Captain Richard Pierce & the Wreck of the Halsewell in 1786

Story by David John Allen
Compiled, Edited & Additional Material by Ed Cumming
MIBEC Maritime 2007
PDF Version 1.0. Revised & Updated 2020 for NAS

It was not long after initiating the project to research and excavate the wreck site of the Earl of Abergavenny which foundered in Weymouth Bay, Dorset, in 1805 that NAS Fellow, Ed Cumming from MIBEC Maritime started to take an interest in the wreck site of another East India ship further to the East. The tragic wrecking of the Halsewell in 1786 at Peveril Point, Dorset was probably better known than that of the wreck Earl of Abergavenny.

Ed certainly had no wish to dive or research the wreck, but was keen to liaise with divers working on the site, primarily to compare finds from both sites. He expected there to be many similarities despite the almost twenty years between the two incidents. Research into the outward-bound cargoes carried by both the first and second ship named Earl of Abergavenny had indicated that cargoes at this period, in the long history of the English East India Company, were often very similar.

In 1980 Ed was approached by a member of one Sub Aqua Club who appeared to be interested in recovering items from the Halsewell site, but this, like many other approaches over the next few years came to nothing. Many items were regularly being taken from the site but very limited information was being made available. Fortunately, a few finds found their way to the Dorset County Museum during the late 1980's.

In 1999 Ed was lucky enough to meet up with David John Allen, who was researching and recovering finds from the Halsewell wreck site, within minutes of our meeting it was clear that they were kindred spirits. He shared the same enthusiasm and dedication, had been involved with his project for several years and amassed a significant archive. Sadly, David was very ill. Whilst Ed and David tentatively agreed to meet up again, we never did.

After David's death Ed keep in touch with the curator of the Weymouth Museum, Rodney Allcock, who had known David and his wife Valerie very well, like Ed he fully appreciated the value of David's work. In 2003, following an approach by David's family, the Weymouth Museum was offered his archive, with the request that it should be placed in the public domain.

In 2000 the Halsewell became the first wreck to be part of the Nautical Archaeological Society's 'Adopt a Wreck Scheme'. The project group, however, do not appear to have reported on their activities.

However, artefacts from the work of this group can be seen in Part II, the section detailing some of the finds, courtesy of Ian Curruthers; the project leader at that time. Navigate using the underlined hyperlinks. Searches can be undertaken using the PDF reader’s ‘Find on this Page’.

Download the full report here 

First published in 2007 as a CD called ‘Three East Indiamen Wrecked off the Dorsetshire Coast’.
Ed Cumming: (Revision and update as a PDF, in August, 2020)