HeritageGateway - Home
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.

HER Number:MDV18306
Name:The Gossamer, tea clipper ship, wrecked off Ballsaddle Rock


The Gossamer was built in 1864 and wrecked near Ballsaddle Rock in 1868.


Grid Reference:SX 797 366
Map Sheet:SX73NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishChivelstone
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishCHIVELSTONE

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX73NE/28
  • Tide Project: 29/09/2020

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WRECK (XVIII to XXI - 1751 AD to 2009 AD (Between))

Full description

Elliot, E. A. S., 1908-1909, Historic Wrecks in Bigbury and Start Bays, 158 (Article in Serial). SDV142678.

The Gossamer, an outward bound china tea clipper ship, was wrecked in the vicinity of Ballsaddle Rock. The cargo consisted chiefly of drapery and clothes. All sorts of useful goods were strewn along the coast in the greatest confusion.

Larn, R., 1974, Devon Shipwrecks, 103 (Monograph). SDV741.

Famous tea-racer. 734 tons. Bound for Australia. Went ashore on rocks 150 yards from a shingle beach.

South West Maritime Archaeology Group, 1997, Salcombe Cannon Site (Article in Monograph). SDV178111.

The clipper Gossamer was built in 1864 by Alexander Stephens. It lies in shallow water with complete sidewall planking with composite brass fixings to iron frames.

South West Maritime Archaeological Group, 2020, South West Maritime Archaeological Group (Website). SDV363846.

The Gossamer was a China Tea Clipper of 735 Tons with a length of 181 ft and breadth of 30 ft. On her final voyage in 1868, it was owned by George Kipsel and six others. She was carrying a general cargo from Adelaide in Australia to London when the captain, on board with his wife, handed over control to the pilot and retired to his cabin. They had had a discussion about whether or not they could tack past Start point and, despite the pilots concerns, Captain Thomson told the pilot to hold course. The result was the ship hit the shore just to the east of Prawle Point in South Devon. Out of the 30 people on board only 17 survived. Captain Thomson and his wife are buried in a local church.

The actual location of the site is very little known and not dived but in the 1970’s Stephen George dived the wreck site and recovered some items that are now in the Salcombe Museum.

The period this ship was built is key in the transition from wooden sailing ships to steel powered ships. She was a composite built by company Alexander Stephen and Sons (AS&S) in the Kelvinborough, Glasgow in 1864. Built of wood around a steel frame, this construction did present some challenges to the designers due to corrosion but also offered a greater stowage area. The design was eventually accepted by Lloyds and the first built by the AS&S, the ‘John Lidgett’ was built in six months and launched in 1862. This composite design only lasted until 1876 when steel ships took over the seas. The Gossamer registration number was 50265,311 and she was classed as a ‘full square rigger’.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV142678Article in Serial: Elliot, E. A. S.. 1908-1909. Historic Wrecks in Bigbury and Start Bays. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 5.1. 158.
SDV178111Article in Monograph: South West Maritime Archaeology Group. 1997. Salcombe Cannon Site. History from the Sea: Collection of their six Reports on Historic Wrecks. Vol 1. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV363846Website: South West Maritime Archaeological Group. 2020. South West Maritime Archaeological Group. https://swmag.org/. Digital.
SDV741Monograph: Larn, R.. 1974. Devon Shipwrecks. Devon Shipwrecks. Digital + hardback. 103.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Sep 29 2020 11:26AM