Secrets of the Sea
You’re strolling along Skegness beach at the water’s edge, breathing in the bracing sea air, glancing out to the wind farm, glancing towards Gibraltar Point.But do you know the secrets the Skegness sea holds?
As I was researching this historical story, I, yet again, discovered some contradicting facts documented in various sources. First of all, I’ll relate the 1930s article, then I will discuss the anomalies:
How many ship wrecks lie covered by the sand on Skegness beach?
In the early 1930s the blacked skeleton of a ship was revealed, down by low watermark opposite the old Vine opening, now called Buckthorne Avenue. She lie a forlorn, mute testimony to some past disaster.
Eye witnesses first noticed her protruding stumps in the summer of 1931 when visiting the beach at low water springs.
Mr James Giles, a Skegness antiquary and collector of Skegness archeological finds, whose knowledge of wrecks and ships broken up on Skegness beach was unrivalled, was consulted.
Mr Giles said that the “bones” of the exposed wreck were those of the “Hull Packet”, a square-sterned sloop registered at the port of Lynn. In the autumn of 1894, bound from Barton-on-Humber to King’s Lynn with a cargo of roofing tiles and floor bricks, she sprang a leak. Owing to the nature of the cargo, which absorbed much of the incoming water in the early stages, the leak was not discovered until the vessel was in the Lynn Well, near the lightship. A strong southerly gale was blowing at the time, and the Master (who was a brother of the owner, a Mr Smith, of Lynn) decided to run ashore. She was beached in the position where the skeleton lie.
Tiles Now On Skegness Houses
Mr Giles went on to say that the cargo of the “Hull Packet” was removed and taken to the donkey shed, where the former Sand’s Inspector’s office stood in the early 1930s.
The cargo was sold to local builders, a large quantity being purchased by Mr J G Holmes. At the time when the wreck was uncovered, a quantity of these self-same tiles were to be seen on the roofs of some of the houses on Roman Bank, near the Steam Laundry (later became Fenland laundry).
According to Mr Giles the tiles and bricks still left in the bottom of the boat were sold to local men for small sums. The hull was sold by auction and purchased by Mr J R Storr – the well-known Capt Storr who used to run the old pleasure paddle steamer “Privateer”, between Skegness and Boston, and Skegness and Hunstanton before the Great War.
Danger to Navigation
During 1895, the remains of the wrecked vessel after breaking up, were reported to Trinity House as a danger to navigation. Consequently, a demolition party was sent along to survey the wreck at Skegness.
“They brought a diver with them,” said Mr Giles, “but his services were found to be unnecessary as the wreck was accessible”.
The demolition team brought explosives in canisters of 5lb, 10lb and 15lb, but it was only necessary to use two 15lb canisters.
“I well remember the explosion”, continued Mr Giles. “The cannister exploded downwards, forming a huge hole in the sand like an inverted cone. The shape of the hole was clearly visible, as there was a brief interval of time before the sea rushed in and filled it”.
Mr Giles added that, coincidently, the mate of the “Hull Packet” – the crew numbered two – was formerly mate of the shooner “Eliza”, which was brought to Skegness to be broken up, was used many years as a museum, and was ultimately broken up a few years before the Great War.
It was 36 years before the remains of the “Hull Packet” were seen again, and this was only when the larger ebb at springs bore the sand for a greater distance seawards.
The sea gave up its secret of the “Hull Packet”, but there are other ships buried in Skegness sands which may or may not come to light at some future date through the eroding action of the creeks.
One such wreck lies to the seaward and slightly to the southward of Miramir, former Seacroft residence of Mr Frederick Acton.
This second vessel is the cod smack “Rambler”, of London, brought to Skegness for breaking-up purpose, and purchased by Mr Amos King, of Grimsby. While she was near Skegness, she broke away from her tugs and ran ashore opposite the Miramir. Like many others, she was sold at the Vine opening.
Her remains was last seen in 1912.
Around the late 1920s, quantities of pipe-clay have been recovered from the sands opposite Marine Avenue. The clay once formed part of the cargo of the “Gem” of Goole, a “dickey” bound from Poole, Dorset to Goole.
She was wrecked off Skegness, and the crew of three men and a cat were rescued. Her cargo of pipe-clay was thrown overboard, and what was able to be recovered was sold. The hull was bought by a Mr William Turner and others for the sum of 7 pounds. Her spars, sails and gear were taken to Goole.
Not far away from the “Rambler”, opposite Serena Road, lies the brig “Ant”. Laden with a cargo of oak, staves, wool and spelter ( zinc, especially in the form of ingots, slabs, or plates), she was driven ashore on the Inner Middle in the August Gale of 1833. It was around this date when the lifeboat was moved from Gibraltar Point to Skegness, owing to the latter being a more windward location.
It is fantastic to know that a Mr Thomas Hutson, of Roman Bank, had in his possession, (recounted in the early 1930s) a table constructed from the oak staves removed from the “Ant” when she first came ashore.
In 1903, the wreck of the “Ant” was found to be a danger to boats working from the beach, so she was blown up by a demolition team from Trinity House.
The following year, in 1904, again the Trinity House steamer had to blow up another vessel, the “Quiver”. a Boston smack which had founded in shallow water off Skegness, her crew being rescued by local boatmen.
Passenger Steamer’s Grave
Other wrecks which lay slightly further afield from the Skegness shores include an iron passenger steamer which found her grave in the Outer Knock. The passengers were rescued by a former Boston pilot, Mr Edward Benton, who received a medal for his rescue services.
Near to the hump on Outer Knock, better known to Skegnessians as Seal Bank, five stumps are sometimes visible. These are all that remains of the “James” of Dover, not to be confused with another “James” of Dover which was later broken up on Skegness beach.
Check back soon for other wrecks which lie off Wainfleet.
As I stated at the top of the page, one or two things don’t seem to add up here!
- The article mentions the brig “Ant” of Boston being wrecked by the August storm of 1833. I have already covered the story of the wreck of the 1833 gale which reports the doomed vessel as being the brig “Hermione” of London. Of course it is possible that there were in fact two victims of the said storm.
- Looking at the list of rescued vessels by the Skegness lifeboat, on display in the Skegness lifeboat station, a sloop named the “Ant” of Boston is recorded to have been attended by the Skegness lifeboat in December of 1867. Again it is possible that there were two vessels of the same name.
I will leave the case open until more details surface!
We have been contacted by Peter Gregory who has sent us the following photograph, taken by himself, of one of the wrecks which lies between Donna Nook and Sutton on Sea. “Unfortunately”, says Peter,” most now remain buried.”
The next image shows a close-up of the wreck.