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The ACORN was reported to have been driven ashore in Penarth Roads during the Royal Charter Gale, 25-26 October 1859. However, the schooner appears not to have been badly damaged and was put back into service for her owner, John Henry Riches.

The schooner’s port of Cardiff Shipping Register entry provides us with a technical specification for the ACORN:

Built at Neath in 1826. 50 1015/3500 tons burthen; two masts, that her length from the inner part of the Main Stem to the forepart of the stern aloft is 58.4ft, her breadth in midships is 13.6ft, her depth in hold at midships is 7.5ft, that she is a schooner, rigged with a standing bowsprit, square sterned, carvel built, no figurehead, framework and planking is wood. Official number 16066.

If you pass your mouse over the image of entry above, you’ll find listed the name of the nominated master. Have you found it?

The vessel was owned by John Henry Riches of Cardiff, who had a very interesting occupation – he was the Receiver of Droits of Admiralty.

Section 8 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1854 gave the Board of Trade powers as superintendents of wrecks and to appoint Receivers: -

‘The duty of the Receiver, when any ship is stranded or in distress is clearly specified. He may summon, on pain of penalties, assistance in men, horses, carts, wagons and ships. And all cargo or other articles washed on shore or lost taken from any ship or boat, must be delivered up…. The receiver, or a justice, may also institute an examination with respect to ships in distress, in order to ascertain their identity, the cause of the misfortune, and other particulars; and copies of such examinations are to the forwarded to the Board of Trade and Lloyd’s…. every person, owner or not, becoming possessed of wreck, must give notice to the receiver, and if not the owner must deliver up the same under certain penalties; and concealed wreck may be seized by a receiver under warrant to be granted on application to a justice. Notice must be given, within 48 hours, by the receiver to the nearest custom house of his possession of any wreck, and if the value exceeds twenty pounds, to Lloyds also….’

The above are just some of the powers and responsibilities given to this important role and specified in the 1854 Act.

A report printed in the Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian on 29 October 1859 and on 5 November reveals some of the tragedies that John Riches would have had to deal with as a result of the Great Storm:

‘…The barque Victoria, of Shoreham, that was on the gridiron, broke from her moorings and fell over. The John St Barbe, laden with oats for Gloucester ran ashore, and had one man drowned. The schooner Thomas, of London, ran ashore, two men lost. The Bideford palacca, a total wreck, all hands lost; three pilot boats stoved in, and rendered quite useless, whilst others were driven ashore at high water mark. Five vessels were driven ashore on the west mud, near Penarth, - the Blanch, of Bridgwater, laden with oats, a total wreck; the John of Bristol, got off the following tide, lost her rudder and sustained other damage. The Ada and the Avon, of Bristol, were sunk and lost their rigging, sails, &c. Two strange vessels were wrecked near Lavernock Point and went to pieces, name and place of hailing unknown, all hands-supposed to be lost. A brig, laden with pitwood, total wreck, crew drowned. The Kingston, of Cork, and the Louis Albert (a French brig), and the Four Brothers and Four Sisters, of London; all stranded and much damaged…’

The report contains a reference to a supposed vessel of Mr Riches being lost, which subsequently proved to be false rumour. It is perhaps more likely that this is a reference to a vessel owned by John Riches brother, Charles, who ran a carrier business.

John Riches died on 12 June 1861. However, his vessel, the ACORN, survived him and was managed by his brother Charles Henry Riches until it too was lost in the Bristol Channel in August 1869.

Sources include:
Larn and Larn Shipwreck Database 2002
Mercantile Navy List 1858
Port of Cardiff Shipping Register 1838-1855, Glamorgan Archives DRBS1/2, 8 in 1854, 16 in 1855
Port of Cardiff Shipping Register Transactions 1855 - 1878, Glamorgan Archives DRBS2/1, folio 51
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 29 October 1859, pg5, col 4, Welsh Newspapers Online
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 5 November 1859, pg8, col 5, Welsh Newspapers Online

Compare the role of 19th century Receivers and the role of the Receiver of Wreck today. In which ways does it differ? In which ways is it the same?

The Merchant Shipping Act 1854, Section VIII (see Introductory Summary li, and pg 310 onwards)

Maritime and Coastguard Agency: Receiver of Wreck

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