The Wreck of the East India Company Ship, Phoenix in 1680 - Todd Stevens

This is another of those early shipwrecks about which very little is known. She was recorded as a 30 gun, 450 ton, merchantman returning from Bantam with pepper and cloth; lost among the western rocks on the 11th January 1680.  It appears from East India Company records that most, if not all, of a crew of 90 were saved from the wreck.  Some of the cargo was also saved as one Thomas Abney is recorded as paying £202 8s 1d at a salvage sale on Scilly. 

Some believe that this wreck now lies next to the Menglow Rock in Smith Sound close to St Agnes Island; others merely state that she was lost to the western rocks.  I have not yet seen any evidence that states either of these as being correct.  For this wreck I must again point towards the Simon Bayly chart; as therein, to the north west of Samson Island, one will find Bayly has written the words, Captain Wildy Lost.  The Captain of the Phoenix was indeed named Wildy [Wildey] and evidence presented below surely shows that Simon Bayly must be correct about the position of this wreck.

Simon Bayly produced his chart within months of the Phoenix being lost. Not only that, Bayly helped Thomas Ekins construct the St Agnes lighthouse, and this structure was built from the proceeds of salvage work done on the Phoenix by Thomas Ekins.

Ekins is recorded by the Hudson’s Bay Company as being paid for salvaging the Shaftesbury, but he is also recorded by the East India Company as having been instrumental in helping the crew off the Phoenix and from that same wreck being paid: ‘for his care & pains in assisting ye Salvage of ye Companies goods”.  Moreover, some of the Trinity Brethren were share holders of the Phoenix , so her loss was strongly felt by the Trinity House Corporation.  Ekins had saved Captain Wildy and his men from the wreck, the Corporation later turned to Captain Wildy and asked him: “What conveniences was to be had on the island for erecting a lighthouse”.  Wildy recommended St Agnes, and Thomas Ekins for the job.  In turn Ekins went to Simon Bayly.  Wildy, Ekins & Bayly; three men closely associated with each other, and all of whom must clearly have known the exact resting place of the Phoenix.
Is the Phoenix on the Menglow? Personally, I’m looking to the rocks north west of Samson Island, but won’t expect to find much as Steward/salvager Ekins, appears to have got there first.  There is also an old wreck over that way found by local diver (Peter Carrs) that could be a good candidate for this wreck. 'Methinks' the Shaftesbury is now top of my project list.

 I would like to thank my friend and colleague Ed Cumming for his help in uncovering the facts behind the wreck of the Phoenix and allowing me access to documents by the late Chippy Pierce of the wreck site(s) near Pednathise Head. 

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