HOPE

Detail in Dive Dorset: 109 p96: GPS; 50 36.50N; 02 32.00W
Also – 30 gun West Indiaman – An account of the Hope, by a Gentleman, published in 1749. Bodleian Library. (Also in LARN) – Chesil Cove. Crew of seventy four saved by the fallen mast. The mast however formed a bridge for the looters, who it was said removed £50,000 worth of bullion (Silver & Gold Dust).

‘HOPE’ of Amsterdam, 16th January 1749

Probably the wealthiest ship ever to founder on Chesil Beach was the Dutch vessel ‘Hope’. The ship had been away from her home port Amsterdam far many months on a most profitable voyage to South America, trading illegally in the Spanish colonies where Spanish settlers exploiting the gold and silver mines had almost unlimited wealth to pay for European goods. The ‘Hope’ was in effect smuggling, for although Spain failed to supply her colonists adequately, foreign ships were unwelcome. The rewards for the trade were high, but the risks were great and the ‘Hope’ was armed with 30 guns to repel any attempt at capture.

Having almost completed her hazardous voyage home, the ‘Hope’ encountered storms in the English Channel and on 16th January 1749 she came ashore almost opposite Fleet House. Is there a suggestion of deliberate wrecking on that night? One writer claimed there was no light showing from Portland lighthouses ‘whether from intense mists and particular fogginess of the air, or from the neglects of the persons concerned. I shall not pretend to determine’.

Whatever the true cause of the wreck, word soon spread that the ship was reputed to be carrying £50,000 in gold and silver and a ‘merciless battalion’ descended on the beach in search of her treasure. There was little assistance for the Dutch vessel’s Captain and crew who had to haul their own boat down the shingle to cross The Fleet. The organised plunder continued for over a week as the looters turned the stones over and over in the raw January weather searching for gold. It was a scene of complete lawlessness and the size of the mob increased each day. There is no real explanation as to why it took so long for armed law enforcement officers to control the situation but it may be that those who should have been in charge had their ‘agents’ down on the beach joining in the plunder. Eventually the looters were dispersed, some of the gold was recovered and one man, Augustin Elliott of Portland and several accomplices, were put on trial. Perhaps not surprisingly, the verdicts were ‘Not guilty’ for it would have been difficult to find local jurors unconnected with the crowd of thousands involved in stealing the cargo of the ‘Hope’.

Copied from The Island & Royal Manor of Portland Historic Sources by K. V. Saunders.

Reference: Hutchins Vol. II p742;

Near this place was wrecked the HOPE of Amsterdam, commanded by Booi Corneliz, the property of Hendrick Hogenbergh, &c. merchants of that city. She sailed from Amsterdam April 17, 1747, loaded with cloth, bale-goods, &c. Her first destination was to Curacoa, an island in South America belonging to the Dutch, and thence to the Spanish main, in order to sell her cargo to the Spaniards, who, by the war with England, were reduced to great distress in the American provinces, so that this ship disposed of the best part of her lading to a vast advantage; and her force of 30 guns, though she mounted only 24, secured her from the guard-ships; In her return, having by the most moderate computation not less than £50,000 sterling in specie, besides a considerable quantity of gold dust, staple silver, some jewels, and other valuable commodities, though the captain would own but £30,000; the weather being very stormy and tempestuous 14 days before, and on Jan.16, 1748, when, about one or two in the morning, it being very dark, and no light from the Portland lighthouses, either by reason of the great mist, or the neglect of the persons concerned there, they ran ashore on the beach. When she struck, the mast fell with the shock, so providentially that all the crew, being 74 men, got safe to shore. The ship was shattered into three parts; the top deck was thrown upon a ridge of pebbles; the cabin where the treasure mostly lay was buried in the sands, and the hull was never found; but it was thought rolled back into the sea. The mob soon flocked in from the adjacent villages, and from all parts of this and the neighbouring counties. The men of Portland, Wyke, and Weymouth formed themselves in a body with colours, to secure the goods that floated along the coast; and were subdivided into companies of 20, which united on occasion under a leader and at last amounted to 3,000 or 4,000. The captain was obliged to retire, and the crew went for Holland the 18th, except the captain, the first mate, and the carpenter. The officers of the customs and the peace officers were either negligent in their duty, or overawed by the mob, who employed. themselves for ten days in digging and turning up the beach: and several bags of money were found six feet deer under the pebbles, January 20. At length three neighbouring justices of peace, with a body of armed men, dispersed the mob. Inquiry was made, and the plunder traced to the possessors, who were compelled to deliver up to the agent of the proprietors to the amount of £25,000 or £30,000 salvage allowed. Four that refused were committed to prison; and two tried at the assizes at Dorchester, July 15, 1749, before Baron Legge, but acquitted; the jury being disposed to do so, on account of the number concerned in carrying away goods, &c. or purchasing them of those that did; which, on a moderate computation, were near 10,000. As this was the richest ship that was ever wrecked on this coast, the mob, fired with the rage of plunder, committed all manner of disorders. The shore was a scene of unheard-of riot, violence, and barbarity; and it is surprising no one was killed. But as the weather was about this time extremely cold and windy some perished on the beach. The popular pleas for this rapine were, that the Dutch were pirates, who mutinied among themselves about the division of the booty; ran the ship on shore and deserted her for fear of being taken and punished: or that, after they had sold their goods, they sent out a boat, and took them from the Spaniards, who had bought and paid for them. Thus they imagined it lawful to plunder pirates.

Reference: DORSET COUNTY CHRONICLE, 09/02/1826

During the last week, in consequence of a violent western gale of wind, which caused a great convulsion in the tremendous beach of Portland, many pieces of ancient coin, bars of gold and silver, supposed to have been buried in the wreck of the Dutch buccaneering ship HOPE, which was lost there near 100 years since, have been picked up by many people of that Island, Wyke, &c. Several other valuable articles in silver bowls, spoons, &c, have been found, likely to have been on board the ALEXANDER, East Indiaman, and the COLVILLE, West Indiaman, that were unfortunately lost on that part of the coast.

See also: Shipwrecks by Maureen Attwooll, pages 14 – 18


Day of Loss: 0

Month of Loss: 0

Year of Loss: 1749


Longitude: 50 36.50

Latitude: 02 32.00


Approximate Depth:

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