Burton upon Stather Heritage Group
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Shipping in Burton

The Barque Burton Stather

By Sam Ablott

In 1866 John Wray & Son launched two ships called Burton Stather. One was a fishing smack (H583), 68 tons, which fished out of Hull with Captain Exon, owned by James Wood of Hull. There is in Hull Maritime Museum.

The other was the largest and probably most prestigious ship the yard ever built. Launched on the 30th January, she was a barque, 155' long, 27' wide and 15' deep. Built for Bullard, King & Co of London who ran the White Cross Line of Clipper Packets. The White Cross Line traded between London and Port Natal, (now known as Durban) in South Africa. The master was Captain Charles Warren.

In September 1873 she was sold for £4,800 to William Andrews of Sydney NSW, Australia. Her new master was Edinburgh born Captain George Mackay Andrew Carphin. During this period she traded mainly between South East Australia and China, often taking coal from Newcastle NSW to Hong Kong. As well as carrying goods, the ship which had nine luxury staterooms also carried some distinguished passengers.

On the 30th of April 1873 Sir Anthony Musgrave sailed on the Burton Stather. Musgrave, who governed several British colonies during his career, chartered the ship to convey him from his previous post in Natal to Adelaide, the ship was selected for having superior cabin accommodation. Arriving on Monday the 9th of June, Anthony Musgrave was greeted with a warm reception with flags flying and people lining the piers and was sworn in as the new Governor of South Australia.

I am directed by the Governor to convey to you the thanks of himself and family for the constant personal attention and courtesy you have shown to his party during the passage, as well as His Excellency's sense of the exertions made to cause our voyage to be as speedy and comfortable as possible.
Letter from to the Captain. National Library of Australia.

On the 24th of August 1874 the celebrated explorer, astronomer, engineer, inventor and aeronautical pioneer Lawrence Hargrave sailed on the Burton Stather on one of his expeditions to New Guinea. There is a log of his voyage in his diary which is in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. You can view the diary online here.

It was not all plain sailing for the ship however, in 1876 her fortunes took a turn for the worse. On The Argus, Melbourne reported:

Eight wild-looking Malay sailors with unpronounceable names, were charged at the Sandridge Police Court yesterday with refusing to obey the lawful commands of Mr. G. Carphin, the master of the British ship Burton Stather. The men were sentenced to 14 days' imprisonment for the same offence on the arrival of the ship in Melbourne, and their term of imprisonment having expired, they were taken on board the ship again, when they all refused to go to work. For the defendants an attempt was made to show that they had not received sufficient rations during the voyage from Batavia to Melbourne, but the evidence was not at all clear on the point. The Bench sentenced the men to four weeks' imprisonment with hard labour.
National Library of Australia. Article 7438934
The Barque Burton Stather

The Barque Burton Stather

There was more bad press in June when it was reported that the ships cook, a Chinese man called Ah Sun appeared in Newcastle Police Court on Saturday the 10th, charged with assaulting the steward, another Chinese man called Ah Poo. The incident took place in the ship's galley while in the port and was apparently sparked by a dispute over whether the water was boiling to make the coffee. The complainant claimed that the defendant had poured boiling water over him and assaulted him with a red hot poker. He exhibited his injuries in court, a badly burnt face and shoulder which were described as a sickening spectacle. The defence claimed he was provoked, having been struck on the head with a rolling pin before the assault and presented bruises to the forehead. The bench inflicted a penalty of £2 6s. 10d. or one month in Jail.

The captain also got into trouble during this stay in Newcastle. On Friday the 7th of July George Carphin was fined 10s. and 5s. 10d. court costs for Breach of Harbour Regulations having failed to exhibit a light on board the ship in harbour between sunset and sunrise.

Barque at Newcastle

A three masted barque at anchor in Newcastle NSW
Australian National Maritime Museum

A fortnight later on Friday the 21st of July 1876 the Burton Stather sailed out of Newcastle for Hong Kong with 428 tons of Coal. The crew and passengers would be unaware that this somewhat turbulent stay in Newcastle would be the last time they or the ship saw a port. The ship and those aboard were never seen again.

The register was closed on the 31st of January 1877, presumed a total loss with all hands, position unknown. The Sydney Morning Herald on the 19th of June 1877 announced the deaths of George Carphin 49, and his wife Fanny 38, who often sailed with him. Drowned at sea on or about the .

No one knows how far and for how long the Burton Stather sailed after leaving Newcastle, but she is believed to have sunk somewhere off the coast of Queensland Australia near Brisbane. Others believe that a large anchor and chains found on a reef on Rossel Island, Papua New Guinea belonged the Burton Stather. The only known trace of the ship was a buoy marked Burton Stather found near Opotiki in the north of New Zealand, reported in Febuary 1877. The mystery of her disappearance and final resting place has yet to be solved.

HARRY WILLIAM HICKSON, who wrote from Newcastle, New South Wales, in July, 1876, that he was then going to Hongkong by a barque called the Burton Stather, is requested to communicate with Mr. JAMES EDELL, 33, Kingstreet, Cheapside, London, Solicitor, in reference to property to which he is entitled by the deaths of his mother and grandmother. Any information which can be afforded respecting him will be thankfully received, and all expenses paid.
From the Personal Ads, Sydney Morning Herald .
National Library of Australia.

Sigurfari - Burton's Last Ship

By Karen Day

The last known surviving ship to be built at the Burton Stather shipyard John Wray & Son, was Bacchante. Completed and launched in 1885, for Mr J. Tipson of Boulevard, Hull, a smack owner. The 85 ton fishing vessel, ketch rigged worked out of Hull and was purchased in 1895 by George William Cook. In 1897 she was sold to an Icelandic man, Captain Jon Jonsson for the sum of £325. She was sold again quite quickly, refitted and fished out of Seltjarnaresi, near Reykjavik. Her name was changed to Sigurfari in about 1900. In 1919 she was again sold and began a new life fishing from Klakksvik in the Faroe Islands. There she stayed for the next 50 years and her final working voyage in the summer of 1970.

Sigurfari was then purchased for preservation and returned to Iceland. She is now in a museum in Arkranes, close to Rekjavik and is the only ship of her type left. Though in preservation, she is in a very poor state. So dangerous in fact that no one is allowed aboard for safety reasons. It is hoped enough money can be raised for Sigurfari to be fully restored before it is too late.


Siurfari in the museum at Arkranes, Iceland.

For a more detailed account (if your Icelandic is up to it) visit the boats page on the or there is a little in English on this page.

For a list of the many other ships built at Burton Stather, there is a page on the humberpacketboats.co.uk site, along with a wealth of other historical information on shipping in the area.

The trawler St Gerontious

Can you spot our Indipup, the St Gerontius Lifeboat,
in this painting by R Moss? Click to enlarge.

Indipup - her Life and Times (so far…)

By Martin Lambert

Our lifeboat was originally named St Gerontius after her mother ship, the St Gerontius H350, which was a deep sea sidewinder trawler, fishing for Cod off Iceland between 1961 and 1980. During this period she saw action in the 3rd Cod War of 1975/76.

In 1972, Iceland had unilaterally declared an Exclusive Economic Zone extending beyond its territorial waters, announcing plans to reduce over-fishing and to protect their fish stocks. It policed its quota system with the Icelandic Coast Guard which led to a series of net-cutting incidences with British trawlers fishing in that area. As a result, a fleet of British Royal Naval Frigates along with tug-boats were deployed to act as a deterrent against any future harassment of British fishing crews by the Icelandic craft.

The trawler St Gerontious stems Odin

Photos of the dramatic events in the North Sea.
Click to see more.

In all, twenty two Royal Naval Frigates, of which only nine were deployed at any one time, protected the British Fishing Fleet in the then illegal 200 mile fishing limit from the Icelandic coast. The British Fishing Fleet consisted of approximately 40 plus trawlers from the ports of Hull, Grimsby, and Fleetwood. Iceland deployed only two Polish built ships plus six Icelandic Coast Guard Ships.

No shots were actually fired but ramming occurred and became frequent and serious. St Gerontius actually rammed the Icelandic Coast Guard Vessel Odin causing serious damage in her stern starboard quarter, as you can see by the three action shots to the right. Whilst all this was going on our little life boat was quietly sitting on the stern of her mother ship, St. Gerontius.

Industry H443

Industry H443. Click to see more Flamborough boats.


Indipup at Burton Stather

Indipup at Burton Stather. Click for more pictures.

In the early 1980s the St. Gerontius life boat was bought by the Emmerson Fishing Families of Flamborough on the East Coast of Yorkshire; there she was used for driftnet salmon fishing and was renamed Indipup. The reason behind the change of name was that the trawler the Emmerson Families owned at the time was called Industry H443 (pictured right), hence the name Indipup (Industry's Pup).

Her last days at Flamborough's North Landing were as the ferryboat taking passengers from the shore to the fishing cobles named Prosperity, Summer Rose and Spring Flower.

These vessels take bird watching, fishing and geological trips around the small bays and caves on the Flamborough Head peninsular during the summer months and are still going on to this day. A great day out if ever you find yourself there.

I () acquired the vessel in 1992 and used her off Barton Haven, South Ferriby, and now I use her as the Safety/Workboat for the Burton Stather Heritage Group. Indipup is a favourite of BSHG and after catching the eye of Humberside Fire and Rescue's Watch Manager John Armson when he attended our Tank Ramp Open Day in Summer 2011 at Burton upon Stather, she and BSHG were invited to attend Rescue Day at 7 Lakes, Crowle.