The Schooner ‘Leveret’

Written by S. Ablott
First Published

Introduction

The Leveret was a 100 ton schooner, launched at Buton Stather in December 1860. The 82 foot ship belonged to William Green & Co on Knottingley and was registered at Goole.1 Early reports describe her as a three masted schooner, but later ones refer to her as having two masts.2 It may be possible she was re-rigged after the 1871 hurricane.

She traded between the UK and mainland Europe. Frequently visiting France, Portugal and Spain. Records show that in her first year of service, she visited Newcastle, Rotterdam, San Sebastian (Northern Spain) and Carthagena (Southern Spain). In January 1867, while carrying brandy from France to Leith, she had to seek shelter in the River Tyne. There were severe snowstorms and all the ports on the north east were crowded with ships sheltering from the weather.3

Collision with Crescent

On the 13th of February 1871 the Leveret, under Captain John Brown, was in a collision with the brig Crescent of London. Green & Co took legal action against the owners of the Crescent for £300 in damages. At the County Court in Hartlepool on the 30th of June, the defendants said their vessel had been rendered unmanageable through stress of weather and damage to the helm. They also relied upon the fact that the Leveret was showing no regulation lights at the time. The Crescent was not displaying lights either, they explained that this was due to them being repeatedly extinguished when shipping heavy seas. They were unable to spare the crew from the pumps to relight them with the ship making water. The verdict was that the Crescent was alone to blame for the collision.4a

A Perilous Voyage

In the September of that same year Captain Brown and his crew experienced a much more traumatic voyage in the Leveret, one from which they were lucky to return.

They left Newcastle with 165 tons of coal, bound for the port of Viana, at the mouth of the Río Lima, Northern Portugal, then on to Malta.

On Wednesday the 27th they were 100 miles north of Cape Finisterre, on Galicia's notorious Costa da Morte (Coast of Death), on the north west corner of Spain. There they encountered a hurricane from the west south west, the ship with just storm trysails up was tossed about the waves. A wave broke over the vessel taking away the bulwarks, stanchions and all else attached, along with one crewman. Though miraculously he was saved after some effort by his fellow crew.

The cargo had shifted causing a list, and while the ship was hove to, she was hit by another giant wave, this time carrying away the jib-boom and splitting the bowsprit. With the broken rigging and spars causing further instability, Captain Brown feared the ship would not right herself. He ordered the weather rigging to be cut away. The foremast was cut down and went overboard, taking the main mast with it, the loss relieving the stability and saving the ship. Left with only the after mast and stump of the main mast a sail was set to keep her head to sea. Next they rigged a jury mast and set what possible sail they could.

The following day they jettisoned part of the cargo to lighten the ship and settle the stability. On Friday they saw the SS Cadiz of London which took them in tow. With the wind still a hurricane, the warp parted twice. After towing for ten hours, the Cadiz had to had to leave them.5 At 2pm on Saturday they fell in with the SS Thomas Hamlin of Hartlepool. She towed them for a further nine hours, again the warp parted and they were left alone again.4b

At 2pm on Sunday the 1st of October they passed Ushant, island off the North West tip of France, marking the end of the Bay of Biscay and the beginning of the usually friendlier waters of English Channel. The wind was still blowing hard though, on Monday they were of Start Point, on the Southern tip of Devon. Tuesday they reached the Shambles Lightship where they met the steam tug Commodore of Greenock, and were taken on tow once more. She was brought into Weymouth that day almost a total wreck, with a very exhausted, but thankfully, still complete crew.5

The Leveret remained in Weymouth through October, receiving a thorough refit. On the 30th the storm damage had been repaired and she resumed her voyage to Portugal.4c

Smuggling

The Leveret arrived in the River Tyne from the continent on Friday the 13th of December 1872 under the command of Captain Thomas Cliff Green. On Saturday he was in court, charged with smuggling cigars and spirits. He confessed that the goods were his property, saying he had forgotten to declare them with the rest of the stores because of the confusion there had been at the time while getting the ship moored. The magistrate fined him treble the value and duty for the goods, plus £4 in costs.4d

Further Incidents

In March 1879 it was reported that the Leveret had been in collision with the SS San Domingo at Gravesend, sustaining only slight damage.6

In March 1883, a very bad month for weather the Leveret went ashore near Sheerness while on passage from Newport to Faversham.7

The Loss of The Leveret

On the 17th of October 1884 the Leveret was on a voyage from Fowey to Boness with a cargo of china clay, under Captain James Lewis. At 7:30am the schooner was caught in a squall while 25 miles off Shields. The masts were carried away, taking part of the deck with them.

The crew remained with the ship until 2pm, when the ship seemed likely to sink. Captain Lewis signalled for assistance. The three masted schooner John of Sunderland, under Captain Pipe, came to their assistance and took the crew on board. The Leveret sunk shortly afterwards.

The crew were later transferred to screw steamer Countess of Aberdeen which landed them in North Shields where they were taken into the sailors' home.8

Map

Map showing the approximate location where the vessel was thought to have been lost, or the last known position.

Vessel Details for Leveret

Official Number:29200
Vessel Name:Leveret
Type:SchoonerInfo
Built:
Tons:100
Length:82.6
Beam:19.1
Depth:10
Owners:
  • Green & Co of Goole
  • William Green of Knottingley 1880
Masters:
  • W Mayer 1865
  • J Cresswell
  • John Brown 1870
  • Thomas Cliff Green 1871
  • James Lewis 1884
Ports:
  • Goole
Construction:Iron bolts. Damage repairs 1869 and 1871.
Trade:Ramsgate, France, Spain and Portugal trade.
Incidents:On the 13th of February 1871, damaged in collision with the Cresent of London. Oct 1871 de masted in hurricane.
Fate:Foundered 25 miles off Shields in squally conditions, 17th Oct 1884. Both masts broken. Crew saved by the schooner John of Sunderland.

Sources

  1. Lloyd's Register of Ships.
  2. Cheshire Observer 7th October 1871.
  3. Dundee Courier 15th January 1867.
  4. Shields Daily Gazette
    1. 1st July 1871.
    2. 6th October 1871.
    3. 2nd December 1871.
    4. 16th December 1872.
  5. Western Gazette 13th October 1871.
  6. London Standard 14th March 1879.
  7. York Herald 16th March 1883.
  8. Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough 20th October 1884.

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© 2017 Burton upon Stather Heritage Group

Creative Commons. Background Photograph by Bruno Girin. Used with modifications under license.