"The Lancastria was a barque built at Pallion, River Wear, by Richard Wilkinson, and launched on the 20th May 1856. She was registered at Liverpool as new in June of that year, and given the Official No. 15397. Her dimensions were given as: length 143 ft and 3 tenths; beam 25 ft. and 7 tenths; with a registered tonnage of 335.54. She was wood framed and carvel built, had one deck with a break, and had three masts that were barque-rigged. The figurehead was a “three-quarter woman”; and the stern was elliptic, with a mock gallery. Her Marryat code, pictured flying from her mizzen mast, was 2035 with the Third Distinguishing Pendant.
The succession of her owners, over the following 25 years, was convoluted. Her original registered owners were John Longton, merchant of Liverpool, who owned 60/64ths; with the remaining four shares in the hands of a John Flood, master mariner, who may then have been her master. In June 1858 she was transferred to Maryport in Cumberland when she was acquired by John Seymour, of Rockferry, Liverpool, and she remained in his total ownership until October of 1870 when she was transferred back again to Liverpool. It was at this latter time that she had some major repairs, on becoming the property of George Gray MacAndrew, ship owner of Old Church Yard, and a Joseph Ledser, master mariner, who owned four of the 64 shares. MacAndrew transferred four of his shares to a Hugh Hughes of Liverpool in February 1871, followed by his remaining 56 shares to a Robert MacAndrew in August 1877. Hughes transferred his four shares to Henry Lathom in October 1877; and in September 1879 Robert MacAndrew tranferred his 56 shares, in discharge of a mortgage, back to George Gray MacAndrew. MacAndrew, Lesder, and Lathom then transferred 56, 4, and 4 shares, respectively, to William Grove of Swansea in November 1879. This sealed her fate, and just over a year later she was to be wrecked off the South African coast.
Lloyd’s and the American Registers of Shipping provide us with some extra information, such as the names of her captains at the time she was surveyed both at home and American ports between 1861 and 1879; and her masters were also noted occasionally in the London and provincial newspapers. The brief list of eight masters includes: John Flood, 1856; William Lister, 1858 and 1860; Joseph Edmondson, 1861 and 1864; William H. Loryman in 1868 and early 1870; and J. Taylor in late 1870 and 1874. Captain Naile occurs in 1876 and early 1879; and Trush in late 1879. Her master at the time of her final voyage in 1880 was James McIntosh.
The Registers, together with newspaper reports of shipping news, also give us a regular if fragmented account of Lancastria’s career. She was reported on the 5th July 1856, probably on her maiden voyage, out from Sunderland and bound for Madeira, where she arrived on the 4th August at the tail end of a cholera epidemic. Then under her first master, Captain Flood, she left Madeira for Pernambuco (now Recife, in Brazil), and arrived back in Liverpool on the 5th December. She was to continue on this run via Madeira for more than two years, being frequently noted either in port or encountered at sea by other vessels. On the 14th May 1859 she was reported by another ship some 400 miles off Pernambuco bound for Rio de Janeiro, where she arrived by the 31st ; and in May 1861 she was surveyed at New York. On the 10th June 1862 she docked at Liverpool after a voyage from Valparaiso in Chile, presumably sailing via the Horn. She was again surveyed at New York in May 1864, and at Liverpool in September 1868. In 1869, on the 4th January, she left Liverpool under Captain Loryman for perhaps the most hazardous voyage of her entire career. After battling against appalling weather and heavy seas, she crossed the equator on February 28th, and passed the Cape of Good Hope on April the 5th. At the end of April it was realised that the fresh water after-tank had sprung a leak, and for three weeks the disgruntled crew had to make do with three pints a day to conserve stocks. These were the first reported rumblings of ill-feeling between master and crew. Loryman eventually managed to replenish his water supply on the 24th May at Queenscliff, Melbourne, only to run into further heavy seas that washed away almost everything on deck. Battered and damaged, Lancastria finally reached Auckland, New Zealand, on June 12th, after taking 158 days to make a voyage normally averaging around 96. Loryman commented that in all his years at sea he had never experienced such atrocious weather.
Once safely in port, the captain’s troubles were not over, for the weary crew now chose to mutiny, after being denied early permission to go ashore on the grounds that rough weather was expected in harbour. After refusing to row the master and his officers ashore, they were taken into custody, and went before a magistrate, who ordered them back on board again, and that they pay the costs of the hearing. Loryman had even gone to the lengths of printing a disclaimer, in the Daily Southern Cross, that he would not be responsible for any debts incurred by the crew while they were ashore ! (see Source 7) Named crew members were Augustus Anderson, George Andrews, Andrew Peterson, and James Gerrald, all able seamen; and Joseph Luther, James H. Smith, and Robert Tildesley, ordinary seamen. John Evans was mate. Fortunately Lancastria’s cargo, which had included a steam engine and other machinery, was little damaged, and by the 13th of August she had been reloaded with just under 300 tons of gum and flax. On the 21st she sailed for New York.
Lancastria was surveyed again at New York during the winter of 1869/70; and major repairs took place at Liverpool in December 1870, shortly after she was transferred back there having found a new owner. She arrived back in her home port from Antigua in April 1872, and again from San Francisco in May 1873; and she was surveyed at Liverpool in October 1873, and at Philadelphia in January 1874. She arrived home from Demerara in January 1875, and from Antigua in July 1876, and was again surveyed at Liverpool in February 1877.
The Lancastria set sail again for Antigua in June of 1878, arriving back in Liverpool in early October. It was however while she lay at anchor in Antigua harbour in February 1879 that an incident occurred that was reported to the Royal Humane Society in London. This was on the occasion of a medal being presented to a Charles William Scott, for the heroic rescue from drowning of a fellow shipmate. The report read as follows:
" On the 18th of last February Thomas H. Botham, of the barque Lancastria, which was then lying in Antigua Harbour, was conveying some hogsheads of sugar in a boat from the ship to the shore, accompanied by Scott, when the former by some means got capsized into the water. He was unable to swim, and must inevitably have been drowned had not Scott, who had much difficulty in extricating himself from a dangerous position between the hogsheads and the side of the boat, after receiving severe injuries, gone to his assistance. With the aid of one of the oars he succeeded in obtaining a hold of the drowning man, and then, supporting him, swam to the shore where both were picked up much exhausted. "
It was at the end of 1879 that Lancastria changed hands for the last time to a new owner, William Grove of Swansea, and during 1880 she appears to have worked as a collier. On her final voyage, she sailed to South Africa from Sunderland, laden with 361 tons of “Walsend House Coals”, and 98 tons of “Tanfield Moor Smith’s Coals”. This ended with her wreck in Table Bay north of Cape Town, driven ashore during a gale onto the mainland beach at Robbestein Point, near Blouberg, some four miles to the east of Robben Island. Her crew consisted of her captain, a mate, and eight seamen, two of whom were drowned when one of the ship’s boats was lowered and capsized in the breakers. The wreck report of the Board of Trade, printed in February 1881, succinctly recorded what took place, being established before a Court of Inquiry held at Cape Town before a resident magistrate, and a nautical assessor:
" … the vessel arrived in Table Bay at 3 p.m. on the 30th December 1880, during a strong south-east wind, amounting to half a gale; that she was anchored with 60 fathoms of starboard chain, and 30 on port, at a distance of about a mile and a half N.E. of the Breakwater; that the starboard chain parted, and the stream anchor was let go with tow-line bent on, which also parted; that from the time the sails were furled and chain given on the port anchor for the last time, nothing was done until noon of the following day to get the ship to sea, or endeavour made to place her in a safe position, but the vessel was allowed to drift at the mercy of the elements from 3 p.m. till (according to the master’s statement) 6 a.m. on the morning of the 31st, when the vessel had drifted a distance from 13 to 14 miles; that had ordinary precaution been taken, and any exertion made, the cable might have been slipped, fore and aft sail made, and the ship got under control. There was nothing to prevent the master getting his ship safely clear of the land for the night and returning with a light N.W. wind that blew on the morning of the 31st; the excuse offered, that he was waiting for a steam-tug, does not exonerate him, as no master should allow his vessel to get in a dangerous position when, by any exertion of himself and crew, the danger could be avoided. The final act of running the vessel on shore to save life (when no other alternative presented itself) was right; but the fact that the vessel had to be sacrificed to do so, we hold was entirely owing to the master’s default in not having taken necessary steps when in his power to do so, i.e., when he had the sea room and wind to work his ship.
Under all these circumstances, we are of the opinion that the barque “Lancastria,” of Liverpool, was lost by default of the master, James McIntosh, and we adjudge his certificate to be suspended for twelve months from date hereof. "
After twenty-five years of service, this was the ignominious end of the Lancastria. Conveniently beached, the ship and her cargo of some 460 tons of coal was put up for auction at Cape Town Exchange on the 6th January 1881 by order of the ship’s master."