Monday, 7 October 2013

Charles Lanning Pavey - Shipwrecked on the Brayes

I have recently been reading The Great Western At Weymouth by J.H.Lucking, a history of the Railway Steamers that operated between Weymouth and the Channel Islands. Members of my family have sailed on many boats on this route, including my grandfather Charlie Pavey, who worked on the "St Julien" and "Roebuck II" prior to WW2, but until I read this book, I hadn't realised that at least one of my ancestors had been shipwrecked on this route.

My Great, Great Grandfather, Charles Lanning Pavey had been born in Melcombe Regis in 1842, the son of Silvester and Lucretia Pavey. Silvester was a sawyer working alongside the harbour on the West Quay, so there was always a chance that their children would become attached to the sea in some way. Charles grew up living on the harbour and by the time he was 18 he was working on the boats. The 1861 census lists Charles as being on board the "Cadmus" in St Sampson's Harbour, Guernsey. The "Cadmus" was a 217 tonne sailing brig, built in 1858 and registered in Weymouth. It's fair to say that she was used to transport potatoes, vegetables and flowers between the Channel Islands into the busy Dorset port. He also worked on a ship named "Vivid" during the 1860s and the Paddle Steamers "Cygnus" and "Brighton".

PS "Brighton" was reputed to be one of the fastest steamers in England, second only to the Dieppe boats. She had been built in 1857 by Palmer & Co and initially went into service with  Maple & Morris Ltd sailing between Shoreham and the Channel Islands. Less than a year later, she was purchased by the Great Western Railway and leased out to the Weymouth and Channel Islands Steam Packet Company. She was immediately pressed into service on the new Weymouth to Cherbourg route, but this venture was short lived and by August 1860, "Brighton" had become a regular favourite on the busy Channel Island service running out of Weymouth.

By 1876, "Brighton" was starting to show her age, The ship was badly in need of repairs to her hull and required an extensive mechanical overhaul. Over the next two years she received new paddle boxes and a turtle-back hurricane deck. Mechanically she was treated to new boilers, cylinder pumps and the addition of surface condensers, giving the steamer a brand new lease of life. In 1878 "Brighton" was back in service sailing regularly to the Channel Islands and occasionally crossing the Channel to France. 

My Great Great Grandfather Charles Lanning Pavey was on board the "Brighton" during the night of the 1881 census, where the steamer was recorded as being in St Helier Harbour, Jersey.

On a particularly foggy morning in January 1887, "Brighton" steamed out of Weymouth harbour on her usual route to Guernsey, and on to Jersey. At 6.30am, in thick fog, "Brighton" hit a dangerous group of rocks known as the Brayes, just off the Northern tip of Guernsey. The ship was reported to have still been travelling at around 11 knots, and her hull was holed badly. Within 20 minutes she had sunk in deep water. All 24 crew and 23 passengers had taken to the lifeboats and landed safely at Bordeaux Harbour, Guernsey. The Captain, Thomas Painter was subsequently found guilty of negligence and had his licence suspended for six months. The exact spot of the wreck has never been determined, so the "Brighton" is still lying at the bottom of the sea, undisturbed. As a result of the loss of the "Brighton", GWR withdrew their financial support from the Weymouth & Channel Islands Steam Packet Company and decided to operate the route in their own right the following year.

PS Brighton in 1886, 
It's quite possible that my Great Great Grandfather did not sail again following the sinking of the "Brighton". Besides his career as a mariner, Charles and his wife had also been publican's, firstly at the Rose & Crown on Crescent Street in Melcombe Regis and then at the Ship Inn on the corner of Maiden Street and the Custom House Quay. The pub was a popular haunt for Weymouth mariners and it has also been suggested that it could have been the inspiration for "The Weeping Woman" pub featured in the novel "Weymouth Sands" by John Cowper Powys. It was here that Charles Lanning Pavey died on Christmas Day 1888, leaving his wife Annie and their 11 children to keep the ale flowing. The Ship Inn still remains today, but has been much modified since Charles Pavey was the publican, however, the exterior facing Maiden Street retains many of the buildings original features.

The Ship Inn on West Quay, as it appears today. 

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