The Loss of the Fleetwood Lifeboat 

The equinoctial gales in the third week of October 1862 were reported in the Fleetwood Chronicle, Blackpool Herald and Lytham Gazette as being of more than the usual severity. On the morning of Thursday 23rd October, however, far in the South West of the Fylde Coast a disabled vessel was seen veering about in the storm, one mast alone was standing upon which some portions of the vessel’s sail was set, giving rise to a belief that some portion of her crew were still alive on board. The vessel, with the influence of the wind and tide gradually drifted more to the North and nearer the shore, until opposite the Blackpool Central Beach at not less than two miles distance; when the tide after high-water began to flow southward, the vessel drifted on to the tail of the Horse Banks lying midway between Lytham and Southport at the estuary of the River Ribble, where she struck and soon sank. Previously to this a telegram had been sent to Fleetwood, stating that a vessel was observed drifting about the coast off Blackpool in distress.

Loss of Fleetwood LifeboatThe Fleetwood Lifeboat was immediately launched and manned by a volunteer crew, under the command of Mr Yelland, and taken in tow by the steam-tug Wyre.  At this time it was blowing strong from the West North West (W.N.W) and the sea was running mountains high and curling over in a frightful manner, and it was deemed expedient for the crew of the lifeboat to get on board the tug.  Twice going the lifeboat was capsized by the seas, but being self-righting she took no injury, and after that the top of the stern was completely torn out and carried away.  The boat had then to be towed by a bolt in the deck.  The steamer on arriving as near as she could to the wreck found that she had foundered and nothing living could be seen or heard, so, as she could be of no assistance, she turned back.  The wind had meanwhile risen to a complete storm and the sea had risen considerably, and every now and then broke completely over the vessel, causing fears for her safety to the persons on board.  The last bolt which held the lifeboat in tow gave way, when about W.N.W. of Rossall, and as it was pitch dark it was perfectly impracticable to attempt to find her; she was obliged to be left to her fate, and the steamer arrived safely in Fleetwood, about 8.30, having sustained some injury in her bulwarks and deck-houses.  Great praise is due to the crew of the lifeboat for their conduct in volunteering to go round the coast at Mr. Yelland’s suggestion to search for the life-boat, thinking she might possibly have gone ashore on that coast.  The search was continued until after midnight, unfortunately without any success and nothing has since been heard of our unfortunate life-boat.

Soon after dusk and the return of the tide the wreck of the schooner must have been driven from the banks and capsized, for about that time large numbers of barrels of flour, and lard in casks began to be rolled up by the waves to the foot of the bulking all along the shore from the Wellington to Bailey’s hotel.  Some portion of them were secured for the owners or Lloyds’. By Messrs. Birch, Bailey, Mashiter, Noblet, and the workmen employed at the Pier; but we are sorry to say that a far greater portion were dashed to pieces against the embankments by the tide, whose rapid flow, together with the darkness prevented any continued effort being made for their recovery.  About nine o’ clock it began to be known that the vessel had been driven ashore nearly opposite the Victoria Hotel, and the beach was crowded with groups of visitors and residents, all in the highest degree interested in the fate of the crew if any on board.  On her first appearance, however, it was evident that no person was aboard.  As the tide flowed she drifted further ashore, and she now lies with her bow close to the embankment of the footpath, and within two yards of the highway, where she has been taken possession of by the coastguard.  During the search made by the coastguard, some American and Columbian coin was discovered in a tin box and handed over to Mr. Yelland, who also found her number and tonnage cut out in the hatchway.  Her number is 8139; tonnage 81 tons register.  On reference to the Shipping Register we find that No. 8139 is the schooner William Henry, of Liverpool, and as a board with that name has been picked up on the coast, we have little reason to doubt but that she is the same.

Tug and Fleetwood LifeboatThe lifeboat was washed ashore in the north of Morecambe Bay near Milnthorpe, and on information being received at Fleetwood to that effect, Mr. Yelland immediately went over and had her taken to the railway station at Milnthorpe, from whence she was conveyed  by train, free of expense, and arrived in Fleetwood on Tuesday.  She has sustained serious injury, her port side being stove in amidships, besides other damage done to her interior.  She has been examined by Mr. Gibson, shipbuilder, who states that her repairs will amount to £10 or £12, inclusive of painting.  At a meeting of the Lifeboat Committee held yesterday, it was resolved to make application to the National Lifeboat Institution for a ten-oar'd boat, better calculated in all respects for venturous service than the present one.


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