A great storm on December 8th 1874 and stories around the country at Scarborough, Grimsby, Grimsby, and Whitby
At Scarborough the gale sprung up most suddenly. The seamen who noticed the change described the north-easter as plainly discernible on the water some distance off, "coming on with the rush of a galloping horse." At three o'clock in the morning the smack Yorkshire Lass came into the harbour.
At about four, the smack Mary Anne, the property of Mr. Jas. Sellers, of Scarborough, was observed some distance from the port, showing torches, and evidently making for the harbour. The storm was by this time very violent. When near the harbour she became unmanageable, in consequence of her jib and foresail sheets having broken.
She then began to drift to the rocks, south of the town. Her crew dropped anchor, and paid out about 130 fathoms of cable. The anchor, however, did not hold, and the vessel still drove towards the cliffs.
They got into their boat, which was then floated off the deck of the smack by the sea. Just then the smack's mizen-mast went by the board, and fell across the boat, submerging it and causing the men, five in number, to be washed out. The master, Jas. Oakley, and a young man named Drisdale, were washed away and drowned.
The other three, named Charles Chase, Wm. Trueman, and John Edwards, were washed to the cliff, where they secured a precarious footing.
In the meantime, the coastguard were firing rockets in the hope of rendering assistance, but the poor fellows were not found till daylight, when they were brought to the town much exhausted.
1874 December 8th - A violent north-east gale arose and blew with great fury, its violence being felt over a very wide area of the United Kingdom. The east and west coasts were strewn with wrecks, and many lives were lost. At Hull the storm was very violent.
Vessels were tossed about on the Humber like shells by the furious wind and waters, and upwards of thirty keels and small craft were washed ashore on the Lincolnshire coast, in the immediate neighbourhood of New Holland and Barton.
Messrs. Wilson's Hull steamer Hero, just arrived in the Humber, became uncontrollable, and drifted about at the mercy of the wind and waves. She twice stranded on sand banks, and lost two anchors and several fathoms of cables, other parts of her being also injured. She was safely docked, however, in the evening.
The gable end of a house in Hull fell through the roof of an adjoining house during the gale, and tiles were blown from houses in almost every street.
Several disasters also occurred at Grimsby, at the mouth of the river. About half-past three a.m. a steam-tug named the Wards, left Hull, having in tow four catches or keels, the Sarah, the L'Orient, the Ocean, and the Newark Castle.
About half-past five o'clock the tug and catches were abreast of Wintringham lights, on the Lincolnshire side of the Humber, the wind at that time blowing a heavy gale, and the water very rough.
The captain of the tug finding himself in difficulties, slipped the tow-rope, and the four boats were thrown alongside of each other, close on the lee shore.
The L'Orient was the first to sink, in consequence of the severity of the collision between the catches, and the mate, named Wilson, was washed overboard. He managed, however, to lay hold of the bulwarks of the Ocean, and to pull himself on board. She in turn sank, and her captain and mate, together with Wilson, were washed overboard.
The latter in swimming to save himself, got hold of a boat, and at the same time the little daughter of Captain Swanwick, of the Newark Castle, was rescued by him.
The captain and mate of the Sarah, named respectively William Mitchell and Charles Sanders, jumped from her deck and swam ashore, and by cutting down the lamp halyards of Wintringham lights, managed to rescue the whole of the occupants of the other keels.
Captain and Mrs. Swanwick, however, were nearly drowned, while their little daughter, aged about nine, was found to be dead when brought ashore. Mrs. Swanwick had to be carried about a mile across a marshy country before a conveyance could be found to take her to Wintringham, and having been exposed for three hours to excessive cold and wet, was not expected to recover.
The same morning three sloops, laden with linseed, went down near Ferriby Sluice, and the market boat belonging to Barton sank near Barrow Haven, the two men in charge being washed overboard and drowned. At North Sunderland the barque John George, timber laden, from Cronstadt, and bound to Leith, went ashore and became a complete wreck.
The North Sunderland life-boat gallantly went out to the rescue, and succeeded in landing the whole of the crew except the captain's son, who was washed from the vessel and perished. The night was a terrible one on the north-east coast, and will be remembered as such for many years to come.
At Whitby, up to about eleven o'clock on the 8th, there were no indications of a coming storm. Rain had fallen in torrents during most part of the day, but at the time mentioned the hitherto clouded sky was clear, and the stars shone with peculiar radiance and lustre.
There was a soft breeze, and the sea itself presented a calm and beautiful appearance. Suddenly the wind sprung up from the east-north-east, veering to the north, and within an almost incredibly short time swelled into the dimensions of what is known officially as a full gale. In this locality the fullest and most perfect arrangements were made in order to save either life or property in the event of any casualty.
The wind blew in terrific gusts, the skies were obscured by a dense gloom, rain and snow fell heavily, and those who witnessed the scene could bear testimony as to the terrors of the night. About two o'clock in the morning, a vessel showed lights bearing towards the sands, a little to the north of the piers, and in the fury of the blast was cast with great violence on the beach.
The lifeboat was immediately got out, and the coast-guardsmen, under the command of Mr. B. Smith, proceeded with all promptitude to the scene. As early as possible a rocket was fired, and ultimately the crew, six in number, were safely landed.
The vessel proved to be the Lord Summers, of Scarborough, bound from London for Shields in ballast. When the crew had been landed, reports came that a vessel had gone ashore at Upgang, and the brigade proceeded in that direction, but found that the crew had been already saved.
The vessel was the brig Danube, of Whitby. Hence the brigade went to the other side of the harbour to the Scaur, where it was said some vessels had gone ashore. Here, to the alarm of all, it was found that a vessel had gone ashore, and had already smashed up and the crew all drowned.
The brigade placed themselves on the top of the precipitous cliffs and made every effort to place themselves in such a position as to afford help in case of need, but nothing could be heard above the roar of the waters, and the poor fellows were drowned, their cries being unheard.
The brig Britannia, of Shoreham, from Newhaven, came ashore about 3.30 a.m. on the yellow sand bight. She very soon began to break up, and the crew were obliged to get ashore to save their lives.
They managed to get into the dark cliffs, which were too precipitous to climb, and huddled together, waited anxiously for daylight. The poor fellows, of whom they were eight in number, were greatly exhausted and faint with a night's hard work and mental anxiety, and in the cold of the night were ill-prepared to linger long clinging to the cliffs.
The waters leaped under their feet, and at one time they were in dread of being swept off the rocks and drowned. With a tenacity and power of endurance which is remarkable they managed to cling together. Those of them who were crestfallen and weak were encouraged by the others, and with fervent prayers for courage and assistance they managed to spend four weary hours.
At the end of that time they were perceived, and some men proceededdown the cliffs with picks, with which they made foot-holds, and guided the poor shivering men to the top.
In the meantime their vessel, which was 228 tons register, and owned by Mr. Gates, of Shoreham, was smashed to pieces. A portion of her stern, together with a piece of her keel, was hauled under the Spa ladder, while the remainder went out to sea or was swept in confused heaps among the rocks.
The brigantine Isabella, of Ipswich, in ballast, for Amble, also came ashore in Collier's Hope. The small ketch called The Pride, belonging to Southampton, came ashore on the sands at the north side of the piers, nearly opposite the coastguard stations.
The master, named Charles Parsons, about 27 years of age, was washed overboard and drowned. At the time of the fatal mishap, the master was standing amidship, when a huge sea broke over the little craft and carried him away with it.
A schooner, said to be the Queen Victoria, hailing from a place near London, went ashore at Newholm Beck.
The vessel Excelsior, in entering the harbour, struck heavily against the West Pier with her bow, smashing in the port bow and carrying away bowsprit. The crew were hoisted on to the pier by means of ropes.
At Middlesbrough the gale raged with unexampled severity. Several villas in course of erection were blown down, along with a shed belonging to the tramway company, and part of the roof of the extensive Britannia Ironworks fell amongst the men whilst at work, causing the immediate death of one man, seriously injuring two others, and causing minor bruise, upon several, besides incurring a stoppage of the works.
At the mouth of the Tyne a vessel was wrecked, and her crew of 15 persons perished. At Hartlepool a great many vessels went ashore, and the storm was very violent on the Isle of Man, the Irish coast, and the Cornwall and Devon coast.