A great storm in 1871 in Bridlington Bay

This account of a great storm in Bridlington Bay comes from the the Yorkshire Annals

1871 10th February. A storm of very great violence occurred on the north east coast. The fury of the gale seemed to burst principally over Bridlington Bay.

The weather the day before had been mild and genial, and the wind had changed to the north west, so that a large number of vessels which had been windbound put to sea and proceeded on their journey south. All went well until early this morning, when the wind rose and veered about to the south east.

Suddenly the storm increased to a hurricane accompanied with blinding sleet and snow. At daybreak a large number of ships were seen to be in great danger. Shortly after seven o'clock the life-boats and rocket apparatus were got ready for any emergency.

The first vessel indistress was a south country barge, which failed to make the harbour, and drove near the sea wall. The crew of the vessel took to the rigging as the sea broke heavily over them. The rocket apparatus, in the hands of five skilled coastguardsmen, made an ineffectual attempt to rescue the drowning men, when one of the life-boats put out, and safely brought the crew to land.

About ten o'clock, five vessels ran for the beach on the north side of the harbour, and came on shore near the sea wall.

The two life-boats, the "National Society's" boat, and a small private boat presented by Count Batthyany, lost no time in putting out, and after great and praise-worthy efforts on the part of the life-boatmen, the five crews were brought ashore; the small lifeboat was instrumental in saving three crews comprising about twenty men, and the other boat two crews.

A smack belonging to Colchester afterwards stranded at Sewerby, but went well up the beach, and her crew walked ashore when the tide ebbed.

Near to her a collier brig (laden) struck and smashed her bottom; her cargo slipped out, and the shattered hull drove up the beach; her crew took to their own boat to endeavour to get to the shore; the coastguards went up to their armpits in water and grasped the drowning men in the boat, and brought them safely to the land amidst the cheers of the spectators who thronged the beach.

About noon the crews of the boats were greatly exhausted, and much work remained to be done, for numerous vessels were in difficulties, while others threatened every moment to be placed in imminent peril. One poor fellow in Count Batthyany's boat was so much exhausted that it was feared he would die, and he had to be conveyed home, his place being supplied by D. Purdon, the builder of the boat.

The small life-boat proceeded to a brig which was strandedon the south beach, and the crew managed to land their shivering brethren amidst the applause of hundreds of spectators. It was then observed that a brig - the Delta, of Whitby - was on shore to the south of the harbour; four of her crew launched a boat, and attempted to reach the shore, but it was swamped by a terrific billow, and all four were drowned.

It was seen, however, that one single individual, the Captain, was yet clinging to the vessel, and the crew of the small life-boat, propelled by its daring band, sped on past the pier to the southward. At length they reached the stern of the vessel, where the poor fellow was hanging to the chains.

Having got the boat up close under the stern of the vessel, Robinson, the coxswain, told the man to watch, and, directly after the next wave had passed, to drop into the boat. That next wave, however, pitched the life-boat high up, and then plunged it down end fore-most into the boiling waters, and thus all were in a moment struggling for their own lives.

The boat speedily righted, and three of her crew clung to the ropes at her sides, and having got into the boat again they managed to bring her ashore and were saved.

The names of those lost were: David Purdon, and a young man named John Clappison, in his employ, William Cobb, Richard Atkin, James Watson, and Robert Pickering.

The three saved were: J. Robinson, R. Hopper, and R. Bedlington. Of course the poor fellow on the brig was lost. The six who perished were well known and highly respected in Bridlington Quay, and their melancholy death under such painful circumstances, naturally cast a deep gloom over the quiet town, and carried sorrow and distress to many a happy home.

The men who were at work on the pier and sea wall endeavouring to save life were in a great measure dispirited bywhat had happened. It was, however, absolutely necessary to do everything that was possible to save other men from sharing the same fate, as several other vessels were on shore, and the crews perishing.

In the afternoon, the Vivid, Captain Vary, which left Scarbro' on Thursday afternoon, in attempting to enter the harbour, drifted to the south, and was run ashore - the crew being saved by the life-boat. Another brig, afterwards ascertained to be the Produce, of Folkestone, struck to the north side of the pier, within about thirty yards of it.

Her boat was lowered, and two of the crew at once got in, but it was swamped before leaving the vessel's side, and its occupants pitched into the sea. One of them immediately sank, the other one swam manfully round to the outer end of the pier, but after bravely breasting the waves for some time, he succumbed to the insuperable power of the elements.

The other four men, comprising the crew, made for the rigging, where their piteous appeals for three hours for the help that never came, were heart-rending, (the figure head of this vessel was afterwards placed near the dwelling of Captain Burkinshaw, at the Hilderthorpe side of the Quay.)

But the work of destruction and the loss of human life were not yet finished. About five o'clock, a man was seen on the fore yard of a schooner near the pier, with a light, as the last signal for help to those who could render him no assistance. The piercing cries of the drowning crews were frequently heard amidst the howling of the storm, and in the darkness which had now setin.

One poor fellow was seen in the water, by the gas lights, on a piece of wreck, but no help could be rendered to him. Far out at sea, during the night, signals of distress were seen.

So far as could be ascertained, during this fearful storm 30 ships were wrecked and upwards of 70 sailors lost their lives. In the church yard at Bridlington a monument was erected by public subscription, and placed near to where forty-three of the bodies were interred, so as to perpetuate to future generations this melancholy event.

The monument bears the following inscription, with the names of thevessels lost:-
"In lasting memory of a great company of seamen who perished in the fearful gale which swept over Bridlington Bay, on February 10th, 1871 The waves of the sea are mighty and rage horribly, but the Lord who dwelleth on high is mightier."


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