THE GREAT STORMS OF 1795-6
A CUMBRIAN VIEW
About eight o'clock, on the same morning, a large vessel, making for the harbour, was driven on shore behind the north-wall. It was evident she was a foreigner, and unacquainted with the port: in an instant, there were thousands of people upon the beach, and the most gallant efforts were made to save the crew: but the difficulty seemed insurmountable: the seas broke over the ship in the most tremendous manner, and no attempts to preserve them by boats could possibly be made. Signals were then made to the crew, to float ropes to the shore, which, after many ineffectual trials, was at length accomplished, and three of them were drawn to land, when unfortunately the vessel bulged, and the timber which had been stowed upon the decks soon washing off, was tossed about by the violence of the waves (between the vessel and the shore) so as to cut off all further assistance for the present.- It was now understood, that there were yet ten of these unfortunate creatures on board; and soon after, the vessel, which had hitherto lain with her head to the land, swung round till her starboard side faced the sea. In this situation, during a dreadful suspense of almost four hours, she continued rolling: her topmasts at every rebound of the sea almost kissing the surge, and her hull almost constantly covered with the waves.- There appeared no hopes for the safety of the men (if they escaped perishing by the cold) but in the masts standing: and every stroke of the sea harrassed the feelings of the beholders with apprehensions of these falling. providentially, all kept together till the water had ebbed a little, and the surf between the ship and the shore was cleared of the floating timber.- The humane efforts of the people on shore were instantly renewed with an ardour and intrepidity which, we will venture to say, were never exceeded on any occasion;- and, we are happy to add, these efforts were crowned with success;- all the people were fortunately got on shore, but in a state so exhausted and weak, as it is certain could not much longer have endured the excessive hardships to which they had been exposed. This desirable end was not long effected, when the main and mizzen-masts went overboard, the entire sidex next the sea separated from the rest, the stern was stove in, the decks broke up, and in a few hours the vessel was a total wreck.- She is called the Sophia-Louisa, Capt. Stigman; burthen about 400 tons; had been nine weeks from Dantzick, without touching at any port: bound for Dublin, and loaden with timber and pot-ash.
The winter of 1795-6 was remarkable for its tempestuous weather, which caused damage over a very wide area. These pages contain items from the "Cumberland Pacquet" newspaper, published weekly in the port of Whitehaven, illustrating the effects of the weather in the Cumbria region. My thanks to Cumbria County Council's local studies library and archive office at Whitehaven, where microfilms of the 'Pacquet' are available for reference. Most items are quoted verbatim, with spelling unmodernised [editorial comments bold, in square brackets]; note that it was customary, when referring to ships, to insert the master or captain's surname immediately after the ship's name.
I have also supplied a map and index of places outside Whitehaven.
CP 27 Oct 1795: We had violent gales of wind on Thursday and Friday nights, accompanied by heavy rains: from various accounts, the storm has been general over the north.
On Saturday night, about eleven o'clock, the Elizabeth and Ann, Wilson, a vessel of 154 tons, bound from Liverpool to Naples, was put on shore near Workington-Point.- The chief part of her cargo (which consists of cottons and cotton stuffs, valued at 30,000£.) is saved: but it is feared the vessel will not be got off. [more]
CP 3 Nov 1795: Since our last, we have had frequent heavy gales of wind, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday, on which the tide rose to an unusual height, overflowing the market-place and several adjoining parts: the morning tide of Thursday was the highest at twelve o'clock, the water rose to a level with the New Tongue, and completely covered the greater part of the bulwark; the waves, at the same time, dashing with incredible fury against the shore, and frequently striking the top of the lighthouse. Happily, the wind was not then very violent; otherwise, it is probable, much damage would have been done amongst the shipping.- Great quantities of timber were set on float, in the different yards, and some logs were washed out: but we believe, all was recovered.
The Elizabeth and Ann, Wilson, of Liverpool, mentioned in our last as being put on shore at Workington-Point, is since gone to pieces. [more]
Last week the Neutra Litlete, from Embden to Liverpool, loaden with beans, was put on shore in Stubplace Bay, near Ravenglass. The people were with difficulty saved.
A sloop, James Wilson, master, loaden with iron-mine, from Barrow to Chester, is wrecked upon the Isle of Walney;- the people perished. They consisted of the master, his wife and two children, and two seamen.
Another sloop was also put ashore upon the same island.- The people saved.
The Friends, Moore, of this port, from Drontheim, loaden with deals, was put on shore near Workington last Tuesday; but was got into the harbour next day, without receiving much damage.
The John and Bells, Pendergrass, of Workington, was put on shore behind the Garth, on the north side of that harbour, last Thursday. She has drifted very high, but it is expected she will receive little damage. [more]
CP 10 Nov 1795: The piers at Parton, Harrington, and Maryport, have suffered considerably by the late high tides. A house at Allonby, and another at Skinburness, were also damaged by the extraordinary flowing of the water.
On Thursday the 29th ult. there was the highest tide in Millthrop Sands ever remembered, which has done a great deal of damage. It overflowed the greatest part of a large estate called Fowlshaw, belonging to Daniel Wilson, Esq. of Dallam Tower, and most of the low lands on every side,- destroying or much damaging several crops of new sown rye, and carrying immense quantities of turf or peats away; gates, fences &c. One farmer in particular, is said to have suffered to the amount of 200L.- A quantity of Herrings was also taken by the fishermen on Millthrop Sands, a circumstance very rare. There is a report of much damage being done on all the coast between Millthrop and Lancaster.
The tide on the 3d and 4th inst. was higher by a foot, upon this coast, than at any former period in the memory of the oldest person living. Some damage was done at every port and creek, from Parton to Skinburness.
[Also report of highest tide in living memory flooding cellars etc. at Liverpool]
CP 17 Nov 1795: The late heavy rains have very much injured the roads in several parts of the kingdom;- The London waggon, which should have been here on Friday evening, is not yet arrived.
[Also report of a "dreadful storm" in the south-east which started around 2am on Friday and destroyed several houses and other buildings around London, blew down trees in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex etc.]
CP 24 Nov 1795: We have had a great variety of weather since our last; frost, snow, heavy rains, and heavy gales of wind, particularly on Wednesday last.
The 14th inst. the Acron, Archer, of Workington, was put on shore, on the north side of that harbour, but she was gotten off again without much damage.- She was loaden iron and deals, from Gottenburgh.
The sloop Hound, of Lancaster, Captain Hall, with a valuable cargo of sugars, rum, wine, and other merchants goods, was wrecked in St. Bee's Bay near Sea Cote, in the heavy gale of wind on Wednesday, after having all her sails blown away. The cargo was saved, with inconsiderable damage, and brought to this town by the exertions of Mr John Johnstone, merchant, of this place, and Mr Richardson, of Sea Cote, whose humane attention to the crew deserves particular notice. The vessel has made a great deal of water, and if the weather does not soon moderate, her fate is very uncertain.
[Quite a long list of other shipwrecks this week, particularly around Weymouth / Portland]
CP 1 Dec 1795 Since our last the weather has been very severe and changeable.- Thirty-six vessels sailed from hence on Saturday; but the wind shifting, twenty-five returned to port the next day.
[Also more shipwrecks listed on south coast]
CP 8/15/22 Dec 1795: [No weather news]
CP 29 Dec 1795 Several vessels are again returned to port.- The Robert, Wood, of Douglas, sunk at the entrance of the harbour.
CONTINUE TO JANUARY 1796