Charming Molly - 1780


The 'Charming Molly’ was wrecked off Bryher in 1780 with a cargo of Portland Stone bound for Dublin in Ireland. 

The Isles of Scilly Museum Publication 3, March 1980, page 16 and the Shipwreck Index of the British Isles, Volume 1- Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, Devon & Dorset, notes that the Weymouth registered 120 ton sailing brig ‘Charming Molly’, under the command of Captain Samuel Marder, was reported lost on Sunday 19th November 1780. These references also refer to Lloyds List No. 1,225 published on Tuesday 19th December 1780 and further documentation describes her as “stranded near Bryher to became a total wreck”. 

None of the maritime historians/archaeologists on the islands appear to have investigated the wreck but it was suggested that the Island Maritime Archaeological Group (IMAG) approached Brian Jenkins, a local Island fisherman, whose family had a long association with Bryher. 

When approached, Brian said he remembered that there was an old stone trough in the corner of a field near the public well on Bryher, which he was sure his father had told him, had come from a wreck nearby. Possibly from the Southwest of the island, near ‘Droppy Nose’ Point, an area that Brian referred to initially as ‘Staunchy Porth’.  Within days, and having since spoken to his son, Brian phoned to say that according to a chart of 1898 the small bay on the South West of the island that he had referred to as ‘Staunchy Porth’ is in fact called ‘Stoneship Porth’.  Surprisingly it is still referred as to Stoneship Porth in the current issue of the Ordinance Survey Map.

Stoneship Porth [ts]

Question now for the IMAG team; would we be able to find the trough and would it be made of Portland Stone?  Brian drew them a map of where he remember the trough was situated when he left Bryher about forty years ago. It was however several weeks before the weather was good enough for the quest by the IMAG team to find the trough, but we finally set out for Bryher on Sunday the 14th January 2007.  

We soon arrived at the area, but not finding anybody around to guide us to the old well, spent quite a time searching various fields before finding it. It is now covered with a manhole, pumping equipment and storage tanks.  Once located, the area was searched again for the stone trough.  It was exactly where Brian had said it was, but because it has now become part of a boundary wall, several of the team had already passed it by. We were amazed it was still there after all these years, on the Mainland this would surely have disappeared into someone’s garden and all provenances lost.



Finding the Charming Molly Trough on Bryher.


After arriving at either quay make your way south towards Works Point.  Pass Veronica Farm house and make for The Green.  You need to find a gate on the right-hand side of path (set back a little) SV 87857, 14667.  If you see an Admiralty Anchor to the right you have gone too far.  Open the gate to a field and walk up the right-hand side of the field (50metres) to take you to the opening at the top right-hand corner.  The trough is in the wall at the end of the stone wall.  SV 87810, 14650.

The dimensions are; 34” long by 24” wide by 15” deep.  The walls are approximately 4” thick.  Hopefully permission may be obtained to remove the trough at some stage for a closer examination.  It is certainly limestone and the chances of it having been recovered from the Charming Molly must be extremely high.  We know that there is a possibility that there may be a quarry mark on the stone.  What we are unlikely to determine is whether or not the stone was recovered as a trough or chiselled out locally. 

During the summer of 2007 several searches of the area were made but no evidence of Portland Stone was found in the Porth.  We do realise that in this particular location (close to Hell Bay) we are unlikely to find any evidence of the wreck itself but were hoping to find evidence of the stone cargo.

The only other information we have been able to gain about the wreck was from a historical tidal almanac.  This stated, on the day of the wreck, that it was neap tides with only a 2.87 metre difference between high and low water, low water occurred at 4.28 pm just 8 minutes before sunset. 

This fact could mean that the cargo was lost in fairly shallow water.  Since building stone of this quality would have been a valuable commodity to the islanders, it may well have been salvaged.  So far though i.e. at the time of writing this, we are not aware of any Portland Stone structures on the Islands.  One gentleman who would have been interested in the cargo, Augustus Smith, fortunately did not arrive on the Islands till 1834.

Portland Stone was in widespread use in Dublin in the latter half of the eighteenth century with many of the great public buildings built of it, notably the Customs House and the Irish Parliament building, now the Bank of Ireland building in College Green, which had its heyday before the Act of Union at the beginning of the nineteenth century. 

In A. E. Cocksedge’s handwritten papers “Ships Built at Weymouth” entry #51 describes a barque of 120 tons with a draught of 11 feet having been built in Weymouth in 1764 with the owner and captain as Samuel Marder called the ‘Charlotte and Molly’. It also adds that it is “Shown as Ch?ing & Molly, Lloyds 1775”.

It would appear certain that these two boats are one and the same but doubt remains as to whether she was the ‘Charming Molly’ or the ‘Charlotte and Molly’. Mr Cocksedge is now deceased and his notes are hand written.  For the time being we shall continue to call her the ‘Charming Molly’. 

However there is no record in Cocksedge’s handwritten papers “Ships Registered in Weymouth” of a boat containing the words Charlotte, Molly or Charming being registered in Weymouth in the period 1775 to 1780, presumably if registered at Lloyds it was not required to register locally. 

The “Charming Molly was one of five boats built in Weymouth in 1764, the others were a 70 ton sloop, a 90 ton brigantine and two brigs of 80 and 150 tons and one of only two barques ever built in Weymouth.  She was rated “E1” in 1775 and 1779 that referred to her strength and suitability to carry heavy cargo and infers that at least she had a double skin with a 'ceiling' inside the frames to protect the hull from the stone cargo. 

Samuel Marder appears in the ‘Weymouth Museum Records of Devenish and Groves Title Deeds’ on 5th May 1796 under the assignment of leases for 52 St Thomas Street as a “mariner and late husband of Mary Marder”. Samuel was the son of John & Jane Marder and by using the parish records for births, marriages and burials it has been possible to put together a 'suggested' family tree for Captain Samuel Marder.  Checks of the source documents are required to confirm this family tree but luckily there appears to be only one Samuel although there are several Johns, Janes and Marys.  If we have the correct Samuel, he obviously survived the wreck on Bryher in 1780, see details below.

John Marder, possibly Samuels father is recorded as Mayor of Weymouth 1743 to 1744, dying on 11th August 1746.  A Samuel Marder marries an Elizabeth Samways on the 8th April 1742 which does not fit the later record above stating that he was married to a Mary.  Further research however, identifies a Samuel Marder's marriage to a Mary Brett on the 22nd January 1772 "by licence" - (Parish of Wyke Regis).  The licence may indicate a second marriage.  Susannah Marder, "daughter of Samuel & Mary Marder", dies on the 25th November, 1783 nine months after her father - (St Mary's Melcombe Regis).  A Samuel Marder is reported to have died on the 8th February, 1783 - (St Mary's Church, Melcombe Regis).  A Mary Marder died 14th January, 1812 - (St Mary's Church, Melcombe Regis).


As of the end of July 2010 searches of Stoneship Porth have still not found any signs of the cargo.  We have found what we think may be limestone in the ruins of the old chapel in Tresco Gardens & Old Town Church.  Whether this is Portland Stone remains to be seen!  Do you know of any?  It is unlikely that the stone was removed from the Isles of Scilly.


Our thanks for information and help to: