Basil Lubbock.

The Blackwall frigates online

. (page 13 of 26)
Online LibraryBasil LubbockThe Blackwall frigates → online text (page 13 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Southampton for Money Wigram. These two ships
were also after the model of the Seringapatam — good,
wholesome 10-knot frigates.

The following notes from a midshipman's log of a
voyage in the Agincourt to Melbourne and back in
1861-2 may be of interest. She was commanded by
the well-known Captain George Tickell, one of the old
sort, who could not be called a hard sail carrier. Our
mid begins by listing the cuddy passengers, adding a
thumbnail description of each in pencil. I have some-
what disguised the names, as follows: —

Mrs. Jayes. — Fat, fair and fifty.

The Misses Jayes.— Mary, benevolent; Ellen, buxom; Kate, bashful
very ! ! Annie, beautiful ! ! !

Mr. John Jayes.— Carrotty stick, withal a decent fellow.

Mr. Cornflower. — Red-nosed old sinner — first rate old dog.

Mrs. Desmond and Child. — Jolly woman; pretty child.

Mr. Clowes. — Fat counter-jumper, good tempered and jolly.

Miss Houghton. — Fanatical, happy in dancing (would not put her

lights out.)
Rev. Fred Nason. — Best clergyman ever went to sea.

The Agincourt left the East India Dock on 6th October,
1861, in tow of the steam tug Robert Bruce. At 4 p.m.
she came to anchor off Gravesend in 8 fathoms ; mustered
the ship's company, squared yards and piped down.

The following day was employed in taking in livestock


and preparing for sea. The captain and passengers
came on board, and at noon the surgeon inspected the
ship. At 1 p.m. on the 8th the anchor was hove up
and the Agincourt again taken in tow by the Scotia, but
they were obliged to anchor for some hours in the Lower
Hope owing to thick fog. At 2 a.m. they proceeded,
only to anchor again at 1.80 p.m. on the 9th in Margate
Roads, where a heavy thunderstorm with vivid lightning
and heavy rain was experienced. At 6 a.m. on 11th
October, the anchor was once more at the bows, and the
Agincourt proceeded round the Foreland before a light
easterly wind. That evening the royal yards were
sent aloft and crossed and the sails set. At 3 p.m. they
were off Dungeness, off Beachy Head at 7.30 p.m. and
passed St. Catherine's at 1 a.m.

With the wind increasing and drawing through south
to west, in squalls, sail had to be reduced.

Off the Wight the main topgalhmt sail was taken in,
and the topsails double reefed. A hard puff split the
jib. At 5 a.m. the mainsail was reefed, and third reefs
taken in the topsails.

It was now a beat down Channel, the wind being
strong at S.W. Between the Wight and Plymouth,
Captain Tickell wore his ship five times and tacked once,
coming to anchor in Plymouth Sound at 11 a.m., 13th
October. The Agincourt left Plymouth on ICtli
October and, keeping well to the eastward, sighted
Porto Santo, Palma and Teneriffe.

On 31st October she exchanged signals with the Great
Britain, bound to Melbourne from Liverpool. In
these early logs it is very noticeable how much more
shipping was to be met with than in later logs. In
the North Atlantic ships, barques, brigs and schooners
were daily met or passed. British brigs were specially


plentiful. "Exchanged colors with" was a constant
entry, and I notice that "colours" was always spelt
without the "u" in these old logs, so perhaps the
Americans have some right on their side when they
leave out the "u" in such words.

The line was crossed on 17th November in 27° 26' W.
The AgincourV s best run up to that date was 209 miles
before a fresh N.E. trade. She crossed the Greenwich
meridian in 41° S. on 7th December, and went no
further than 43° S. in running her easting down. Agin-
courV s best run was made on 6th January, 1862, in
41° 53' S., 123° 24' E., before a steady and fresh N.W.
breeze. Her best log reading was 10.4 knots. She
anchored in Hobson's Bay on 16th January, 92 days
out from Plymouth, and 102 from the East India Docks.

The homeward passage was without incident. Agin-
court passed through Port Phillip Heads on 18th March.
On her run to the Horn her best 24 hours was 237 miles,
and her best speed logged 10.4 knots. The usual ice-
bergs were passed and on 17th x\pril in 53° 54' S., 97° 59'
W,, she was hove to on the port tack under close-reefed
fore and main topsails for 20 hours in a fresh N.E. gale.
The Horn was rounded on 22nd April, 35 days out.
The line was crossed on 26th May. Dover Castle , 88
days out from Melbourne, spoken on 26th June in 45**
56' N., 18° 37' W., and the Lizard sighted on 1st July.
On 3rd July comes the last entry :— "3 a.m., arrived off
Blackwall Pier; 4, made all fast in E.I. Docks. Piped
to grog."

The last entry in a Blackwaller's log book was
invariably "Piped to grog." No doubt it was much
preferred by the ship's company to that laconic "That'll
do, men, " which gave a period to the voyage of the
more modern sailing ship.


♦♦ Prince of Wales " and '♦ Queen "—Armed

The two sister ships Prince of Wales and Queen
marked the next great advance in ship designing by the
owners of the Blackwall Yard. At their lannch these
two vessels were considered to be the finest examples of
armed merchantmen that had ever been built. They
were pierced for 50 guns and ranked with 50 -gun frigates,
to which they bore a very close resemblance. They were
specially fitted for troops . They were also flush decked—
this being considered a great attraction for passengers as
providing a "delightful promenade. " A further attrac-
tion for first-class passengers was a "ladies' boudoir."

In size and appearance they were a return to the
grandeur of the old John Company's East Indiamen.
To modern eyes their 'tween decks would have appeared
very low and dark, their bows very apple -cheeked,
their channels vast platforms and their sterns lumpy
and heavy, yet these old frigates were by no means slow,
especially in light winds. In 1860 I find the Prince of
Wales with a crew of 78 men and 120 passengers making
the passage out to Hobson's Bay in 77 days.

As wooden merchantmen, capable of being converted
in a moment to warships, the Prince of Wales and
Queen ranked with Smith's Blenheim and Marlborough
and Green's Monarch. They were built with the
scantling of frigates of war, and compared favourably
with any ship of their date produced in the Royal

The Prince of Wales was sold in 1864.

•♦Bucephalus" and "Ellenborough."

T. & W. Smith's rivals to the Prince of Wales
and Quien were the two fine 1000-ton ships Bucephalus


and Ellenboroucih. These ships were designed by the
well-known Charles Laing, of Sunderland. They had
square ports on both main and lower decks, 12 of a side
on the main and 14 on the lower deek.

The registered dimensions of the Ellenborough were
159.6 ft. length, 34.5 ft. beam, and 23 ft. depth. She
was eventually sold to George Marshall and long out-
lived her sister ship, being still in the India trade in
the seventies.

"Gloriana" and "Tudor."

These two ships were improved upon in 1843,
when Messrs. Smith launched the Gloriana of 1057 tons,
followed in 1844 by her sister ship the Tudor. Im-
provements in design are rather hard to distinguish;
they were confined chiefly to the bow and stern lines,
whilst the relations of length to beam and depth showed
little alteration, shipbuilding in the forties being very
conservative in this respect.

The Lordly "Monarch."

All the above ships were outclassed by Greens'
Monarch, of 1444 tons, the first ship built by Green
after the dividing of the yard. Mr. George Green had
already retired in 1838, and the firm was now entirely
in the hands of the two brothers, Richard and Henry
Green, whilst a third brother, Frederick, did their
broking for them.

The lordly Monarch is thus described in the Illustrated
London News of 15th .Tune, 1844: —

This splendid mercantile frigate was launched on Saturday from Mr.
Green's yard at Blackwall. The Monarch is 1400 tons burthen; length
of keel 168 feet; length overall 180 feet; depth from upper deck to
keelson, 32 feet. The breadth of her beam is 40 feet, and it is only in
this particular that she is inferior to the first-class frigates of H.M. Navy.

She has an entire fiush deck fore and aft ; is pierced for 50 guns, and


capable of carrying a greater number, for besides 16 ports on a side npon
the main deck there is also an equal number of large scuttles on the
lower deck.

Her timbers and plankinti; are chiefly of teak ; the planks next the
keel are American elm 5 inches thick, above this is teak to the whales,
which are formed of African oak: the topsides are entirely of teak,
and her bitts, capstan and most of the interior work are of the same

There are 12 cabins, averaging 11 feet by 10 each, and a dining-room
36 feet by 18 on the main deck, the fore part of which is bulkheaded oti
for the crew accommodation.

The lower deck has 18 cabins (making 30 in all) of similar dimensions,
the two after ones being the largest, 18 by 16 feet each, with stern
v/indows. Before the lower deck cabins is a roomy .space for troops.

Captain W. H. Walker took her from the stocks and
commanded her for many years.

In 1876 the old Monarch was po.sted on the missing
list when bound from Bombay to Rangoon.

The *♦ Alfred," Lecky's First Ship.

The next big ship was the Alfred, launched in
1845. Tradition relates that she was built to be a
36-gun frigate in the Royal Navy, but that the Admir-
alty changed their minds and sold her to Messrs. Green
whilst on the stocks. At any rate she carried six guns,
which were always supposed to be some of those intended
for her by the Admiralty. In the manning report of
1849 the Alfred, with a crew of 90 men including 5 mates,
3 boatswains, and 2 carpenters, earned the recommenda-
tion of the Government as an example of a well -manned

Two years later, that most celebrated seaman,
Lecky of Wrinkles, started his sea life as a midshipman
on the Alfred at the age of fourteen years. Lecky only
went one voyage, then, without his mother's knowledge,
he left Green's employ and went off to Liverpool in order
to get rid of brass buttons and be able to dabble his


From an old Litlwijrajih.


From an old Lithograph.

[To face Page 162.


Iiaiids in the tar bucket. In fact, even at that age, he
wanted a more strenuous and less easy life. Yet he
always had a tender memory of those what he called
"almost pre-historic times when the frigate-built
Indiamen of Green, Wigram, Smith and Dunbar entered
the Blackwall Docks in all their glory, with yards and
gunports squared to a nicety, bunt-jiggers bowsed up for
a harbour furl, studding sail booms rigged out to the
mark, hammock nettings neatly stowed and a welcom-
ing crowd of both sexes cheering and waving greetings
from the pierheads."

In the late fifties when homeward bound from the
Bay of Bengal, the Alfred had a narrow escape from
being burnt at sea; in fact, the passage was an exciting
one from start to finish. In the Bay of Bengal after
contending with six weeks of head winds, the Alfred had
to turn tail to a cyclone and lost in 48 hours of mad
scudding all that she had made in this beat to windward.
Having survived the cyclone, she next had to fight with
fire, that most dreaded of all sea perils for wooden ships.

The Alfred was carrying troops, and the watch below
had to keep below, as she was battened down so as to
smother the fire — but these wretched troops nearly
suffered suffocation as well, the heat being beyond any
"hot weather" they had experienced in India. However
the fire was got out and the Alfred at length got into
soundings. Here a hard east wind was encountered
and she took another month of zig-zagging wearily
back and forth across the Channel before she landed her
hard -tried troops.

In these days when every memory of the old sailing
ships is treasured by those who have served in sail,
pictures of them are sought after in the most out of the
way places. A friend of mine made a speciality of


collecting the lids of old sea chests, which were adorned
by foc's'le portraits, painted with the scrapings from
the ship's paint pots. One day to his great delight he
heard of what was said to be a very fine representation of
the Alfred on the lid of a sea chest. With infinite pains
and some expense he at last tracked down the widow of
the old seaman to whom the chest had belonged. On
reaching her cottage, lie at once asked her if she had an
old chest.

She replied : —

"Yes, I still have my husband's old sea chest." He
asked how much to buy it. She told him he could have
a look at it. That he was not the first to want to buy
it, but that she had recently had it cleaned up and so
wanted a good price for it, being of camphor wood.

She took him up to her attic and there stood the sea
chest. Eagerly and with surpressed excitement he
opened it, then fell back with disappointment, for the
lid was bright with new varnish, and there were no signs
of the celebrated old Alfred.

"I thought there was a painting of a ship on the lid ? "
he questioned in disgust.

"Yes," replied the woman, "there was. But it was
so grimy that I got the carpenter to plane it oft' when he
repaired the chest. " Curtain !

During her last years under Green's flag, the Alfred
was commanded by Captain George Tickell. Her last
voyage of which I have any record was to Australia and
back in 1862-3.

On 5th August she left the East India Docks for
Melbourne in tow of the well-known tugs, Robert Bruce
and Robert Burns. She passed the emigration in-
spection and took on board passengers and live stock
at Gravesend on the following day.


On 15th August the Lizard lights bore N.E. by E.
Keeping well to the eastward on her run to the line, she
had very light winds, sighting the Desertas on 25th
August, and Palma on 27th August. On the 28th she
took the N.E. trades, and on the following day signalled
the tea clipper Chrysolite.

As a proof that these frigate-built Blackwallers were
by no means slow when compared with other ships of
their time, the Alfred kept in company with the
Chrysolite from 29th August to 7th September, from
lat. 23° 18' N., long. 21° 34' W. to lat. 9°40'N., long.
25° 4' W. Two other tea ships were spoken by the
Alfred on her run to the line, the Fiery Cross, 82 days
out from Foochow on 4th September, and the Robin Hood
105 days out from Foochow on 11th September. Other
sailing ships of every description of rig were constantly
in company, as many as eight ships being in sight at once
on 21st August.

On 20th September, the Alfred crossed the line in
26° W., 46 days out. She crossed the meridian of
Greenwich in 37° 49' S., on 9fch October. Her best
run, 265 miles, Avas made on 28th Octob*2r in 41° 41' S.,
75° 53' E. ; her best speed logged being 10.4 knots.

On 8th November at nooiA a midshipman named
Reynolds fell overboard from the foc's'le head. The
ship was going 9 knots before a strong westerly wind.
The flying jib, royals, fore topgallant sail and staysails
were immediately taken in, the mainyard backed and
the starboard lifeboat lowered. At 1.30 p.m. the main
topgallant sail was handed and the port lifeboat sent
after the starboard one.

The midshipman was sighted by the boats, struggling
to protect his face and eyes from the attacks of albat-
rosses and mollyhawks, Cape hens and the many other


kinds of sea birds, so numerous in the Southern Ocean,
but before the boats could get up to him he had sunk,
and it was the opinion of those in the boats that the
sea birds had been the cause of his death. At 2.30 p.m.
the boats returned and the ship was put on her course.

Curiously enough, this midshipman Reynolds fell
overboard from the Agincourt on 1st, May, 1802, in
44** S., 49° W. This time it was 7.30 a.m., a strong
head wind was bloAving with a heavy sea, and in heaving
to the main topgallant yard was carried away. Rey-
nolds was very lucky in being picked up, for before noon
on that da}' the ship was lying hove to under close-reefed
fore topsail and main topsail in a strong gale.

To return to the Alfred, she arrived in Hobson's
Bay on 16th November, 93 days out from the Lizard.

She went to Sydney for her homeward bound
passengers. An epitome of her log from Sydney to
London reads as follows : —

13th February, 1863. — Noon, up anchor and were taken in tow by
steam tug Bungaree. 2 p.m., passed through the Heads and made all
plain sail. 3 p.m., cast off the steamer. Li'^'ht easterly breeze.

4th March.— Lat. 53" 30' S., long. 140' .'S' W. 10 p.m., fresh N.W.
breeze with very thick fog. In main royal and flying jib. Speed
9 knots. 11.30 p.m., an iceberg close tn on starboard bow, luffed up
and just cleared it, the ship's side scraping the ice. Shortened sail to
topsails and jib.

9th and 10th March. — \ great number of icebergs passed in 52' S.,
120' to 115° W.

19th March. — I'assed Cape Horn, 34 days out.

13th April.— 20" W S.. 29' 44' W. Sisrnalled ship CoMstteam
standing to southard. Sighted I.sland of Trinidada.

25th April. — Crossed equator in 30" 49' W., 37 days from Cape
Horn. 4 p.m., signalled and were pas.sed by Sardinian polacca barque,
Correo, Monte Video to Genoa, 20 days out. 6 a.m., signalled and
were passed by British ship Sussex, Melbourne to London, 63 days.
Noon, light east breeze and fine. Sussex hull down on port bow.

2nd May.— Lat. 13° 50' N., long. 42" 26' \V. Fresh N.E. trade.
Washed the gun deck and lower dock.


4th May. — Hove to and boarded the British brig Volants. Liverpool
to Porto Rico out 32 days, for sugar, etc.

10th May.— Daybreak, ship Sussex on port bow. 9.30 a.m., hovs
to and boarded ship Sussex for wine; was supplied. 1 1 a^m.. up boat,
filled and stood on. Sunset, Sussex topsails down ahead.

28th May. — Passed and signalled several ships, including Vtctoiy.
Whampoa to London, 120 days out.

30th May. — 8 a.m., Lizard N.X.E., spoke Sussex. Copenhagen on
lee bow.

1st June.— Several passengers left ship in a Deal lugger.

The Alfred was 106 days to the Lizard and the Sussex,
which was Wigram's Blackwallcr, 98 days.

♦♦Marlborough's" Fast Voyage to Australia.

T. & W. Smith were not long in replying to the
gauge tlirown down by Green and VVigram, when they
built the splendid frigates, Prince of IT ales, Queen and

Indeed, by building the Marlborough and Blenheim
the Smiths strained every effort to excel the perroct
work of the Blackwall Yard, and it was generally
conceded at the launch of the Marlborough in 1846 that
they had succeeded, whilst at the Great Exhibition of
1851 the Marlborough and Blenheim were presented with
silk ensigns and house-flags as being the finest ships in
the British Merchant Marine. These two ships were
specially surveyed by the Government and reported as
frigates fit for carrying armaments. Though strength
and solidity were considered of the first importance in
their construction, yet the voyage of the Marlborough
in 1853 shows that they were by no means heavy sailors.

Owing to the rush to Australia in that year both the
Marlborough and the Blenheim were taken off the Indian
run and sent out to Melbourne. The Marlborough
left London with 325 passengers and arrived in Hobson's
Bay, 78 days out from the Lizard.


From Melbourne she made a quick cross voyage to
India and back, and sailing from Port Phillip on the
4th July with 60 passengers and 72,000 ounces of gold,
valued at £288,000, was only 83^ days to the Channel.

This fine passage is thus described in the Illustrated
London News:

The Marlborough (Allen W. Young, commander) weighed from the
Port Phillip Head, on the evening of the 4th July, and passed out the
same night through Bass's Strait to the westward, with a strong north-
west gale, which increased until 6th July, at 4 p.m., when it blew a
perfect hurricane, and the ship was in a most perilous position ; whilst
running with the wind quarterly, she broached to, from a heavy sea
striking her on the quarter, the main topsail blew to ribbons, and the
ship was thrown almost upon her beam ends; the lee side and lee
quarter boat being buried in the water. The gusts of wind were also so
terrific that it was impossible to stand against them, whilst the tops of
the sea were blown completely over the ship. The barometer stood at
28.90 during the height of the gale. This happened in lat. 39° 55' S.,
long. 142° 10' E., off the south-west coast of Van Diemen's Land.

On the morning of 6th August in lat. 58° 50' S., long. 80° 26' W., a
huge iceberg was seen ahead, the ship passing about a quarter of a mile
to leeward. The thermometer fell to 29° Fahrenheit, when the
Marlborough was close to the berg, and it was with difficulty that she
steered clear of the large loose pieces of ice that were floating around
the mass. The height is stated at about 525 feet; length half a mile;
north side abrupt and bold; lee or south side, undulated surface and
opaque, resembling frozen snow. The wind was blowing fresh from the
N.N.W., and the sea was moderately rough. The sky was cloudy-
and the temperature, when about two miles from the berg, not very
cold, the thermometer being at 32°. The iceberg was visible from the
deck of the ship about three hours. The Marlborough passed Cape
Horn on the 8th August, and experienced strong gales until in lat. 35°
south. She passed the tropic of Capricorn 30th August, and arrived in
the Channel on the 26th September, thus making the rapid passage
from the southern tropic of 27 days; and 83^- to Start Point. The
ship had an entire Lascar crew (the first Lascars who had ever been
round Cape Horn); and there is little doubt that, had the crew been
European, the voyage would have been accomplished in a week less

This is a passenger's account, as one can readily see.
It is the earliest account of Lascars in the roarini'


From an old Litho(jraph.

[To face Page 16S.



forties that I have come across. Whether it was an
experiment of her celebrated commander or of her
owners I have been unable to find out.

The Marlborough, like many another Blackwaller,
ended her days as a coal hulk, and until 1888, when
she was broken up, she was a familiar sight at Gibraltar,
the last anchorage of so many celebrated ships.

A Race to India in 1853.

It may be wondered how the Blackwall frigates
made passages which were as good as those of the
clippers. The truth is that their captains had not only
their own experience of winds and weather, but that also
of nearly 150 years of carefully preserved East India
voyages to go upon. They knew all that Maury was
able to discover, but they had to consider their slower,
more leeward ly, ships where Maury was advising the
captains of close-winded clippers. The Blackwallers,
though quite fast in medium and light winds, were only
10-knotters in winds which would send Maury's clippers
along at the rate of 15 and more. Thus it was the old
East India captain's custom to keep well to the east-
ward on the passage from the Channel to the line, for he
had a very wholesome dread of being back-strapped or
set to leeward of Cape San Roque.

The following passages from Cork to the Sandheads
in 1853 are therefore of interest as bearing out the
East India captain's contention: —




Crossed the line
on in long.









June 30

July 1


" 2

July 31 13°30'W.

„ 30 19° W.

„ 31 1 19° W.

Aug. 12 j 20°30'W.

8 1 22° W.

Aug. 19
., 21
„ 20

Sept. 6

Sept. 29
„ 29
„ 29

Oct. 11
„ 19







Of these five ships, the Southampton was disposed of
bv Monev Wigram in 1863. Green sold the Barham

about the same date. In 1873 she was still trading to
India, owned by J. Prowse, of London, but a year later
she had disappeared from the register. The Wcllesleif
was sold to Vanee Gooloo, of Calcutta, in 1876, and
became a "country ship." The Cainperdown was sold
to H. Andrews, of London, and eventually was run
down and sunk in the Atlantic by the ss. lorva, when
owned by Haley, of Sydney, C.B., whilst Colliyigwood
disappeared before the seventies.

The Burning of the "Sutlej."

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryBasil LubbockThe Blackwall frigates → online text (page 13 of 26)