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Description

The TRUE BESS was one of the vessels lost during the Royal Charter Gale, 25-26 October 1859.

The TRUE BESS was a wooden sloop built by Owen James at Aberaeron in 1846. The sloop's Milford Haven Shipping Register documentation (shown in the image above) provides us with a technical description:

19 3080/3500 tons burthen. 1 deck, 1 mast, rigging sloop, running bowsprit, stern square, build carvel, framework wood. Length from the forepart of the stem, under the bowsprit to the aft side of the stern post 37.6ft, main breadth to outside of plank 12.4ft, depth in hold from tonnage deck to ceiling at midships 6.4ft.

The sloop's first owner was the merchant Samuel Williams of St Davids, who used his shares in the vessel to secure a mortgage of £183 8s from Williams Walters of Stansfordavid (?), banker, in January 1855. This may reflect the cost of the vessel to build. A considerable amount of money in those days!

The mortgage was paid off a year later and, on 6 March 1856, the sloop was sold to John Davies of Rossach, St Davids, a farmer. Thomas Williams was noted as being the sloop's master at this time.

The TRUE BESS was carrying a cargo of culm when it driven ashore from Goultrop Roads, St Brides Bay, on 25 October 1859. The wind was gusting gale force 11 from the northwest. It is supposed that the sloop's anchor cable broke and it was blown ashore to be pounded by the waves. The three crewmembers onboard at the time were tragically drowned.

Potter's Electric News carried to following report on 2 November 1859:

LITTLE HAVEN. During the violent storm which raged here on Tuesday night the sloop, True Bess of St. David, which had been taking in culm at Broad Haven for St. David, was totally lost. The master, perceiving indications of a storm coming on, weighed anchor, and tried to make Milford Haven, but the violence of the wind drove the vessel in on the rocks between this place and Muslick, and before morning she was literally smashed to atoms. The mast, with the master lashed to it, was picked up today (Wednesday).... Nothing has yet been seen of the other man and lad who composed the crew.

Sources include:
Board of Trade Wreck Return 1859 Table 19 pg25 (529) and pg121 (563), House of Commons Parliamentary Papers Online 2623
Larn and Larn Shipwreck Database 2002
Mercantile Navy List 1858, pg66 (online source Google books)
Port of Milford Shipping Register, 1837-1854, Pembrokeshire Record Office, folio 177
Port of Milford Haven Shipping Register, 1855-1878, Pembrokeshire Record Office T/SHIP/2/7 folio 16
Port of Milford Shipping Register Transactions Register, 1854-1899, Pembrokeshire Archive, T/Ship/2/9, folio number 13
Potter's Electric News, 9 November 1859, pg2, Welsh Newspapers Online (http://papuraunewyddcymru.llgc.org.uk/en/page/view/3100143)


Was the master of TRUE BESS buried in a churchyard around St Bride's Bay? What type of historical documents might we use to find out? Where might these historical documents be found?

What is the modern monetary equivalent of the loan which Samuel Williams took out in 1855?

What is culm? From what process does it originate and what might it be used for?

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