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Extract from The Times Monday 27 April 1863 

Padstow Harbour

To the Editor of the Times


The President of the Board of Trade, in his speech on Sir F Smith’s motion with regard to Harbours of Refuge, is reported as having used these words, - “The improvement of Padstow harbour might well be left to the merchants who trade there’ but it would have little or no effect in reducing the loss of life, which, excluding particular cases that would not have been affected by the existence of a harbour at Padstow, had not exceeded on the neighbouring coast more than one and a fraction per annum in the five years ending with 1860.”  Of course the loss of life on the neighbouring coast is small because in north-west gales all vessels west of Lundy run for Padstow harbour, being the only one; and are consequently in the great majority of cases wrecked inside the harbour’s mouth.  I do not propose speaking now of loss of property, although many vessels were destroyed during the period named by Mr M Gibson, whose crews were saved by the lifeboat, which is supported by local efforts’; but as the clergyman of one of the parishes on Padstow harbour, I send you a list of the wrecks on my own coast and the number of corpses washed ashore and buried during the five years specified; many have been picked up on the Padstow side of the harbour, but the great number are carried out to  sea by the ebb, or sanded, as we term it – that it, buried under the Doom bar by the action of the sea.

January 11 1857, the crew of the Ann of Jersey, lost two bodies picked up and buried here; two bodies missing1

October 26 1859, the Melanie of Nantes and the Providence of Vannes were wrecked’ crews saved.  The Sultana Selina of St Ives, lost ‘seven men drowned’ bodies recovered and buried here.  The Favourite of Boston, United States, lost’ crew of 40 drowned ‘ one body only recovered and buried.2

You will see thus that during the five years named by Mr M Gibson, on the coast of one parish on Padstow harbour five vessels were wrecked , 51 men drowned and 10 bodies recovered and buried.  I wish I could furnish a list of casualties on the Doombar and the coasts of the other parishes, but this statement will show that the loss of life in consequence of the state of the entrance to the harbour is not a subject to be treated lightly.  Had the President of the board of Trade witnessed the scenes I have had forced on me during the last few years, he would have dwelt with far different feelings on the subject of Padstow harbour

Your obedient servant,

The vicar of St Minver

[William Hart Smith, Clerk, BA]

April 23 [1863]


1"The sloop Ann of Jersey was cast ashore under Brea Hill on the morning of Sunday January 11th and her crew of four young men drowned." [St Minver Burial Register]

2On the night of Tuesday Oct 26th on following morning four vessels were wrecked in a terrible storm the Brigantine 'Melanie' of Nantes and the 'Providence' (Clipper) of Vannes had their crews saved. The schooner 'Sultana Selina' of St Ives lost a crew of seven men on the Doom bar. The 'Favorite' of Boston US a ship of more than 1000 tons was dashed to pieces outside Stepper Point and the crew lost supposed to be from thirty to forty souls. [St Minver Burial Register]





Shipwrecks didn't always result in the lost of life.  This article from the West Briton in 1841 describes a successful crew rescue.  I wonder if the coals were washed up on either the Padstow or St Minver shore where they could be collected!

West Briton, 16th April, 1841.

SHIPWRECK  -  On Thursday, 1st inst., the "Britannia", nearly a new schooner, of St. Ives, Capt. HAYES, master, was proceeding on her voyage from Wales to Portreath laden with coals.  In coming down the channel, the weather was so severe as to compel her to put into Padstow, where she found for a short time a place of safety.  She was however, again driven out by the wind, and carried across to the opposite side of the harbour, where she was blown upon the rocks.  The coast guard and inhabitants of Padstow, observing the dangerous position of the vessel, and being convinced that she must become a complete wreck at the same time finding, from the immense surge, that it was totally impossible to put off in their boats without
running the hazard of a fate similar to that of Lieut. SMITH and his crew a short time since, in the Mount's-bay, resorted to the apparatus of Captain MANBY, firing rockets to the "Britannia."  So perfect was the trim, that the first rocket which was fired reached the deck, when a hawser was attached to the rocket line and hauled ashore, the distance from the beach to the vessel being upwards of a quarter of a mile.  A communication being thus made, a cradle was fixed to the line, by which means the whole of the crew, consisting of seven persons, were safely landed.  Shortly after the preservation of the crew, the bottom of the vessel broke up, when the cargo, consisting of coals, was washed out, and subsequently the vessel became a total wreck.  The vessel, which was worth about £1,100 was insured at Lloyd's, and an agent having come down to ascertain whether blame is
attributable to any party, the subject is now, we believe, undergoing investigation. 

[Our Padstow agent omitted sending us an account of this wreck in time for our last week's paper.]

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