Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

The Royal Charter Storm

Recommended Posts

Probably the most important storm in the history of British meteorology happened during the month of October 1859 The storm and it's consequences marked the beginning of official weather forecasting in this country.



This essay considers the Royal Charter Storm, perhaps the most devastating weather event to occur in Britain in the nineteenth century, a gale that is named for the wreck of the Royal Charter steamship off the coast of North Wales and the subsequent drowning of most of its passengers and crew. Although this tragedy resulted in improvements in weather warning systems that contributed to the rise of modern forecasting, that is not the storm’s only legacy. In the aftermath of a parallel media storm, a host of reports ran in newspapers across the country in the days, weeks, and even months that followed, together producing a sense of this wide-ranging storm as a shared, national event. Among these reports was Charles Dickens’s account in All the Year Round, a striking portrayal of the losses associated with the wreck and an effort to ameliorate the suffering it had caused. Rather than predicting the weather, reports of the storm in the popular press turned to another kind of weather model of sorts, the retrospective work of memorializing and sympathy.


The Royal Charter Gale and the world's first National Forecasting Service


An account from the Illustrated London News 05 November 1859



This vessel was wrecked, as recorded in our Journal last week, on the north-east coast of Anglesea, during the morning of Wednesday, the 26th ult. She was driven upon a shelving ledge of limestone rock (Perth Ynys), distant about five miles from Point Lynas lighthouse, and within a mile from the Moelfro lighthouse. The Royal Charter was built about four years ago ; she was of 2719 tons register and 200-horse power. Her owners were Messrs. Gibb, Bright, and Co., of Liverpool. She was iron vessel, worked by a screw. Appended is a more complete account than we were able to give last week of the terrible disaster.

The Royal Charter sailed from Melbourne on the of August last, having on board 388 passengers, and a crew, including officers, 112 persons. She accomplished her passage in two months. On the morning of Monday week she passed Queenstown, and thirteen of the passengers landed in a pilot-boat. The next day the Royal Charter took on board from a steam-tug eleven riggers who had been assisting in working a ship to Cardiff. Thus, at the time of the calamity, there were on board 498 persons, and of these only thirty-nine wore saved. The ship, as we are informed, had on board but a small cargo, mainly of wool and skins. A more important item 'of her freight was gold and specie, which at the lowest estimate is put £500,000. On Tuesday evening there was blowing from the E.N.E. a violent gale, which fell with full force on the ill-fated ship. She arrived off Point at six o’clock in the evening of Tuesday, and for several hours Captain Taylor continued throwing up signal-rockets, in the hope of attracting the attention of a pilot. None made his appearance. The gale increased in violence; the ship was making leeway, and drifting gradually towards the beach. It was pitch dark ; no help was at hand. The captain let both anchors, but the gale had now increased to a hurricane, and had lashed the sea up to madness. The chains parted; and, notwithstanding that tho engines wore worked at their full power, the Royal Charter continued to drift towards the shore. At three a.m. she struck the rocks in four fathoms of water. The masts and rigging were cut adrift, but this gave no relief. The ship continued to grind and dash upon tho rocks. The screw became foul with the drift spars and rigging, and ceased to act. The consequence was that the ship was thrown broadside on to the rocks

The officers of the ship either hoped against hope, or endeavoured to alleviate the agony of the passengers by assuring them that there was no immediate danger. A Portuguese sailor, Joseph rogers, conveyed a rope ashore through the heavy surf. Had time been given no doubt every person on board could have been safely conveyed on shore; but one tremendous wave came after another; playing with the Royal Charter like a toy, and swinging her about on the rocks.. she divided amidships, and well-nigh all on board were swept into the furious sea. A few minutes afterwards she also parted at the forehatch, and then there was an end.

Those who were not killed by the sea, were killed by the breaking up of the ship. In the course of a very few minutes the work was done, and four hundred and fifty nine persons were numbered among the dead.

Edited by knocker

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...