yesterday a strong northerly gale and heavy sea prevailed at Morecambe, During the evening the wind increased until before midnight it blew perfect a hurricane. About that time [11 February 1894] the lightship, maintained by the Midland Railway Company at the entrance to Morecambe Channel, nearly six miles from the harbour, broke from her moorings on the edge of the bank known as Clark's Wharf, and bumping over the bank, drifted before the storm in the direction of Heysham. The position of the men in charge, George Alexander, Morecambe; Abbott Taylor, Morecambe; and Joseph Crossdale, Ulverston, was most perilous, the heavy waves washing completely over the vessel, which was entirely at the mercy of the wind and sea. They took refuge first in the lamphouse, and then in the cabin. Meanwhile, the vessel drove towards Heysham Point. Had she struck there not a soul could have been saved. Fortunately she just cleared these dangerous rocks, and the crew, hoisting the foresail, headed for the shore, and about four o'clock the vessel was driven broadside on high up the beach opposite Sandylands, close to the Battery Inn, Morecambe [now Battery Hotel, SW of the Stone Pier]. On the tide receding, the crew reached shore, extremely thankful for their providential escape. During her four hours' buffeting in the darkness of the night, the vessel's bottom was damaged, bulwarks stove in, and other damage sustained, but there is little probability of her being got off. The tide washed heavily over the promenades and harbour, and considerable damage done by the hurricane to new buildings.

Lightship ashore near Battery Inn also called Sandylands.

The wreck of the lightship was left on the shore - and was still identifiable around 1920 (from Keith Willacy collection; Alhambra in background):

From Leeds Mercury - Thursday 01 November 1894
  THE NEW MORECAMBE LIGHTSHIP. - There arrived at Morecambe harbour on Tuesday morning, a vessel, purchased by the Midland Railway Company, to replace the old Morecambe lightship which, during a severe storm in February, broke from her moorings, and after drifting a distance of nearly ten miles was cast ashore near the Battery Inn, Morecambe, after having for between thirty and forty years guided the mariner to the entrance of the Morecambe channel, at the mouth of the bay. The old hulk was subsequently floated, but on survey was found to be too seriously damaged for future service, and a trading vessel was temporarily engaged by the company. Since then they have purchased the schooner Queen of the South, engaged in the fruit carrying trade in the west of England. This is a much larger vessel than the old lightship, being 82ft. long, 18.5 ft. beam, and 12ft. deep, with a gross tonnage of 187, and strongly built of oak and elm throughout. She has been re-fitted for her new service by Mr. Paul Rogers, Carrickfergus, having received an additional sheathing, and been otherwise strengthened in various ways, and a lamp-house erected on deck. After the remainder of her fittings have been put in at Morecambe, she will be placed at her station.

Lancaster Guardian - Saturday 29 December 1894
  The Morecambe Bay lightship broke from her moorings, and was taken to Fleetwood Harbour by the steamer Ariadne. It may here be stated that the Morecambe new Lightship weathered the storm admirably.

Ashore 1903

Wooden schooner Queen of the South built Salcombe 1850
ON 4556, 187 grt, 120 nrt, 82.5 x 18.6 x 12.1 ft.
Modified for use as a lightship by Paul Rogers, Carrickfergus 1894.
Lightship fittings installed at Morecambe.
Commenced service 22 November 1894; driven from moorings by gale on 22 December 1894, but put back in service on 29 December 1894.
Driven ashore 30 March 1903 - anchored near the beach at Bare (East of Morecambe)
Put back in position, but then lightship discontinued in 1904.

Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser - Friday 03 April 1903
  HEAVY SEAS. LIGHTSHIP BREAKS FROM HER MOORINGS. The boisterous weather experienced over the weekend developed on Monday morning [30 March 1903] into a violent gale.

Postcard of a sketch of the rescue (courtesy of Michael Ellison)

  While the crowds of spectators were enjoying the spectacle, they were astonished to see the Morecambe Lightship, which was anchored in the channel off Heysham to guide the vessels entering and leaving Morecambe Harbour, loom into view. She had broken from her moorings. Hundreds of people rushed to the Battery Hotel corner, and there watched the vessel drift nearer and nearer the shore. The occupants had hoisted a sail and were doing their best to control her.
  She quickly reached the East End and the Morecambe lifeboat, manned by half-a-dozen fishermen, was speedily put out and proceeded to the drifting vessel to see if assistance could be given. The lifeboat's progress was watched with interest and, considering the fierceness of the gale, she behaved splendidly. It was with difficulty that she got alongside the vessel but she ultimately succeeded in putting in three extra men to assist in better controlling her. Carried partly by the force of the incoming tide, she approached the West End Pier extension and some anxiety prevailed lest she should come in contact with the pier. However, she negotiated this all right, and also kept well clear of the jetty and the East End Pier, ultimately getting to the coast of Bare, where she has since been anchored. The incident though fortunately not attended with any damage, proved very exciting. The lifeboat kept in close proximity to the lightship to offer assistance if required. The lightship belongs to the Midland Railway Company. It is nine years since a Morecambe lightship broke from her moorings [see above].