The Barque ‘Sea King’

Written by S. Ablott
First Published
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The Sea King was the seventh of eight ships built by Wray's yard for James Fisher of Barrow in Furness. At 404 tons and 137 feet in length she was one of the largest ships to be built there.1

A fine barque of 800 tons burthen was launched from the yard of Messrs. Wray and Son, Burton Stather, on the 27th. She will be commanded Captain Clarke, of Newport, South Wales, and was named the Sea King, by Mrs. Clarke. She is owned Mr James Fisher, of Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire, and classed 12 years A1 at Lloyd's. Her model much admired, there being every probability of her sailing fast as well as carrying a large cargo.

Stamford Mercury
5th October 18662

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,3 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

The Sea King was so large that she was unable to get into the port of Barrow where Fisher's ships sailed from.4 So she was initially registered at Lancaster.3 During those early years under Captain S Clarke, she sailed east to India and China, the Lloyds Register for 1867 having her port of destined voyage as Ceylon.1

To Barrow and the West

Barrow Docks
Barrow Docks

It was not until the June of 1870 that the Sea King first sailed into Barrow, after the completion of the Devonshire Dock.4 She was by then registered at Barrow and now under the command of Captain Edwards,1 the trade took her to the West. After loading for the first time at Barrow with steel rails, she sailed across the North Atlantic for New York.5 It was reported that they experienced strong westerly gales during the voyage.6 Making the same voyage later that year, arriving in December, conditions were no better. Taking the Northern passage, strong westerly and north westerly gales were encountered which split the sails and stove in the bulwarks having spent 28 days west of the banks.7

Ships at New York
Ships at New York

New York became a regular destination for the Sea King in the early 1870s, while she also called in at Montreal at that time. Cargoes from these ports were maize and wheat.8 She also came in to other European ports this side of the Atlantic, such as Gibraltar9 and London.10 Later her Trans Atlantic passages took the barque further south, to Buenos Aries11 and other ports on the South American continent.12

Back in Europe the Sea King ran into problems while heading for the Baltic. On the 4th of September 1877 she had to be assisted off the Swedish coast and was towed into the roads at Helsingør. After examination by divers, the vessel was found to be unharmed and continued on her voyage from Leith to the Russian island of Kronstadt, near St Petersburg.13

New Owners

By 1880 the Sea King had been sold by Fisher. The 1880 Mercantile Navy List shows her belonging to John Denholm of Greenock.3

The barque Sea King (of Barrow), from Greenock for Monte Video, was left by the Clyde Shipping Company's tug Flying Sprite off Holy Island, at 7 A.M. on the 24th inst.

Glasgow Herald
27th September 188012

The Lloyds register for 1883 gives her owner as A Inkster & Co of Liverpool.1

The End of the Sea King

The Sea King left the UK for the last time early in May 1883, leaving the River Clyde for Redonda in the West Indies under Captain Pearson.14 This tiny Caribbean island was always uninhabited, except for a period from the 1860 up until the outbreak of the First World War. During this time guano was mined on the island, producing up to 7000 tons a year. These phosphates were shipped away from the island to be used as fertilizer.15

The ship arrived at Redonda and was loaded with phosphate, leaving for London on the 8th of August. That was the last that was seen of the Sea King and the 13 persons on board. Having never arrived in London, she was declared a loss in December that year.16

Vessel Details for Sea King

Official Number:56936
Code Flags:PLWSCode flag - PapaCode flag - LimaCode flag - WhiskeyCode flag - Sierra
Vessel Name:Sea King
  • Fisher and Co of Barrow
  • John Denholm of Greenock 1880
  • Alfred Inkster of Liverpool 1883
  • S Clarke of Newport
  • Jones 1871
  • Edwards
  • R Thompson 1874
  • D Forbes
  • Pearson 1883
  • Lancaster
  • Barrow
Construction:Felt and Yellow Metal, Iron bolts. Large repairs 1880, damage repairs 1882.
Trade:East to Ceylon and China. Later west to New York and South America.
Fate:Left Redonda west Indies for London on 8th Aug 1883, went missing with 13 onboard.


  1. Lloyd's Register of Ships.
  2. Stamford Mercury - 5th October 1866
  3. The Mercantile Navy Lists.
  4. Through mighty Seas.
  5. Lancaster Gazette - 25th June 1870
  6. Shields Daily Gazette - 10th September 1870
  7. Shields Daily Gazette - 4th January 1872
  8. Shields Daily Gazette - 17th August 1872
  9. London Evening Standard - 5th December 1872
  10. Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - 21st October 1874
  11. Western Mail - 30th April 1875
  12. Glasgow Herald - 27th September 1880
  13. West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser - 10th September 1877
  14. Glasgow Herald - 4th May 1883
  15. Wikipedia - Article on Redonda.
  16. York Herald - 13th December 1883

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