Loss of the Steamer Brigand on the Crim Rock - 12/10/1842

Illustrated London News

Sketch from the London Illustrated News

The above sketch represents the loss of the iron steamer Brigand, on Wednesday, the 12 inst., off the Scilly Islands.  We cannot better convey an idea of this lamentable catastrophe than by giving the subjoined narrative, written by an eye witness, of the awful event:-

 “We left Liverpool at two, P.M., on Monday 1st, and proceeded on our voyage, without any thing particular happening until a quarter before five, a.m., on Wednesday, going from 11 to 12 knots an hour, with a strong current, light wind from the north-east, the morning being hazy, when she suddenly ran  foul of the breakers, and struck twice; the first time abreast of the foremast in the bluff of the bow, and the next blow was of such great force that it carried off her paddle wheel, and drove it right into the engine room.  We saw the St Agnes light, but in consequence of the haziness of the weather we considered it was at least 15 miles off.  Soon afterwards we saw breakers, but too late to avoid them.  We put the helm hard a port, however, to endeavour to do so, and immediately received the shocks on our broadside.  Where she struck was in lat. 49. 56. N., long. 6. 16, W., on the Crim Rock, near the Bishop’s Rock, about three miles and a half from the spot where the Thames was lost, and 67 hands, in January, 1841.  Both compartments of the vessel were stove in, and she began to fill rapidly.  The captain and crew immediately exerted themselves to the utmost to save the vessel.  The carpenter placed a board against the side, and placed stays against the cylinder, and stopped up the crevices with ‘waste’ and grease; but these efforts were ineffectual, as were likewise the endeavours to lighten her by throwing the fuel over board, which we continued to do till the hold filled with water.  The engines had become completely useless, and the fires were out, but the crew continued to exert themselves for nearly two hours, when the captain ordered all hands on the quarter-deck, and ordered out the jolly boats.  At this time she had drifted about seven miles from the breaker, and after waiting a quarter of an hour we got in them, the captain and mate still remaining on the quarter deck; the boats stood by the vessel another quarter of an hour, and then, as she was sinking fast, the captain and the mate got into one of them and we shoved off.  In about half an hour after we saw her go down by the head, in about 45 fathoms of water.  We rowed for the Rock, and got on it, to see how the land lay; the other boat came after us, and we joined in a small bay leading to St. Agnes light, where two boats from the shore came out to us, having seen our lights, and took us in tow for the harbour, St. Mary’s, which we reached about three o’clock.  The same night we went in the Antelope pilot boat to Penzance and from thence to St. Ives, where we got a passage to Bristol in the Herald”

The Brigand has only been built two years since, by Messrs. Grantham, Page and Co., of Liverpool, for Mr Redmond, of Wexford, at a cost of £32,000, and intended to trade from Liverpool to Bristol, calling at Wexford, which she continued to do till a short time since, when she was superseded by the Troubadour, another iron steamer, of 250 horse-power, and she was now on her voyage from Liverpool to London, having merely 200 tons of fuel to carry her to St. Petersburg.  She was an elegantly built vessel, and fitted up in the most elegant style.  She was 600 tons burthen, and 200 horse-powers, and built with bulkheads, having four compartments, and had she not been struck a complete broadside, so as to stave in both compartments, she would have been saved.  We understand she was not insured.

The Times Newspaper - Monday, October 17, 1842, Issue 18116


“A letter was received this morning at the Commercial rooms here stating that the new iron-steamer Brigand had been lost on the Scilly Islands.  This news created considerable excitement in the mercantile world, and more particularly from the fact of the Brigand having been built to trade between Bristol and Liverpool, calling at Wexford, in which trade she had been employed for the last two years, having left the station only a fortnight since for the purpose of proceeding from London to St Petersburgh, for which port she was intending to sail from the St Katharine’s-dock on Thursday next.
The Brigand was one of the largest and most beautiful iron steamers ever built, being of 600 tons burthen, and 200 horse power, and was remarkable for the beauty of her workmanship, the splendid fittings of her saloon, and her extraordinary speed.  She cost in building 32,000l.  The rumour to which we have alluded above was unfortunately too soon confirmed by the arrival of the Cornish steamer Herald, Samson Hawes commander, from Hayle, bringing the crew of the unfortunate steamer, 27 in number, and confirming the statement of her total wreck on the Bishop rock, a portion of the Scilly Isles.

Upon receiving this confirmation, we immediately took steps to ascertain the particulars of this unfortunate accident, and the following statement, derived from the chief mate and one of the engineers of the Brigand may be relied on as correct.

It appears that the Brigand having taken upwards of 200 tons of coals, and a large quantity of patent fuel for her consumption on the voyage to St Petersburgh, sailed from Liverpool to London at 2 o’clock on Monday afternoon, and proceeded safely on her voyage until 5 o’clock on Wednesday morning, when they saw St Agnes’ light, which from the refraction of light, the weather being very hazy, they conceived to be a considerable distance-they were then steaming at 12 knots an hour:  suddenly the man on the lookout at the bow sang out “ Breakers ahead!” which they distinctly saw, but too late, unfortunately, for the rate at which they were going was such that they could not stop her; and, although they put the helm hard to port, to endeavour to shave the rock , the vessel immediately afterwards struck most violently, and two plates of the bluff of her bow  were driven in.  She rebounded from the rock, but in an instant afterwards she struck again, broad side on, the force of which blow may in some measure conceive from the fact, that it actually drove a great portion of her paddle-wheel through her side into the engine room.  The vessel was built in four compartments, the plans adopted in iron ships, or she would have gone down instantly, two of her compartments now being burst, and the water rushing into them at a most fearful rate.  By the two shocks four and a half plates were destroyed, and four angle-irons were gone in the engine room.  The two compartments aft being , however, still water tight, she continued to float, and every exertion was used by the commander, Captain Hunt, for upwards of two hours to save her, when the crew took to the boats, and shortly afterwards went down, about seven miles from the rock, in about 45 fathoms of water.  The mate attributes the loss to the strong current setting them upon the rock, and to the haze having deceived them as to the distance of the St Agnes light.  The men connected with the engineering department whom we saw give the following interesting narrative of the occurrence.  They say that having left Liverpool on the Monday afternoon, every thing proceeded well until a few minutes before 5 o’clock on Wednesday morning, the vessel then going at full speed, her engines making upwards of 20 revolutions in the minute, being then , as they have since learned, close of St Agnes.  They were at work below in the engine room, when suddenly they felt a tremendous shock, accompanied with a roar like a cannon, and almost instantaneously a second shock, and the water rushed in a fearful manner.   They immediately ran on deck, and found that the vessel had struck a rock as before described.  One of them was ordered by the captain to assist the carpenter in endeavouring to stop the leak, for which purpose he went down to the engine room, where they were still trying to work the engines, put the paddle wheel being driven in had torn the injection pipes, so they could not work , but at slow motion; the engines being kept working, the captain, as this man imagines, not thinking the leak so bad, and that they could get the better of it, or that, as the weather was so moderate, they might reach some port.  On examining the leak in the engine room, they found a rent of at least five feet in length, the rivets being started, and the plate broken, through which water rushed in a truly fearful manner.  They immediately procured a plank, and having fixed it against the leak by means of stays to the cylinder, they got a quantity of waste tow and grease, which they stuffed in and endeavoured to keep out the water , and partially succeeded in doing so; but the other leak in the fore hold being out of reach, rendered all their efforts ineffectual, and the water continuing to pour in soon put all the fires out, after which, there being then more than four feet of water in the engine room, they were compelled to quit it.  In the mean time another portion of the crew had been ordered by the captain to go into the hold and throw the coals and parent fuel overboard, in order to lighten her, and blue lights were burnt and other signal of distress made.  The men went to work steadily in the hold, getting out the coals &c., until, the water having gained very much upon them, they rushed on deck.  The captain having , however, address and encouraging them, they returned to the hold and continued their exertions for about a quarter of an hour longer, when the water having risen over the hatches of the lower deck they were compelled to quit the hold.  The captain then called them all aft on the quarter deck, and, finding that no further exertion could be made to save the ship, and she was then fast sinking forward the sea at that time breaking over her bow, ordered then to make preparations for saving themselves, and the two boats belong to the Brigand (both jollyboats) were got out, and the crew 27 in number, placed in them.  The captain and mate remained on the quarter deck of the unfortunate vessel until the last.  The boats were completely crowded, then shoved off, without having any provisions on board, except a small quantity of bread, and in a few minutes the Brigand disappeared, sinking head foremost, about seven miles from where she stuck in deep water.  The weather fortunately, was at this moment, particularly moderate, or the boats in their crowded state could not have lived in the sea, and not a soul most probably would have been left to tell the tale.  Having rowed to the rock, upon which they landed, to survey the coast , they shaped their course for St Agnes Bay, where to their inexpressible joy, they saw two boats, well manned, coming to their relief, by whom (the men in the Brigand’s boats being much exhausted from their exertions on board) they were taken in tow.  Some of the hands were placed on board the other boats to lighten their own, and render them less crowded, and at about 2o’clock or 3 o’clock in the afternoon they were fortunately landed at St. Mary’s, Scilly, without the loss of a single life.  From St Agnes [St Mary’s?] they proceeded in a pilot boat to Penzance, and the ship-wrecked crew were kindly conveyed, passage free, to Bristol in the Herald.  The rocks were the Brigand was lost have proved particularly fatal; no longer than 1841 the Thames steamer was wrecked within three miles of the same spot and 70 to 80 lives lost.  Various suggestion have been made by nautical men as to the cause of this wreck, some saying that the steamer ought not  to have gone within many miles of the Scilly Islands; and that the weather being moderate, she was not driven there; while on the other hand , it urged, that from the haziness of the weather she was not aware that she was so near until too late, the refraction of the light deceiving them as to the distance of St Agnes light; and the current, which is very strong there and runs for nine hours in one direction, and only three hours in the other, having set them down on the rock.  Unfortunate, however, as this accident has been decidedly proved the advantage of iron vessels built in compartments., for had the leak affected only one compartment, she would undoubtedly have been saved, and even although, by the extraordinary fact of her rebounding and striking a second time, two compartments were burst, yet it is seen that she floated for more than two hours and a half, enabling the crew to save themselves, while, if she had been built of wood, she must with such injuries have gone down in less than 10 minutes, and all hands would have perished.”


The London Illustrated News, 1842
The Times Newspaper Archive