Shipwreck & Maritime Incidents off the Dorset Coast

Transcribed, compiled and edited by Ed Cumming.
Research by Ed Cumming & Maureen Attwooll.
© MIBEC Maritime Publications. May 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-9542104-8-9
Email - [email protected] (For detail of availability)

This publication focuses on the coastal areas and seas surrounding Dorset, from Lyme Bay/West Bay in the west through the Roads of Portland & Weymouth, Weymouth Bay and then Studland Bay/Purbeck/Poole in the east. The key historical ports along the Dorset coast are; Lyme, Bridport, Portland, Weymouth, Swanage, Christchurch and Poole.

The intention of this publication is to identify and verify all the significant historical maritime incidents by searching contemporary archives for references. This is the second publication for the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) of this type, the Isles of Scilly being the first. It is not intended to record detail which can be found in well-researched publications already available. Hopefully if you are undertaking research, these entries will at least guide you to the additional information you may find helpful. Not all the information from these various sources is consistent, and many of the current publications available are very poor in respect of references. At a minimum there should be a name here which will be worth further research. The correct spelling of the vessel’s name and subsequent indexing has at times, been a problem, particularly with records where the references are vague or non-existent.

Remember, this is a listing of historical maritime ‘incidents’; it does not only include a ‘total’ or ‘complete’ wreck. Incidents, other than ‘total wreck’, are generally referred to as ‘casualties’. The details listed here are certainly not always comprehensive and hopefully, only for a very few, not necessarily 100% correct. Incident dates tend to be reliable for month and year.

There is little doubt that all incidents are noteworthy. Keep in mind that, not only is there the particular Dorset event, in most instances there is also a home port somewhere else in the maritime world. If we are dealing with a total wreck, then the chances are that these ports may also be affected by the personal loss of crew and/or passengers; certainly, a valuable vessel and cargo.

The main directory listing starts on page 8 and finishes on page 219. There are currently about 2420 entries in the main incident directory list, including the aircraft losses. Additional sections are listed in the 'Maritime Incidents Directory Contents' on page 1. An example, ‘Dorset Vessels Incidents Elsewhere’, is a list of major incident reports discovered for vessels belonging to the Dorset ports, occurring in other parts of the world. The vessels are identified as being 'of' the particular Dorset port. Other incidents of vessels 'to' and 'from' the local ports, of which there are hundreds in the records, are generally only reported when like most of this directory's data, the incident is in, or very close to, Dorset waters. Victims of the various British wars, activities of the Smugglers and the Customs Vessels are listed in these other sections when discovered in the archives. Local tragedies and miscellaneous maritime notes have also been added for historical interest. A special effort has been made to identify the names of individuals and other vessels recorded in all these events in order that they may appear in genealogy and research searches made on this publication. Spelling variations found in the records may also be added to the record.

Any remains of the wooden sailing vessels, not recoverable at the time, particularly those encountering coastal rocks or coming 'on shore’ or ‘ashore', on a beach like Chesil (Portland Beach), will have been long removed by nature and/or the local populace. Wooden vessels sinking in deeper water were soon eaten away by marine boring organisms, and where their cargoes were perishable, it is unlikely that the final resting place will ever be found. Recorded cargo items which are not perishable; iron concretions and metal artefacts may provide an important clue to a newly discovered underwater site. Armed, wooden vessels, privateers and men-of-war, will, if not salvaged, often leave significant iron concretions from guns, anchors and ammunition. You will note from these records that it is the later iron/steel vessels which provide most of the 'diveable' wrecks in the Dorset waters. Many of the vessels listed were dispersed, towed away, re-floated, repaired or salvaged; this is not always clear from the record.

‘British History Online’ and ‘The British Newspaper Archive’, together with sources like 'Lloyd's List', sometimes provide the only reference to many of these incidents, particularly those prior to c.1780. All the records have been transcribed as close as possible to the actual written entries in the specific report. Included in this text is the archaic use of capital letters, tense, punctuation (lots of commas) and contemporary spellings. Many of these entries are also quite brief, occasionally illegible and there may be errors. Some entries may contain more than one relevant record. Errors, when suspected, are pointed out in the text. Early Lloyd's List records are often the best at identifying the master/captain. Much of the newspaper information is often found in something like a 'Ship News ' section and is often sourced from Lloyd's. Some of the newspaper entries transcribed here, may indicate additional information available in the original report. From the late 18th century (The Times started in 1785) the number of local newspapers increases significantly and there is often much duplication.

Read or download the full directory here