Shipwrecks & Maritime History in and around The Isle of Scilly

MIBEC PUBLICATIONS - Regional Series 1

© MIBEC Publications - 2019

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This maritime compendium covers the archipelago of the Isles of Scilly. It also covers the surrounding sea areas which use Scilly as a focus, i.e. incidents, usually referred to as ‘off Scilly’. The Seven Stones are certainly included and some incidents may cover an area nearer to the Wolf Rock and Land’s End. The intention is to identify and verify significant maritime incidents and recorded historical events by searching contemporary archives for references. It is not intended to record detail which can be found in a well-researched, published format, hopefully referenced here. Trying to locate the source of a particular incident is, however, the objective.


Many of the early historical events have been sourced from archives like British History Online (BHO), later ones from Lloyd’s Maritime Lists and those provided by the Times and the British Newspaper Archive (BNA); all available via the Internet. Ideally, at a minimum, these entries will provide limited information on the event and, for some, notes may guide you to additional information which may be found in specialist publications and the Internet. The principle section, the directory, is a listing of the Isles of Scilly historical maritime ‘incidents’; it does not only include a ‘total’ or ‘complete’ wreck. It includes other incidents generally referred as ‘casualties’. There are codes which attempt to classify the various incident categories; they are based on the information available.


Particularly with the directory, not all the information from these various sources is consistent, and many of the publications available are poor in respect of references. As a result, correct spelling of the vessel’s name and subsequent indexing, has at times, been difficult.


Early newspaper reports and sources like 'Lloyd's List', sometimes provide the only reference to many of these incidents, particularly those prior to c.1750. Where possible all these transcribed reports have been reproduced as close as possible to the actual written entries in the specific report. Included in this contemporary text is the archaic use of capital letters, punctuation, tense and contemporary spelling. Generally, particularly for the more detailed reports, it makes what can be very boring, more interesting to read. A few of these entries are unfortunately quite brief, occasionally illegible, and there certainly are errors. Newspaper reports in particular, must always be treated with caution.


Early Lloyd’s List: records appear to be reasonably reliable and are often the best at identifying the master/captain; spellings, however, often vary. Fortunately, much of the newspaper material in the earlier period is often sourced from Lloyd's. Some of the newspaper entries transcribed here, may, if very lengthy, indicate additional information available in the original report. Every effort has been made to ensure that there is a least one reliable reference as to the source, but it certainly does not mean the content is a hundred per cent reliable.

From the late eighteenth century the number of local newspapers increased significantly and there is often much duplication, called ‘copy’. Circa 1800, for significant stories, you could easily find twenty or more titles with a similar report. Reports may also be lengthier and more detailed, often with relevant, local news additions, if published, for example, close to the home port. 4


Where there is multiple ‘copy’ in newspapers, and certainly if researching a particular incident, be prepared to view all the reports of relevance. Some, often obscure titles, contain much more information than others and the best extracts may not have been transcribed here. We must emphasis again; be very wary of misinformation and misspellings. Incident dates, however, in these entries can generally be relied upon for month and year.


Unless the archive records have been transcribed into a digital word processor format, the Internet searches are made using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which, because of the sometimes poor state of the aged print and non-standard fonts, like the long ‘s’, will often miss the words you are searching. Many thousands of these incident reports have been searched visually for this publication, but many have not! If you are researching a particular incident listed here, more information may be found in archives like the Times and the BNA where the OCR text can be read from the screen.


There is little doubt that all incidents are noteworthy. Keep in mind that not only is there the particular Isles of Scilly event, in most instances there is also the 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. Local archives can also be very informative. It is a tragedy that the Isles of Scilly parish records were lost due to a fire in 1751. In the case of a few reports transmitted to Lloyd’s, circa 1785, from the agent at Scilly, there may be an issue, and this is discussed in Section 2.2, dealing with observations of losses where the identity of the vessel is not known.

Download the full searchable maritime compendium here  Shipwrecks_of_Scilly_Region_1.pdf