Earl of Abergavenny
Memorial to the loss of life on the Earl of Abergavenny in
Weymouth Harbour 2005
The Loss of the Indiaman, Earl of
|The Earl of
Abergavenny, Capt. John Wordsworth, the brother of the poet, was about
1200 tons burthen. She was nine years old, having been built in Pincher's Yard
at Northfleet, Kent, in 1796 for the East India Co. The captain's family had
invested 20,000 L in goods on board the ship.
the morning of Thursday 4 February 1805, an officer who was one of the fortunate
number to have been saved from the wreck, brought the sad news to India House.
The following is taken from his account and that of Mr John Clark, the 5th Mate.
She sailed from
Portsmouth, on Friday 1 February 1805, in company with the Royal George,
Henry Addington, Wexford and Bombay Castle, for the East Indies under
Convoy of the Weymouth,36, Frigate (an ex-Indiaman), and was destined for
Bengal and China. ...The weather
proved very unfavourable after their sailing, and the wind being strongly
adverse, west south-west, induced them to make the best of their way for
Portland Roads, having the main-top-gallant-mast struck and the fore and mizen
ditto on deck. ... While crossing the east end
of the Shambles Bank off Portland Bill, about two miles from the shore, the wind
suddenly died away, and a strong tide setting the ship to the westward, drifted
her into the breakers; and a sea striking her on the larboard quarter, broached
her to with her head to the northward, when she instantly struck. It being about
5 o'clock. They let out all reefs and hoisted the top-sails, in hopes to shoot
the ship across.
...Then the Carpenter announced that a considerable leak was
discovered near the bottom of the chain-pumps, which it was not in his power to
stop, the water gushing in so fast. The pumps being all in readiness, were set
a-going and part of the crew endeavoured to bail her at the fore hatch, but all
their attempts to keep the water under were in vain.
...The dreadful crisis was now approaching - every one on board
seemed assured of his fate; some gave themselves up to despair, while others
employed the few minutes they had left in imploring the mercy of their Creator.
At 10 o'clock the ship was nearly full of water, and as she began gradually to
sink, confusion commenced on board. A number of sailors begged ardently for more
liquor, and when it was refused, they attacked the spirit room, but they were
repulsed by their Officers, who continued to conduct themselves with the utmost
fortitude. One was stationed at the spirit room door, with a brace of pistols,
to guard against surprise, and remained there even while the ship was sinking.
About two minutes before the ship went down, Mr Baggot, Chief Mate, was heard to
say to Capt. Wordsworth, "We have done all we can, Sir, she will sink in a
moment." The captain replied, "It cannot be helped - God's will be
... When the ship sunk, she did not go down in the usual way that
vessels do, by falling first upon her beam ends; This deviation was supposed to
have arisen from her being laden with treasure and Porcelain ware. She had
nearly 70,000 L sterling in specie on board, and about 400 persons. The crew
consisted of 160 men, and there were between 50 and 60 passengers; the rest were
100 recruits for his Majesty's and 59 soldiers of the East India Co., and 100 of
the King's soldiers about 30 Chinamen were also on board. The total number
drowned is estimated at 300.
..The whole value of the cargo is estimated at 200,000 L.
Nothing was saved except the dispatches and some valuable prints being sent out
to General Lake. As she went down Capt. Wordsworth was seen clinging to the
ropes. Mr Gilpin, one of the mates, used every persuasion to induce him to try
and save his life, but he did not seem desirous to survive the loss of his ship.
Mr Baggot, the Chief Mate, was of the same cool and temperate disposition, and
made no attempt to save his own life, but met the fate of his captain with the
... The salvage work on Abergavenny was
carried out by John Braithwaite in Endeavour and continued until the end
of March 1806 when, having recovered all the chests of specie and the rest of
the cargo, the wreck was blown up.