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Help and advice for Clovelly - Harbour of Refuge 1858

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Harbour of Refuge

From Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth, 8 April, 1858; Issue 4800, Document No. Y3200695849

Transcribed by Brian Randell


HARBOUR OF REFUGE.-The important inquiry before a committee of the House of Commons to ascertain the most eligible situations for constructing harbours of refuge on the north-east coast of Scotland, the north-east coast of England, and the west coast of England, terminated last week. The gentlemen whose opinion was taken on the relative merits of the various ports in the Bristol Channel were Captain Sheringham, R,N., government surveyor from Hartland Point to Land's End; Capt. Claxton, R.N., a marine surveyor, who admitted being retained in the interest of Padstow; Mr Forward, the master of a revenue cutter, stationed at Penzance and St. Ives; Mr. Bryant, a merchant of Padstow; Mr Chanter, Lloyd's Agent at Bideford; and Capt. Sampson, a retired shipmaster at Bristol. As might naturally be expected, the first four gentlemen had but one opinion on the subject. Capt. Claxton was subjected to a very lengthened examination, in which, after advocating the superior advantages which would accrue from an improvement of the harbour at Padstow, or a new harbour of refuge at Padstow or Trevore Head, he admitted the great need for a harbour of refuge at Clovelly, where 600 to 700 fishermen were constantly jeopardised ! that for large ships, Lundy or Clovelly would be better harbours, and that a harbour at the Mumbels or Lundy Island would be of great value to the foreign trade through the Bristol Channel. Capt. Sampson, a veteran shipmaster, strongly recommended Clovelly. Mr. Chanter furnished a lamentable list of shipwrecks and loss of life on the north coast of Devon, including a homeward bound East Indiaman for Liverpool; a ship bound to Africa with general cargo from Liverpool; a Russian ship, of 1,000 tons register, bound into the English Channel from Dublin; and numerous vessels outward and homeward bound on the Bristol Channel, with destruction of fishing boats and all their crews from Clovelly, suddenly overtaken by storms. He stated the tonnage of shipping traversing the Bristol Channel in one year to and from the ports of Swansea, Cardiff, Newport, Gloucester and Bristol to amount to 4,946,176 tons, with 989,275 sailors only, exclusive of passengers; and that the shipment of coals from the ports only during the same period amounted to 3,362,665 tons, whilst the trade of Bristol, paying annually a million and a quarter duty to the Crown in sugar, only an average importation; that the increase of shipping to the ports of Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport, was incalculable, whilst the privileges and economy of foreign over the English shipowners, filled the channel with the flags of other nations, more or less ignorant of the intricacies of the channel navigation; that the monopoly of the Bristol pilots precluded the establishment of pilots at the outposts, and the Bristol Channel pilotage ground was Lundy Island, and when overtaken by storms, shifting from the south-west to the north-west, vessels and lives were jeopardised by the uncertainty of the tides' current, and frequently driven within the horns of Hartland Point, Mark Point, and lost. That vessels homeward or outward bound, or from the Irish and Bristol Channel generally, pass in latitude fifty-one from longitude four to six, and consequently an asylum harbour in the vicinity of Hartland Point, with Lundy Island or its brilliant lights serving as a guide, would be equally serviceable for the Irish and the Bristol Channel. That the abundance of material from the high cliffs of Clovelly, the unqualified approval of Sir James Hamlyn Williams, the sole proprietor of that property, its contiguity to Lundy Island, where, with the assistance of convict labour, an inexhaustible supply of granite might be obtained, render that spot (in his opinion) the most beneficial and the best calculated for the general benefit of commerce and shipping, as a national asylum or harbour of refuge for the west coast of England, where a construction might be raised at an expense of about £77,000, sufficient for protection and safe anchorage and shelter for about seventy large ships and a vast number of coasters.