Royal Charter (ship)
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|Owner:||Liverpool & Australian Steamship Navigation Company|
|Builder:||Sandycroft Ironworks, |
|Fate:||Wrecked on 25 October 1859|
|Class and type:||steam |
|Length:||236 ft (72 m)|
|Beam:||39 ft (12 m)|
|Depth of hold:||23 ft (7.0 m)|
|Installed power:||200 nhp|
Royal Charter was a steam
The Royal Charter was built at the Sandycroft Ironworks on the
The ship was used on the route from
In late October 1859 Royal Charter was returning to Liverpool from Melbourne. Her complement of about 371 passengers (with a crew of about 112 and some other company employees), included many gold miners, some of whom had struck it rich at the diggings in Australia and were carrying large sums of gold about their persons. A consignment of gold was also being carried as cargo. As she reached the north-western tip of Anglesey on 25 October the barometer was dropping and it was claimed later by some passengers, though not confirmed, that the master, Captain Thomas Taylor, was advised to put into
One member of the crew, Maltese born Guzi Ruggier also known as Joseph Rogers managed to swim ashore with a line, enabling a few people to be rescued, and a few others were able to struggle to shore through the surf. Most of the passengers and crew, a total of over 450 people, died. Many of them were killed by being dashed against the rocks by the waves rather than drowned. Others were said to have drowned, weighed down by the belts of gold they were wearing around their bodies. The survivors, 21 passengers and 18 crew members, were all men, with no women or children saved.
A list of 320 passenger names departing from Melbourne in August 1859 on the Royal Charter is available on-line from the Public Records Office, Victoria: "Index to Outward Passengers to Interstate, UK and Foreign Ports, 1852–1901".
A large quantity of gold was said to have been thrown up on the beach at Porth Alerth, with some families becoming rich overnight. The gold bullion being carried as cargo was insured for £322,000, but the total value of the gold on the ship must have been much higher as many of the passengers had considerable sums in gold, either on their bodies or deposited in the ship's strongroom. Many of the bodies recovered from the sea were buried nearby at
At the time of the disaster there were allegations that local residents were becoming rich from the spoils of the wreck or exploiting grieving relatives of the victims, and the "Moelfre Twenty-Eight" who had been involved in the rescue attempts sent a letter to
Almost exactly a century later (to the day) in October 1959 another ship, the Hindlea, struck the rocks in almost the same spot in another gale. This time there was a different outcome, with the Moelfre lifeboat under its coxswain, Richard Evans, succeeding in saving the crew.