The Barque ‘Burton Stather’

Written by S. Ablott
First Published
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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 White Cross Line
The Cape & Natal News, Jan 1867

The other was the largest and probably most prestigious ship the yard ever built. Launched on the 3rd 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.

A Move Down Under

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.

The 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.

Problem Crew

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 Burton Stather as a fully rigged ship.

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

The Final Voyage

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.


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

Vessel Details for Burton Stather

Official Number:54620
Code Flags:HJLKCode flag - HotelCode flag - JuliettCode flag - LimaCode flag - Kilo
Vessel Name:Burton Stather
  • Bullard King & Co of London
  • William Andrews of Sydney 1873
  • Chales Warren
  • J Nobbs 1865
  • John Brazil 1873
  • George Mackay Andrew Carphin 1873
  • London
  • Sydney 1873
Notes:Yard No 196.
Construction:Carvel built with round stern. Clad with felt and yellow metal. Fastened with copper bolts. Full female figurehead.
Trade:London to Natal run. Eastern Australia and Hong Kong.
Fate:Lost on voyage from Newcastle NSW to Hong Kong, July 1876 with all hands.
Image:View Image Picture


  1. A Lincolnshire Shipyard - Burton upon Stather. Clapson, Rodney (2007). Rodney Clapson Publications.
  2. National Library of Australia
    1. Empire, Sydney.
    2. The South Australian Advertiser.
    3. South Australian Register.
    4. The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser.
    5. The Argus, Melbourne.
    6. The Newcastle Chronicle.
    7. Sydney Morning Herald.
  3. Lawrence Hargrave diary, 1872 - 1876. Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.

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© 2017 Burton upon Stather Heritage Group

Creative Commons. Background Photograph by Detroit Publishing Company. Used with modifications under license.