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The SUSAN was a wooden brig built and completed by William Ellis at Bideford on 5 July 1818. The vessel was one of the losses during the Royal Charter Gale, 25-26 October 1859.

Technical specifications are given in the brig’s various port of Bideford Shipping Register Entries:

72 389/3500 tons burthen; 57.8ft length x 16.7ft breadth x 9.3ft depth in hold; 1 deck, 2 masts, brig rigged with a standing bowsprit, square sterned, carvel built, framework and planking wood.

The entries also allow ownership to be traced from the vessel's first owner Thomas Burnard of Bideford, merchant, who was made bankrupt in 1842; through the co-owners George Braginton of Great Torrington, merchant, Joshua Williams of Appledore, merchant, and William Newell Vicary of Bishops Lawton, merchant; to James and Peter Lang Sergeant of Plymouth, coal merchants.

In the aftermath of the Royal Charter Gale 25-26 October 1859, The Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian reported 'To the east, in a place called the Orchard, could be seen the masts of a palacca, belonging to Bideford, the whole of whose crew is supposed to be lost... The Bideford palacca, a total wreck, all hands lost...'

The North Devon Journal reported 'A little this side of Rhymney River were two masts of a brigantine named the SUSAN of Bideford. Mr William Richards and Mr John Tamplin with most praiseworthy conduct, gallantly struck out in Mr Richards boat from the pier head on Wednesday morning to see if any of the SUSAN's crew had taken shelter in the rigging, but alas, on approaching the wreck, not a man was to be seen. Mr Richards impression being that all had gone down, as no boat could live in such a sea'.

However, all was not the tragedy supposed. Over the page, the North Cornwall Journal also printed a report from Appledore -'Intelligence has been received of the loss of the SUSAN of this port property of Mr Sargeant. All hands saved'.

Sources include:
Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 29 October 1859, pg5, col 4, Welsh Newspapers Online,
North Devon Journal, British Newspapers Online, 3 November 1859, pg7 col3 and pg8 col 2
Port of Bideford Shipping Register 1786 -1823, North Devon Record Office, 3319/1, 6 in 1818
Port of Bideford Shipping Register 1831-1843, North Devon Record Office, 3319/3, 30 in 1836 and 19 in 1842
Port of Bideford Shipping Register 1843-1855, North Devon Record Office, 3319/4, 17 in 1853

The rigging of the SUSAN is variously described as a ‘brig’ or ‘palacca’ (from the French ‘polacre’ or Italian ‘polacca’). The vessel was probably ‘square-rigged’ on both masts. It was also normal for the each mast to be made of a single piece of timber, instead of sections. The yard (timber raised horizontally up the mast) supporting the square sail was lowered so that the crew could unfurl a sail or take in sail without having to climb the mast.

What configuration of sails and masts was more common for vessels engaged in the Welsh coastal trade? How many sails and how many masts did the sailing rig configurations listed below contain?

• Sloop
• Smack
• Schooner

It appears likely that the SUSAN was engaged in the coal trade was it was lost near Cardiff. But during its earlier service life it would have been involved in more general trade between the North Devon and Welsh coast. What were the commonest commodities brought to south Wales ports?

The SUSAN’s owners included:
• Thomas Burnard of Bideford, merchant
• George Braginton of Great Torrington, merchant
• Joshua Williams of Appledore, merchant
• William Newell Vicary of Bishops Lawton, merchant
• James and Peter Lang Sergeant of Plymouth, coal merchants

Can you find them listed in the either Slater’s Directory of 1852-53 or Pigot & Cos Directory of 1844 living in locality of Bideford or Plymouth?

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