The Ketch ‘Adeline’

Written by S. Ablott
First Published


The Adeline was a ketch rigged fishing smack, built at Burton Stather for Mr Robert Hellyer, launched in the October of 1869. She was 54 tons and 68 feet long, registered in Hull as H588. The MNL in 1870 list her owner as Mr William Robert Layman of 49, William Street, Hull.1

Lost Crew

As with many of the smacks working in this most dangerous of trades, the Adeline suffered the loss of crew men throughout the years.

On Friday the 30th of May 1873 a crewman named Henry Carlisle was drowned when he was knocked overboard by the boom while at sea. Attempts were made to save him, but the body was never recovered.2a

In 1875 the Adeline belonged to Mr William Walker of 33, Caroline Place, Hull.1 In that year skipper Henry Annis reported another loss. On the 31st of August, while fishing on the Dogger Bank, second hand Edward Carter of Clifton Terrace, Bean Street, Hull, drowned when the smacks' boat capsized. Again, the 26 year olds body could not be recovered, the boat having been lost too.2b

The following year, in 1876, there was another loss, much closer to home. Richard Keedling of Woods Lane was a watchman employed to look after the vessel while in port. The Adeline was lying on the Sand South-End, near the entrance to the harbour. On the morning of Wednesday the 26th of July, his body was found in the mud close to the vessel. He was last seen alive the previous night at about 8 o'clock.2c


In April 1878 there were fears for the whole of the crew of the Adeline. The smack left Hull early in March with five hands on board, for a single boat fishing trip. Single boat voyages were much shorter than the fleet voyages, typically lasting about two weeks, as when the hold was full, they would return home.

After an extended absence, there were concerns for the crew's safety. She had last been seen 10 days into the voyage when the crew of another Hull smack spoke to them. It was reported that the voyage was a successful one. At first it was thought that their success was the reason for the extended voyage. But after she had been at sea for five weeks, the worst was feared.2d In the sixth week however the Adeline returned safely to Hull with all five crew.2e

The Final Voyage

In the March of 1882, the Adeline, now belonging to Mr Joseph Bradley of Goodwin Street, Hull,1 was fishing on the shoal water on the Dogger Bank, about 80 miles off Spurn. On the 22nd there was a strong sea running and snow squalls. Skipper George Kitson had all plain sails set and the second jib. At about 3 in the afternoon a heavy sea struck the vessel, sweeping clean the deck, carrying away stanchions, the main sail and mizzen sail. The ships' boat was smashed to pieces and the smack rolled onto its beam end. The cabin and hold began to fill with water and the vessel settled down in the sea.

The crew saw hope in seeing a Grimsby smack which was coming up astern and surely saw their state of distress. But the Grimsby smack ignored them and sailed away from the foundering ship and her crew.2f

After this cruel neglect, the crew were later saved when another Grimsby smack, the Snipe, belonging to James Meadows, came along and launched her boat. The crew were transferred onto the Snipe, leaving the Adeline which sunk within an hour. The crew were safely landed in Grimsby the following day.3

Vessel Details for Adeline

Official Number:60185
Fishing Number:H588
Vessel Name:Adeline
  • William Robert Layman of Hull 1870
  • William Walker of Hull 1875
  • William Merriman of Hull 1879
  • Joseph Bradley of Hull 1882
  • Henry Annis 1875
  • George Kitson 1882
  • Hull
Trade:North sea fishing.
Incidents:30th May 1873 Henry Carlisle was drowned when he was knocked overboard by the boom. 31st Sept 1875, Edward Carter, second hand, drowned when the small boat capsized.
Fate:Lost on the 22nd March 1882 80 mile off Spurn. Crew saved by the Snide of Grimsby.


  1. The Mercantile Navy Lists.
  2. Hull Packet
    1. 6th June 1873
    2. 10th September 1875
    3. 28th July 1876
    4. 12th April 1878
    5. 19th April 1878
    6. 24th March 1882
  3. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 24th March 1882

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© Background Photograph by Steve Smith.