Written by S. Ablott
First Published
Code flag - JuliettCode flag - HotelCode flag - RomeoCode flag - Tango

Introduction

Lizzy was a barque built at Burton Stather for James Fisher of Barrow in Furness. At 429 tons she was the largest ship in terms of tonnage built by John Wray & Son, the Burton Stather and Verulam being greater in length. But at 138 feet she was the largest of eight ships built for Fisher by Wray, and the last, for the reasons that follow.

On the 28th ult a barque named the Lizzy, of 800 tons burthen, was launched from the yard of Messrs. John Wray and Son, Burton Stather, in Lincolnshire. She will be classed twelve years A1 at Lloyds.

Hull Packet
7th February 1868

The purchase did not go altogether well, and could have meant the end for the shipbuilding business on The Stather. On the 4th of September 1863 a contract was drawn up between James Fisher and William Wray, William was now running the yard, his father John having retired. The contract was for the yard to build two barques for Fisher, the Sea King and the Lizzy. They would be paid for by instalments and were due to both be finished before the end of 1865.

But there was a significant delay in the completion of the ships. Sea King was launched in September 1866, and the Lizzy would not be launched until over a year later. In November of 1866 Fisher stated that because of the delay, he would no longer take the vessels. Wray took action against him refusing to abide by the agreement. The matter went to arbitration, the result of which, on the 31st of January 1867, was that Fisher must take the ships.

As a precaution against Fisher not taking the Lizzy, and not paying the remaining instalments due, Wray went to his bankers and mortgaged the ship for the same amount of money still owing by Fisher. In order to obtain a mortgage on the ship, the ship had to be registered in his name. William went to the Costoms House in Hull on the 8th of February 1868 with a document, but the clerk, Timothy Lynch, said he could take no official recognition of it then. Wray called back again on the 15th, asking to be registered, and was then registered as the owner of the Lizzy.

Wray believed that until the full payment for the ship had been received by him, the ship remained his property. Fisher's solicitors and the court thought otherwise, that the ship belonged to Mr Fisher, the builder only having a lien on the ship until paid for entirely. Wray was fined the maximum penalty of £100 for a breach of The Merchant Shipping Act, by making a false statement of ownership of the vessel and registering it in his own name. Following this, John Wray & Son were adjudged bankrupt on the 28th of February 1868.

TO THIE EDITOR OF THE HULL PACKET

My grandfather, my father, and myself have been engaged in the honourable trade of ship builders, for a period of ninety years. The firm has been dragged down into calamity and disaster by the crooked dealing of one of our customers which drew us into no less than five lawsuits and a heavy arbitration. Worse than that we were dragged into the police court, and there by the hasty judgment of one man, were convicted of making a false statement, and were fined £100.

We fully believed ourselves to be owners of the ship in question until she was paid for and delivered, and we remain in that belief in spite of the magistrate's decision. Had the ship been destroyed by fire before delivery to Mr. Fisher, we ask, who would have been held to be owners? We answer that certainly we should, and for that reason have always carefully kept her insured. If it is our property in case of loss, how can it be another person's property at the same time?

We believed it best for our protection, for many reasons, that the ship should be registered in our name, and we believed we were right in so doing. The builder's certificate given was the usual form, of which we a have given hundreds. The clause in an act of Parliament by which the case was decided was entirely unknown to us before we heard it read in court, and we believe it was also unknown to the magistrate himself. The case rested on this point. If we had given an incorrect statement, we were liable to punishment.

If we had unknowingly made an incorrect Statement we were not liable to punishment. To decide that we were wilfully incorrect, was to assume that we were before time well acquainted with the clause in a musty Act of Parliament, which the solicitor and magistrate only pointed out on Monday morning. The clause is this:- If any builder wilfully makes a false of statement in a certificate hereby required to be granted, he becomes amenable to the law. We did not make a false statement wilfully. Nor do we now think the statement we made was false.

We are still of the belief that the ship was ours until delivered and paid for, because it was quite possible that Fisher might have refused to accept her, if for any reason he considered she was not built according to contract.

Trusting to your kindness for the insertion of this in your paper, I am, dear sir, yours truly,

WILLIAM WRAY of Burton Stather,
March 11th, 1868

There were further repercussions of the legal battle. James Fisher was a powerful and influential man in the world of shipping, falling out with him was hugely damaging to the shipyards good reputation that they had worked for over the years. Orders for large ships from the large shipping companies soon dried up. After completing the orders already in, the yard built mainly smaller, local vessels again. They were saved only by the current rise of the Humber fishing fleets and the demand for fishing smacks.

The Trade

Under the command of William Thomas Williams of The Nag's Head, Union Square, Llanelli, the ship worked between the UK, India and Singapore, her hull was clad with felt and yellow metal to survive the tropical waters. She also travelled cooler waters to the west, trading to America and Canada.

The Final Voyage

The Lizzy left Barrow for New York on the 30th of November 1871. The barque was last heard of at a position about 200 miles to the south east of New York (38°N, 72°W) on the 25th of January 1872, but failed to arrive there. The ship was assumed to have been lost, with all hands drowned.

Fisher's Ships

James Fisher house flag

James Fisher & Sons of Barrow in Furness once owned the largest fleet of coasters in Great Britain. Founded in 1847 for transporting haematite from the Cumbrian hills. The company still exists to this day. Eight of the ships were built by John Wray & Son at Burton Stather,2 they are as follows:-

James Fisher
James Fisher, Mayor of Barrow
  1. Emma - Schooner, August 1863
  2. Morecambe Belle - Schooner, March 1864
  3. Squire - Brig, April 1864
  4. Doctor - Brig, May 1864
  5. Agnes Porter - Schooner, November 1864
  6. Eleventh Lancashire - Brig, February 1865
  7. Sea King - Barque, September 1866
  8. Lizzy - Barque, January 1868

Map

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

Vessel Details for Lizzy

Official Number:60118
Code Flags:JHRTCode flag - JuliettCode flag - HotelCode flag - RomeoCode flag - Tango
Vessel Name:Lizzy
Type:BarqueInfo
Built:
Tons:429
Length:138
Beam:28.7
Depth:17.4
Owners:
  • James Fisher of Barrow
Masters:
  • William Thomas Williams of Llanelli
Ports:
  • Barrow
Construction:Iron bolts. Some repairs 1870.
Trade:Falmouth to Singapore. Cardiff to India. Whitehaven to Montreal.
Fate:Left Barrow 30th Nov 1871 for New York, last heared of 25th Jan 1872 38°N 72°W.

Sources

  1. Lloyd's Register of Ships.
  2. The Mercantile Navy Lists.
  3. The Hull Packet.
  4. welshmariners.org.uk
  5. Through Mighty Seas - Merchant Sailing Ships of the NW of England.

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© 2017 Burton upon Stather Heritage Group

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