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Historic England Research Records

Caledonia

Hob Uid: 905407
Location :
Cornwall
Cornwall
Grid Ref : SS1969015291
Summary : 1842 wreck of Scottish snow which stranded near Morwenstow. This wooden sailing vessel, built in 1839, was en route from Odessa to Gloucester with wheat. The figurehead was formerly in the churchyard of the Church of St. Morwenna and St. John the Baptist (32144), as a memorial to the wrecked crew buried there, but since 2008 has been restored and placed in the church for safekeeping, with a replica where the figurehead once stood. The vicar at the time was the well-known Rev. R. S. Hawker, famous for his association with the many wrecks in the area.
More information : 'The CALEDONIA, Peters, which sailed from Falmouth on Wednesday the 7th inst. with wheat, bound to Gloucester, was totally wrecked during the night a few miles to the northward of this port (Bude). The crew, comprising 9 persons, were drowned, except one, who was found in an insensible state early in the morning.' (4)

One exhausted survivor made it ashore to be rescued by the local vicar. His eight shipmates were drowned and buried in Morwenstow churchyard, marked by a ship's figurehead. (Only five bodies are recorded in the burial register). Besides the entries in the burial register, which are illustrated, contemporary Lloyd's List and Register accounts are quoted in this source with an illustration of the vessel's cancelled Certificate of British Registry ("Vessel totally wrecked on the Cornish coast per Lloyd's List 10th Sept 1842") which also gives her dimensions; also a poem and romanticized account by the then vicar of Morwenstow, Rev. Hawker are quoted. The Arbroath Guide for 17th September 1842 is also quoted:

'Not a vestige of the vessel was to be seen the next day, with the exception of the figurehead, which was thrown ashore in the morning, and is, we understand, to be erected near the graves of those of the unfortunate seamen whose bodies have been found. We subjoin a list of those belonging to Arbroath who perished on this truly melancholy occasion:- Stevenson Peter, commander; James Wallace, mate; Stephen Jones, carpenter; David Wallace, Alexander Kent and - Storrier, seamen, David McDonald and William Tasker, apprentices.'

The name of the survivor is established as Edward Le Dain. (5)

The CALEDONIA, a 200 ton brig from Arbroath in Scotland, loaded coffee in Rio de Janeiro for the ports of Syria, Smyrna and Constantinople. From Turkey she passed into the Black Sea to load wheat at Odessa for ultimate discharge at Gloucester. By September 5th the vessel had arrived at Falmouth Roads; from there she proceeded on the last leg of her voyage along the Cornwall coast before entering the Bristol Channel. The weather worsened and by the early hours of the 8th a strong NNW gale was blowing, which drove the vessel toward the leeside shore. At three o'clock in the morning she struck rocks at Vicarage Cliffs, Morwenstow, on the Cornwall/Devon border.

The captain immediately ordered his men up into the main rigging; but the vessel was subjected to heavy seas which not only submerged her but brought the main mast crashing down. All the crew were thrown into the sea, only one man surviving after being thrust onto a reef and dragging himself to safety.

The survivor, Edward La Daine, maintained that the CALEDONIA was an 'unlucky' ship: she sailed from Rio on a Friday; the Argentinian cook had come aboard with a black bag; and a bucket had been lost overboard - all three incidents thought to be ill omens by 19th century sailors. Furthermore, the cook died onboard from a knife wound suffered during a brawl ashore in Constantinople and was buried at sea. The actual blame for the ship's loss, however, would seem to lie with the 12-year-old cabin boy who broke the tube of the ship's barometer in Falmouth; thus the captain had no advance warning of the impending storm.

The CALEDONIA's figurehead now stands in Morwenstow parish churchyard, where the brig's crew are buried. [This source states the date of loss to be 08-SEP-1843.] (7)

'CALEDONIA, Peter, of Arbroath, from Odessa to Gloucester, was totally wrecked near Bude, 7th inst. Only one of the crew saved. [Letter from Morwinston.]' (8)

Stamped "wrecked" in the entry for Lloyd's Register 1842. (9)

'...a large vessel loaded with grain was wrecked at Sharps Nose, and with one exception, the whole of the crew were lost; the poor fellow who was washed ashore was in so exhausted a condition as to be unable at the time to give any information as to the name of the ill-fated vessel or number of the crew.' (10) [Source (13) substantially the same]

'The bodies of two men were taken up a few days since at Peppercombe, in this bay, and were recognised by the only survivor of that wreck to be two of the unfortunate crew of the barque, CALEDONIA, lately wrecked between Hartland and Bude.' (11)

'Bude, Sept. 8. A schooner, laden with grain, is lost on Sharp's Nose, about 8 miles northward; crew (except one) lost.

'Monvinston [sic], Sept. 8. The CALEDONIA, of Arbroath, is totally lost near here; crew, except one, drowned.' (12)

'Loss of the CALEDONIA of Arbroath. We regret to state, that accounts reached Arbroath on Sabbath last of the wreck of the brig CALEDONIA of ARbroath, which took place off the coast of Cornwall, near Morvinston, in the violent hurricane and thunder storm which proved so disastrous in the south of England on the Wednesday previous. The whole of the crew, seven in number, met a watery grave, with the exception of one of these, a Frenchman, who was washed ashore in a semi-lifeless state, and has since expired. All the others belonged to the neighbourhood of Arbroath, two of them being brothers, and the third a brother-in-law. The captain, a young promising man, named Stephen Peters - the mate, and one of the men named Wallce - Stephen Jones, the carpenter - an apprentice of the name of Tasker - and another man whose name we have not learned - composed, with the Frenchman, the crew of the vessel. The CALEDONIA was built as recently as 1839, and was one of the largest vessels belonging to the port - being upwards of 200 tons burthen. She belonged to Mr Joseph S. Esplin, manufacturer, Arbroath, and was insured to about two-thirds of her value in the local clubs.' (15)

Figurehead seen on a visit in July 2010 to be located in the church following restoration in 2008; a replica now stands in the original place where the figurehead had served as a grave marker for the dead crew. (14)

Built: 1839 (2)(6)(9)(15)
Where Built: Arbroath (2)(6)(9)
Construction: copper bottomed 1841 (9)
Owner: J Esplin (2)(6)(9); Joseph S Esplin, Arbroath (15)
Master: Peters (4); Stevenson Peter (5); Peter (8); St Peter (9); Stephen Peters (15)
Crew: 10 (2); 9 (4); 7 (15)
Crew Lost: 9 (2); 8 (4)(5); all but 1 (8)(15); 6 (15)

Date of Loss Qualifier: Actual date of loss

Additional sources cited in Shipwreck Index of the British Isles:
Board of Trade, Select Committee on Shipwreck, Appendix 7 p39

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : United Kingdom shipwreck index [pre publication typescript]
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Source Number : 2
Source : Shipwreck index of the British Isles, volume 1 : Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset
Source details : Section 2, North Cornwall (AC)
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Source Number : 11
Source : North Devon Journal
Source details : 29-SEP-1842
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Source Number : 12
Source : Times
Source details : 12-SEP-1842, No.18086
Page(s) : 6
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Source Number : 13
Source : Times
Source details : 13-SEP-1842, No.18087
Page(s) : 3
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Source Number : 14
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : 19-Jul-10
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Source Number : 15
Source : Caledonia Mercury
Source details : 17-SEP-1842, No.19,136
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Source Number : 16
Source : Historic England Wreck of the Week blog
Source details : https://thewreckoftheweek.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/wreck-of-the-week-no-30-the-staff-of-life/ accessed 14-MAY-2018
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Source Number : 3
Source : Parliamentary papers
Source details : Board of Trade Select Committee on Shipwreck, Appendix 3
Page(s) : 39
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Vol(s) : 9
Source Number : 4
Source : Royal Cornwall Gazette
Source details : 16-SEP-1842
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Source Number : 5
Source : The Wreck at Sharpnose Point, A Victorian Mystery
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Source Number : 6
Source : Lloyd's register of British and foreign shipping
Source details : 1841, No.31(C)
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Source Number : 7
Source : Shipwrecks of the Bristol Channel
Source details :
Page(s) : 16-20
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Source Number : 8
Source : Lloyd's list
Source details : 10-SEP-1842
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Source Number : 9
Source : Lloyd's register of British and foreign shipping
Source details : 1842, No.36(C)
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Source Number : 10
Source : North Devon Journal
Source details : 15-SEP-1842
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 1842
Monument Start Date : 1842
Monument Type : Cargo Vessel, Brig, Barque, Snow
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Find

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Admiralty Chart
External Cross Reference Number : 1123 26-12-80
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Admiralty Chart
External Cross Reference Number : 1156 17-08-73
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Admiralty Chart
External Cross Reference Number : 1178 14-12-79
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Admiralty Chart
External Cross Reference Number : 2675 18-08-78
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SS 11 NE 10
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 32144
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :