THE HONOURABLE EAST INDIA COMPANY SERVICE

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE LADY BURGESS AFTER HITTING ROCKS OFF THE COAST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS.

The Lady Burgess was built by Perry in Blackwall, London, launched 1799, 3 decks, 4in bottom, length 146ft 1in, keel 118ft 7in, breadth 36ft 1in, hold 14ft 9in, wing transom 23ft 5in, port cell 29ft 9in, waist 1ft 6in, between decks 6ft 2in, & 6ft 4in, roundhouse 6ft 5¼in ports 13 middle & 11 upper, deck range 83ft 9in, 821 tons.

She made three previous voyages to Bengal and this she her fourth under the same Captain, Commander Archibald Francis William Swinton. She had set off from Portsmouth, carrying iron, lead, general merchandise and passengers, on 30th March 1806, in a convoy of eight ships escorted by HMS Leopard. Farrington does not mention the log, journal or pay books as they were never handed in to India House. The only record that the East India library possesses is an 'Imprest Book'. This is thought to relate to financial matters of the voyage. Captain Swinton's log book does however survive. The log book, containing crew and passenger list, along with related material and a comprehensive explanation is to be found on eBay. The page dates to 2012 and has a Russian connection.

The convoy had run into a storm and in the early hours of the 20th the Lady Burgess hit Leytons or John Letton's Rock, a submerged coral reef, south-west of Boavista Island in the Cape Verde Islands. Captain Charles Jones, commander of the Earl St Vincent, records the event in his entries on the 20th, 21st and 23rd of April.

Sunday April 20th 1806.
C&D ---- 77. Pleasant Trade NE hazy weather. At 4pm The Commodore made signal for the Fleet to stand although he did otherwise, he immediately hauled away to the SE. A half past 4 Signal to bring to. At 5 Signal he saw Land which must be the Island of Salt [Cape Verde Islands], at 6 the Signal to steer South. At 2am several Guns were fired to the East sending danger. Commodore made Signal to bring to, on the Larboard Tack & he kept turning to Windward till daylight when we discovered high breakers bearing EbN about 9 miles and a Ship on shore with only one Mast standing which proved to be The Lady Burgess who struck about 2am. Sounding as per Log & found Strong Current to the South. Turned to windward all the morning. At Noon the Breakers East about 9 miles. Could not perform divine service this AM consequence of the unfortunate event mentioned in the Log. [several Soundings 40 to 45 fms coral] Lat 15.46 (obs) Long 23.29 (obs).

Monday 21st April 1806.
C&D ---- 39. Fresh NE breeze chiefly hazy weather. At 3pm Spoke the Lord Melville who informed me before their boat left the Lady Burgess she had gone to pieces, her night heads were just above water & that they had saved Captain Swinton & some of the Crew. Bent lower Cable & unstowed the Anchor. [Many soundings around 80fms taken]. At noon The Peak on the Island of May EbN½N. The Eastern extremity of St Jago about 2 leagues. NB. I make The Shoal. The Burgess was lost in Lat 15.45N and working home to Port Praya Bay to be in Long 23.15W. Lat 15.8N (obs) Long 23.45W (obs)

At half past 1pm made sail per Signal & stood into the Bay & at 3 anchored in Port Praya Bay with the best bower in 8fms water. The Flag bearing NW½W. Distance off the landing Place about 1 mile. The Easternmost Point of the Bay EbS¾S. The Westernmost WbS¾S. At 4pm The Commodore made Signal for all Commanders. Went on board. Found riding here a Danish Ship, American Ship & a Portuguese Brig. NB The above Log made at midnight.

Tuesday 22nd April 1806.
Moderate breezes from the NE & fine weather. Sent the Boat on shore for water. AM The Captains of H. C. Ships held a Consultation. The Distribution of the unfortunate sufferers who were saved from the Lady Burgess & it was unanimously agreed they should be equally distributed on board the Ships of the Fleet as possible. Received on board two soldiers that were saved from the Lady Burgess. Employed about sundry jobs. Received on board some water.

Wednesday 23rd April 1806.
Chiefly fresh breezes from the NE fair weather. Employed watering & sundry other jobs. AM The crew of the Lady Burgess came on board & were distributed on board the different Ships in the Fleet.


The Navel Chronicle for 1806 describes the loss of the Lady Burgess in some detail:-

LOSS OF THE LADY BURGESS, INDIAMAN.
THE following extract of a letter, from an officer of His Majesty's ship Leonard, contains the most detailed account of the Lady Burgess Indiaman, in April last, which has yet appeared:-

On the 30th March 1806, we dropped down to St. Helen's, with six East Indiamen, and sailed from thence on the 31st. On the 1st April we took our departure from the Lizard, exchanging numbers with the Revolutionaire and Snapper Schooner; on the 4th fell in with Sir Richard Strachan and squadron; on the 9th chased a large frigate, supposed to be Spanish, which we could have come up with, but were obliged to give up the chase, for fear of losing sight of the convoy. On the 13th we made the Salvage [Savage] Islands; on the 14th the island of Palma; and on the 20th, at two in the morning, signal guns were fired from one of the Indiamen. The convay was immediately hove to, and at day-light we discovered the Lady Burgess East Indiaman, dismasted, on a reef of rocks. We sent our boats away to save the people, but be nine o'clock she was a complete wreck, and there was a heavy surf breaking over her, which made the approach of the boats difficult and extemely dangerous. Thirty-eight persons, I am sorry to say, were drowned in spite of the exertions of the boats to save them. On the 21st we anchored in Port Praya Bay, St. Jago; on the 25th sailed from thence; and on the 28th, in latitude nine degrees, parted company with the rest of the convoy.

The passengers, Etc. saved from the ship, were disposed of as follows:-
On board the Nelson: Mr. and Mrs. Dixon, two Miss Arnolds, two Miss ardwicks, Colonel Arnold, and Mr. Wakeman, Writer.
On board the Melville: Mr. Stevens, assistant Surgeon, Lieutenant Nook, of the 33rd regiment, Mr Simson, and Mr. St. George Ashe, Cadets.
On board the Asia: Messr. Patrick Brown, Asher, and Whittington, Cadets.
On board the Walthamstow: Messrs. Pritchard, Stewart, Bradshaw, Fenter, and Gerrard, Cadets.
On board the Sovereign: Mr Colebrooks, Cadet, and Mr. Angus Hall, asistant Surgeon.
In the fillet, but no returns received: Messrs. Hunter, Wilson, and Bourg.
Total loss: Chief mate, Puser, three Cadets, 18 of the ship's company, three soldiers, two soldiers, wives, one child, and five native women - thirty four.


The ships logs of the Earl St Vincent record those people who were transferred from the Lady Burgess.

Shipped at Bombay, received from the Lady Burgess:-

William Walker, Midshipman, run at Bombay 1st January 1807
George Mullener, Sailmaker
Samuel Pierce, Seaman
Andrew Wilson, Seaman, run at Bombay 13th January 1807
Thomas Howart, Seaman, entered H.M.S. Albion 8th Sep 1806

Daniel Harrington, Seaman
John Kains, Seaman, entered La Psyché Jan'y 2st 1807
Charles Blake, Seaman
Robert Robertson, Seaman
John Netrurian, Seaman
Salvador Cori[?], Seaman, ran January 28th 1807
Manuel Frederic, Seaman
Francis Poze Seaman, ran Point de Galle 26 March 1807
Jose Lewis, Seaman
Joseph Legg, Seaman
Jno Nicholas, Seaman
James Davis, Seaman
George Dunbar, Seaman
William Lowe, Seaman
Henry Newton, Seaman
John Cook, Quarter Master, died on board at St Helena 27 June 1807
John Suandburg[?], Seaman
Janus Syndecomb, Seaman

Received from the Lady Burgess, landed at Bombay 23rd August 1806.

Dennis Higarty
William Forest


Subsequent history of the site of the wreck. The website Items sold on eBay in 2012, gives details of the event, this is an abridged version of the article.

RARE MARITIME ARCHIVE FROM, AND PERTAINING TO, THE WRECK OF THE EAST INDIANMAN 'LADY BURGESS' WHO WRECKED ON APRIL 20TH, 1806 ON JOHN LETTON'S ROCK. This great archive is a treasure trove of information regarding the shipwreck of the Lady Burgess, which had set sail for India on march 31st, 1806 in a fleet of 8 ships under the protection of the HMS Leopold 'making good speed of 5 knots,' she struck John Lettons' Rock on September 19th, and over the next three hours entered into a dramatic rescue from longboats who managed to salvage many lives, but the ship and some crew & passengers were lost.

The sale Includes a handwritten account of the wreck, extracted from the Asiatic Mirror, Wed. Sept. 24th, 1806 from an account of a military officer on board, as well as an early 1800s Log Book of crew and passanger heights and weights, a small ledger from the 1820s, possibly owned by a survivor and used on a later voyage, and various pieces of ephemera dating through the 1880s, many pertaining to research about the wreck and related subjects. The handwritten account is striking, of note are mentions of rescue, shark attacks, negroes, emotion and much more. Great snapshot into British maritime history c1810. Good luck! More pics: photobucket.com/ladyburgess Web Related: Wrecks being excavated by ARQ in Cape Verde: The Lady Burgess Name of Ship: Lady Burgess Date of Wreck: April 20th, 1806 Location of Wreck: Cape Verde Islands Route from England to Madras.

The Lady Burgess sailed from Portsmouth on the 31st of March 1806 with the rest of the outward-bound East India fleet, under convoy of the Leopard. Lady Burgess weighed 820 tons, carried 30 guns and a crew of 100 men. Her cargo consisted of iron, lead and general merchandise. The Commerce Journal of the East India Company shows the value of her cargo. In the early hours of the 20th of April, 1806 the Lady Burgess and the Lord Melville ships found themselves separated from their fleet and in great peril. Captain Swinton was able to turn his ship into deep waters; Lady Burgess however, could not escape the breakers. During the hours of hardship, longboats were sent out and a large part of the crew was saved. An account of the loss can be read in Captain Swinton's logbook of the Lord Melville.

"Log Book of the Sailing Ship Leopard witnessing the Lady Burgess Wrecking at the João Valente Reef at the 20th of April 1806" A painting by William John Huggins of the Asia, an English East India Company ship History Lady Burgess her size and voyages etc., wrecked 20 Apr on Leytons Rock, south-west of Bonavista island. The lamentable wreck of the Lady Burgess, East-India ship, one of the outwardbound fleet of 1806, was caused by striking on the Leton Rock. This ship struck among the breakers on the Rock, at two in the morning of the 19th of April, 1806. The Alexander, Sovereign, Lord Nelson, and other ships, narrowly escaped. The Lord Melville struck three times, and slipped off the rock into 25 fathoms, at the time the Lady Burgess was standing directly among the breakers. It appeared, from the observations subsequently made, that the Leton Reef is composed of coral; no part above water.

Captain Swinton, of the Lady Burgess, conjectured that the extent on which a ship would strike is not above a cable's length, and that there are no breakers on it in fine weather. To the northward it appeared to be steep-to. This danger appears to be on the central part of an extensive bank of coral soundings, extending 4 or 5 miles to the southward, and considerably to the eastward and westward. At day-light the ship Asia was in 52 fathoms, coral bottom, when the breakers and wreck bore E. by N., about 4 miles distant. Other ships had soundings of 2 to 50 fathoms to the W. and S.W. of the reef, at from 2 to 5 miles from the breakers. Immediately after striking, the Lord Melville had 25 fathoms, its head being to the eastward; shortly after, 30 fathoms. This ship hove-to, with her head easterly, until day-light, and had from 30 to 40 fathoms, all coral soundings. Others had soundings 10 or 12 miles to the southward of the reef, generally coral, sometimes intermixed with sand and shells, and not less than 20 fathoms. The mean of the observations and chronometers of the fleet, gave 15° 49' N. and 23° 14' W., as the situation of the reef, which is on the meridian of the Isle of May: its situation, according to the late survey, is 15° 48' N. and 23° 13' W.

Archaeological investigation of the wreck.
In 1999 Arqueonautas located the wreck in the South East end of the Joao Valente reef, almost half way between the islands of Maio and Boa Vista in the Cape Verde Islands. Operations in the year 2000 took place from 09.06.00 until 26.08.00 consisting of 44 diving days on this wreck site; 702 dives amounting to 895 diving hours. The first important finds were piles of lead bars and several rudder pintles and gudgeons. Divers also found a lot of personal belongings and objects, which clearly had been inside the cabins, kitchen or dinning room as well as 117 gold coins, most probably private belongings of one passenger. The debris field of this ship was scattered in a wide area where the team of divers located different sections of the wreck, one of them consisting of several cannons and anchors trapped inside deep craters, at 150 meters to the west of the lead pile.


Captain Archibald Francis William Swinton, was born 17 June 1769, bap St Martin in the Fields 18 June 1770, the son of Captain Samuel Swinton of the Royal Navy, and Felicité Jeanne le Febre, daughter of an Officer of the French Guard who died on the palace steps at Versailles during the French Revolution. Captain Swinton was married at Bereampore, Bengal, India in 1802. He later lived in Warsash, Hampshire. He died at Sussex Gardens, Hyde Park, London. 27th Sep 1843. See The Swinton Family for more information.

Farrington records the career of Captain Swinton: Born 17 Jun, bap St Martin in the Fields, London 18 June 1770, son of Samuel & Felicity. Seaman Manship (1) 1785/6; midshipman Manship (1) 1787/8; mate to West Indies 9m; 4th mate Essex (4) 1790/1; 3rd mate Essex (4) 1793/4; 2nd mate Essex (4) 1795/6; Captain Lady Burgess 1799/80, 1801/2, 1803/4 & 1805/4; Captain Carnatic (3) 1808/9, 1810/1 & 1812/3.

Biography

  • eBay: "http://ebays.com.ua/catalog/show/180982613257/"
  • Farrington, Anthony: "Catalogue of The East India Ship's Journals and Logs. 1600 - 1834". British Library 1999.
  • Farrington, Anthony: "A Biographical Index of East India Company Maritime Officers 1600 - 1834". British Library. 1999.
  • The The Navel Chronicle 1806, Vol.16, page 109.
  • The Swinton Family Society.