Storm of September 1826

See also 1811 Ulverston wrecks, 1819 Ulverston wrecks.

On 6-7 September 1826, a storm developed with wind direction that veered round to northerly - this is a direction that gives a big fetch and so big waves off Liverpool, and also causes the sandbanks littering the approaches to Liverpool (and to Chester) to be a "lee shore" - so vessels will be blown onto them.

There were fatalities on land from chimneys, walls and trees blown down. The biggest loss of life at sea was to those aboard two Ulverston vessels: Town (all 10 passengers and 5 crew) and Royal Oak (all 3 (or 4) passengers and 4 crew). Five (out of seven) of those aboard the Klein Paul were lost. The Helen foundered offshore with the loss of all 10 aboard and the master of the Francis was killed in a collision. Most vessels that ran aground were able to be refloated and put back in service.

Ulverston traders: Town, Royal Oak

  Ulverston is a town on the southern edge of Cumbria. In 1796 a ship canal was completed from the centre of the town to the navigable estuary of the river Leven. It was straight, 1.25 miles long and with the only lock being the sea lock - which could accommodate vessels up to width 27 ft and length 100 ft. So it was more like a long dock than a canal. Ulverston became a centre of shipping - trading, providing crews and building. The main export was iron ore and the main import was coal.

One of the largest losses was to vessels which left Ulverston on the morning of Wednesday 6th September 1826. Five vessels left: the Royal Oak (Captain Dickenson, 57 ton sloop, built Ulverston 1821); Town (Captain Hewitson, owned Winram & Co. of Ulverston, schooner newly built April 1826 by Petty & Co., Ulverston, 93 tons); Sally (Captain Lightfoot, 56 ton sloop, built Lancaster 1806); St. George(Captain Pye); Bee (Captain Robinson) all bound for Liverpool, except the Bee which was heading for Glasson (out port of Lancaster).

Accounts based on Liverpool and Lancaster newspapers, Lloyd's List and Lifeboat records:
  On leaving Ulverston, the wind was blowing pretty fresh from about E. S. E. but, in a short time, it veered round to the northward and, as the night approached, which was most dark and dreary, a dreadful gale came on. During the prevalence of the gale, they parted: the St. George, not being able to reach Liverpool, ran into Beaumaris, where she remained until the weather enabled her to come round, and she arrived at Liverpool safely on Saturday.

The Sally was driven on shore near Rossall Hall [north of Blackpool]. In order to get off, she was obliged to discharge her cargo. She was able to return to Ulverston.

The Bee had, after a perilous voyage, got safely back to Ulveston about the same date as the Sally.

There was much apprehension about the others. A vessel was seen early on Thursday morning at anchor off Hoylake in a most perilous situation, and in short time she sunk. It was supposed this vessel was the Royal Oak, as the body of a lad was picked up at Hoylake on Sunday morning who was known to have belonged to her. There were on board the Royal Oak several passengers, besides the crew not one whom were saved. She belonged to Messrs. Winram and Co. of Ulverston.

A quantity of goods have been washed ashore at the Point of Ayr, which from the description would seem to have been part of the cargo of the Town of Ulverston, and a boat which is identified as having belonged to that vessel was picked up near the lighthouse on Tuesday night; there is therefore very little doubt but she has shared the fate of the former vessel. We understand there were twelve passengers on board when she left Ulverston, of whom, as well as of the crew, no tidings have yet been heard. She was only a few months old, and was owned in part by Capt. Hewitson, a man very deservedly respected as a captain.

Within the last few days the masts of one or two vessels have been seen standing some distance out of the water near the floating-light [later called northwest lightship which marked the Horse (Rock) channel into Liverpool], but whether they belong to any of these vessels, or some others, it was impossible to determine. Considerable anxiety was felt at Ulverston regarding these vessels, as almost every person on board, either belonged to that town, or had connections there.
  It was subsequently confirmed that the masts of the two vessels which had been seen near the floating-night, were of those ill-fated vessels: Town of Ulverston and the Royal Oak. It was thought that neither was insured.

The body of Captain John Hewitson, belonging to the Town of Ulverston, was found and brought to Liverpool and a coroner's inquest held. Captain Hewitson, for the last years, had been one the cleverest seamen in the coasting trade out of Ulverston. His vessels's cargo was very valuable: one person in Ulverston having near six hundred pounds worth of leather on board. The crew (besides the captain, who has left a widow and six children) were J. Procter, who has also left family; Leonard Hewitson, the brother; and two others. Among the passengers were Mr. Thomas Pell of Ulverston, cabinet-maker, who has left a family; Mrs. Eccles, the wife of Captain Eccles, of Liverpool, and their two daughters, one of which was married; Miss Ann Bennet, daughter of Mr. Bennet, gardener, Ulverston; Mrs. Louiston, of Liverpool, an old woman, 75 years of age; Alice Dunn, and her daughter, Sarah Dunn, of Liverpool making at least thirteen sufferers on board the Town.

John Hewitson was born circa 1781 and, by 1811, he was captain of the Ulverston trader New Liberty (schooner 85 tons, built Ulverston 1811). In 1813 he assumed command of the newly built (at Ulverston) schooner Trader (82 tons, 8 ft draught, owned R. Fell and Co.)[Fell was a shipbuilding and sawmill business near Greenodd - upriver from Ulverston]. Trader was mainly involved in the Ulverston - Liverpool trade. In April 1826, the Town (of Ulverston) was launched by Petty and Co. into the Ulverston ship canal and John Hewitson was appointed master of this new schooner. The Trader was advertised for sale, alongside at Ulverston and was sold to Whitehaven owners in January 1827 (the register shows her as being broken up in 1888).
  John Hewitson was held in high esteem by his fellow mariners and had been a respected figure among Ulverston mariners for over 20 years. In September, 1826, he perished, aged 45, in the newly-built schooner, Town of Ulverston; his body came ashore near Liverpool, where he was buried, and a plain monument was erected to his memory by his brother mariners: it contains the following lines:

Weep for a seaman, honest and sincere, -
Not cast away, but brought to anchor here;
Floods had o'erwhelmed him, but the guilty wave
Repented, and resigned him to the grave;
In harbour, safe from shipwreck, now he lies,
Till Time's last signal blazes in the skies;
Befitted in a moment, then shall he
Sail from this port on an eternal sea.

written by James Montgomery who was a Scottish-born hymn writer, poet and editor. His writings reflected concern for humanitarian causes such as the abolition of slavery and the exploitation of child chimney sweeps. He was raised in and theologically trained by the Moravian Church.

The crew of the Royal Oak were: Captain Dickinson, who has left family; Wm. M'Carthey, whose fate a widow and seven or eight children survive in the most distressed state; the captain's son; and a seaman of the name of Barker, whose body has been washed up and interred. It is believed that there were three or four passengers on board.

Salvage operations: The Town was a nearly new vessel and an attempt was made to raise her hull after she had foundered on the 6th Sept. The boats of Mr. Daney were employed, and, under his personal superintendence, operations commenced on Friday morning. The vessel lies ten fathoms deep at low water; and it was very difficult to ascertain the true position of the hull. Friday was spent without effecting much towards raising the vessel; but, on Saturday, the men, in trying to place the chains round her, succeeded in the course of the afternoon, in getting firm hold either of the hull or some other part of the vessel. A ladder came up to the surface, and it was immediately recognised as belonging to the Town. The masts were about eight feet above at low water. The operations were continued on Sunday, until about four o'clock, when the chains suddenly gave way. The vessel, it is supposed, went down head foremost, and is now so bedded in the sand as to render every attempt to raise her very difficult. The masts and a great part of the rigging have, however, been saved, and brought to town. We understand the owners intend to persevere in their endeavours to recover the vessel. They will sustain a great loss from the melancholy accident, as the vessel and cargo were very valuable. It is supposed, that there are the bodies of about fourteen persons on board the wreck, ten of passengers and four of the crew. Most of the passengers, it is probable, were in the cabin at the awful moment when the vessel foundered. The wreck lies about three or four hundred yards to the southwest of the Floating-light, and a buoy has been left to denote its position. [In 1834 the Floating-light was located at a position near 53° 27' N, 3° 17.5' W, where the leading marks to the Horse (Rock) Channel and Hilbre Swash intersected].

  A subscription was opened at Liverpool for the relief of the families of those lost in these vessels. Various activities were held to benefit that fund. A total of £220 was reported to have been collected by January 1827.
  Lloyd's Register shows the Sally as "on shore" in the 1827 edition and absent from the 1828 edition - so presumably not repaired and back in service. The Royal Oak is still present in Lloyd's after 1827 - so may have been refloated. The Town was a new vessel and was not listed by Lloyd's.

The Prussian galliot Klein Paul, Captain Behncke, from Wismar, in making for Liverpool, after having taken a pilot on board, was driven on shore off Mockbeggar [north Wirral coast near Leasowe], and in a short time went to pieces; we lament to say that the pilot and four men were drowned - the former of whom has left a widow and four children to deplore his loss. The pilot was Mr. Samuel belonging to No. 9, Pilotboat, aged 39 years. Only the master and one man were saved.

The Charlotte (Captain Hazelwood), for Hamburg, put to sea from this port on Wednesday, but during the night, she was dismasted and with difficulty brought to anchor near Point Lynas [NE Anglesey], where she lay in great peril until very early in the morning, when by the active exertions of the crew of the pilot-boat No. 11, Robert Edwards, master, she was towed to within two leagues of the floating light, from whence she was taken in tow by steam-boat and brought into Liverpool.

The Isabella for New Orleans was driven on shore near Seacombe [opposite Liverpool]- she got off without damage.

On the 7th September 1826, two vessels bound for Liverpool were driven ashore by the northerly gale at the Voryd: the harbour at Rhyl forming the mouth of the river Clwyd. The location was also reported as the Point of Ayr, a few miles east of the Voryd. They were the smack James Holmes (owned Holmes of Douglas, Isle of Man, built Douglas 1825, 92 tons) inbound from Douglas and the brig St. George (captain Heany, owned Smith & Co; built Liverpool 1823, 115 tons) inbound from Drogheda. All crew and passengers aboard both vessels were saved. The St. George had to be unloaded before she could be got off.
  Note that this St. George was a different vessel from the one that left Ulverston for Liverpool, sheltering at Beaumaris on the way.

General Brown

The barque General Brown (Captain Sharp, owned Henderson of Liverpool, built 1820 Prince Edward Island, 351 tons) from Miramichi [Canadian Maritime Provinces] for Liverpool, struck the Middle Patch [Chester Bar in the approach to the Dee Estuary from the west] on 7th September; she was got off, and came to anchor in Wild Road [Dee Estuary off Mostyn], with loss of sails, and considerable damage. The Point of Ayr Lifeboat, on her first service, from her station at Gronant, stood by her for several hours.

The ship Sophia (Captain Gallatin) of Prussia was driven ashore on the Point of Ayr on 7th September. She was on a voyage from Stralsund[Hanseatic town on the south Baltic coast] to Liverpool.

The sloop Phoenix of Newry (65 tons) with oats, wheat, flax and butter for Liverpool was driven ashore at Llandrillo (between Abergele and Conwy) near Great Orme's Head. Part of her cargo was damaged.

The brig James of Peterhead (Captain W Russell, built Peterhead 1824, 118 tons) with sugar from Lancaster to Liverpool was also driven on shore at Abergele.

There was much damage to shipping in the Mersey and the Dee. For example, at Flint (in the Dee) the sloop Friends was damaged and two flats (one called the Assistance) broke from their moorings and caused damage to themselves and the loading pier. A large brig, Hilton of Whitehaven with timber from Canada, laboured heavily at anchor, sprung a leak and filled with water. The schooner Francis Mary had her bowsprit broken. Several fishing boats were damaged also.

There were also casualties to vessels at sea in the Irish Sea region:

The brig Helen (Captain J. Kelly, built Liverpool 1817, 114 tons) of Drogheda with a heavy cargo of corn and 10 persons (crew and passengers) aboard, bound for Liverpool from Drogheda, was last seen on the 6th September off Holyhead steering north. The great storm at that time makes it likely that she foundered soon afterwards with the loss of everyone on board.


On Wednesday night (6-7 September) the brig Frances (Captain E. Conyers) from Liverpool to Great Yarmouth [reg. Yarmouth, built Yarmouth 1818, 80 tons] with a cargo of salt ran foul of [collided with] the Britannia (Captain Holgate of Whitehaven) from Liverpool to Whitehaven via Beaumaris. The collision was off Llysdulas [East coast of Anglesey]. The bowsprit and fore-mast of the Frances were carried away. Her master was killed by the falling mast. Her crew were apprehensive that she had sustained injury to her hull and would sink, so got into her boat, but stayed alongside for some hours. They (William Hubbard, Thomas Passmore and the Captain's son E. Conyers) then landed at Beaumaris. The next morning the Frances was got ashore at Red Wharf Bay [she is still in Lloyd's Register in 1828 - with a different master].
 The Britannia received comparatively little serious damage and proceeded to Whitehaven which she reached on Saturday.

Earlier Ulverston shipping losses.

1811 Ulverston losses

One of the earliest documented losses of Ulverston vessels was in 1811:

A Packet service was set up by Captain Thomas Troughton in mid-1811 sailing regularly between Ulverston and Liverpool. On Tuesday 5 November 1811 at 2 am, it was driven, along with several other vessels, ashore near Walney Island (also described as at Rampside, which is due east of Barrow). The crew and passengers were saved and there was no serious damage, so she was refloated and resumed service.
  Thomas Troughton died in February 1812.

The James was a 62 ton sloop built at Ulverston in 1806, owned by Matthew Harrison and 3 others. She was 17m long and had 5m beam. She was lost in Port of Spittal Bay, 2 miles south of Portpatrick on 5 November 1811.

1819 Ulverston losses: New Liberty, George,..

After some years free of losses, 1819 was a bad year for Ulverston shipping - with four losses:

New Liberty traded between Ulverston and Liverpool. She was a schooner of 85 tons, built at Ulverston in 1811 and her first master was Captain Hewitson. He transferred to the Trader in 1813, and, at the time of her loss in 1819, Richard Cousins was master of the New Liberty. On 28 January 1819, on a voyage from Liverpool to Ulverston, she was driven ashore and wrecked at Pilling (on the south side of the Lune Estuary, east of Knott End). Among items coming ashore were a container of oil (addressed to a painter); a bed; a bag of cotton; cases and chests. All aboard were lost.

George, 93 ton sloop [also described as a schooner or as a galliot] built at Saltcoates (on shore near Ulverston) in 1806 was on a passage from Ulverston to Cardiff carrying iron ore when she was wrecked on Skerweather Rock [Scarweather Sands or Sker Point which is rocky] in Swansea Bay on 18 July 1819. All on board: Captain Whittle and the crew (seven men) and a woman passenger were lost. Edward Whittle had only been married a few months previously. Another report says 14 were lost.

Mary, sloop of Ulverston, was on a voyage to Liverpool when she was driven onto a sand bank and sprung a leak. She foundered about 3 miles ENE of the Floating Light at about 11 o'clock on 22 October 1819. Captain Storey and the crew of two men and a boy decided to abandon her using their boat. The Captain went to his cabin to retrieve his watch and some papers when a sudden motion of the tiller caused it to strike him on the head. He was knocked into the cabin and the vessel sank immediately, and he was not seen again. Assistance was provided by Pilot Boat No. 11 which rescued three men (and a woman in one report) from the boat.

Thomas and Ann, sloop of Ulverston, on a similar voyage from Ulverston to Liverpool was also lost on the same day, NW of the floating light. Captain Sandwick, the crew (including one named Walker from Ulverston), and 3 passengers (Mr John Marsh, retired timber measurer, and his daughter Charlotte from Liverpool and a woman from Ulverston) were lost.

The next shipping disaster was in 1820 (and the ship may not have been owned in Ulverston):
The Robert and Christian (Captain Munro) was on a voyage from Ulverston to Oban [most probably with iron ore from Cumbria for the ironworks at Bonawe near Taynuilt which was set up by Ulverston interests - Newland Iron company - to make use of locally produced charcoal] when she struck a rock off Campbeltown, Argyllshire and was abandoned by the crew, on 11 march 1821. She subsequently came ashore on Isle Ross [5 miles north of Campbeltown] and was wrecked. Some materials were recovered.
This location is not on the direct route to Oban, so she must have been seeking shelter east of the Mull of Kintyre.

The Ulverston built brig, Chili, was driven ashore in the storm of 1822 on Crosby beach. She was bound for South America and was repaired.

There were no more recorded wrecks to Ulverston vessels until the big disaster in 1826, recorded above.

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