The Flirt 1897 – Burton Bradstock

On Wednesday, November 23rd, a very strong southerly gale was blowing. There had been a change of weather during the early night, when the Northeast breeze had veered round to a gale from the south. A mountainous sea was soon running, and the wind increased in violence during the day. Shortly before 3 p.m., as William Smith was on the Church tower looking for the approach of William George’s funeral from West Bay, he was startled to see close inshore over against Burton Hive, a vessel with all her sails blown away. An alarm was raised, and men and women were quickly on the cliff and beach to render any assistance possible. The sight was one which will never be forgotten. The wind was at its height, and the seas tremendous, as they rolled in and broke with deafening roars on the shingle. At a glance the most experienced could see there was no chance for the little vessel, which was being tossed about like a cork some 300 yards from the beach, and there also appeared but little probability that the poor men clinging to the main rigging could ever reach the land in safety. After a short time it was seen that the vessel was being headed straight for the shore, and it appeared at first as if she would be beached in the middle of the Hive. When, however, the vessel was some 200 yards from the shore, a huge wave struck her aft and completely hid her from view; when she reappeared her decks had been swept, her wheel carried away, and she had broached broadside on the sea, and was heading for the cliffs to the westward. The next distressing sight was to see four men jump from the rigging into the boiling seas. For many minutes the sailors in their life jackets made good way to the shore, being pushed in by the ever-breaking billows. Each anxious watcher, however knew that it was impossible for any of the four, struggling so bravely, to come successfully through the terrific seas breaking on the shingle– seas which ran up the beach from 70 to 100 yards each wave, and receded with as much force as to make it most dangerous to go even up to the knees into the water. Directly the men reached the turn of the seas on to the beach, which they did almost simultaneously, they were lost sight of, and never seen alive again with one exception. The exception proved to be the seaman Neat, who was thrown up, only to be seen for a second, and then sucked back again. Once more, some 100 yards or more to westward, the same man was thrown up again, and James Gear, with no line attached to him, rushed down, and, at the greatest risk to his own life, seized hold of him, and with the most commendable determination stuck to him, both being rapidly sucked down into the sea. Joe Thorner, and others with lines, were however, just in time to reach them, and hold them until all were partly hauled up, and partly thrown up into safety with the next incoming sea. Meanwhile, the vessel, broadside on, had been thrown up higher and higher by the seas, till she remained stranded almost high and dry under the cliff, a few yards to the east of the Look-out. Great was our joy when two men were observed to lower themselves from the vessel, and to walk up into safety under the cliffs. Thus of the crew of six, three were saved; the seaman Neat, who swam ashore, and was courageously rescued by Gear, the seaman Sharp, and ordinary seaman Knight, the latter having remained in the vessel till they were able to walk ashore. The men drowned were the captain, Chedwick, who leaves a widow and a little daughter, the mate, Rigden, a single man, and the apprentice, Hare, an orphan, who was on his first voyage. The men saved were quickly attended to and looked after by Messrs. Goodchild, Churchouse and Samways. The vessel proved to be the 150 ton schooner FLIRT, of Whitstable, bound from London to Topsham with 240 tons of copper ore. The FLIRT was down off Exmouth on Tuesday night, hoping for a tug to tow her into harbour. At midnight she was caught by the southerly gale and lost all her sails. She then drifted helplessly about, at the mercy of the wind and sea, till she came ashore on our beach at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The coastguards and parishioners of Burton and the coastguards from West Bay, with rocket apparatus, were most anxious to do anything that could be done, but there was no opportunity of rendering any help except in the case of Neat. The body of the mate Rigden, has been recovered at Eype, and taken to his home at Whitstable, for burial.

Offertories on behalf of the widow and child of Captain Chedwick were given in our three Churches, and amounted to £6. 1s.

Schooner – Captain C. Frend. (LARN) – Burton Cliff, Burton Bradstock. Note: A hatch cover from this wreck was to be found in the Dove Inn, Burton Bradstock. Ref. The Burton Bradstock Book by John Eastwood p14 & Lloyd’s Register: 1896-7 No. 310(F).


1 – Extract from The Burton and Shipton Gorge Parish Magazine – Vol XXVlll December 1898 CHECK PERMISSION
2 – The Burton Bradstock Book by John Eastwood p14.

Day of Loss: 0

Month of Loss: 0

Year of Loss: 1897



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