Cutter/Yacht – Captain Strickland. Details in LARN; DCP: 31/10/1887, [Southern Times – Special Edition 31/10/1887] & Dor. Mag: 1975 No.49, p47. – Portland Breakwater. Two survivors. Check to see if DCP is DCC. See also Times

The Laureate – 1887

Taken from Shipwrecks by M. Attwooll, p52.

“A year after the fortunate escape of the Bournemouth’s passengers, a poignant entry appeared in the log book of the Holy Trinity Boys School, Weymouth. It reads: ‘A deep gloom rests on the managers, teachers and town generally on account of the loss of ten residents of the town who were drowned on Sunday morning by the wrecking of a yacht on the Breakwater’

The yacht was the LAUREATE.  She belonged to local boat builder Edward Lewis Carter who had taken a group of friends and acquaintances on a conger fishing trip.  It was late October and the weather prospects weren’t good, but the LAUREATE successfully reached Portland, where she moored half-a-mile from the  Breakwater.  Some of the twelve on board grew anxious about the increasing storm, but it was judged safer to remain moored rather than attempt a run for shelter.  By morning there were only two survivors to give an account of what happened that night.  The mooring rope either snapped or became un fastened with the result that the LAUREATE drifted onto the Breakwater.  Some of the fishermen climbed into the small boat which had gone out with the yacht, but it was in danger of being smashed against the LAUREATE they attempted to get back on board.  In this manoeuvre some were drowned.  Others lost their lives as they tried to scramble onto the Breakwater.  Ten died; eight were married men who left ,’Three widows and ten children totally un-provided for and eight widows and 29 children desolate’

One of those who died was Benjamin Kerridge the Chief Clerk at John Groves Brewery.

The two survivors made their way to Castletown to seek assistance.

Other references from LARN:  He notes that the Captain’s name was Strickland.  Uncertain of the cited ref. DCP.

DCP 31/10/1887
BOT Wk. Rtn. Appx C Table 1 p126

Wrecking of the Laureate

A précis of a report in a Special Edition of ‘The Southern Times’. Monday, October 31st, 1887.


“One of those very melancholy events which are fortunately a rare occurrence in this neighbourhood took place about three o’clock on Sunday morning, and the receipt of the intelligence soon after eight caused great excitement, and we need scarcely say aroused a profound sympathy with the bereaved families.  Out of a party of twelve persons who on Saturday night left their homes in the enjoyment of health and strength, looking forward with pleasurable anticipation to a few hours fishing, only two have been left to tell the awful story of the terrible accident by which their companions met with a watery grave during the gale which raged between two and three on the Sunday morning.

It appears that on Saturday evening a party was made up for the purpose of going conger catching in Portland Roads, and between five and six twelve persons went on board the 8 ton, decked cutter yacht Laureate owned by Mr Carter, yacht and boat builder of this town.

The craft was under the command of a man named Charles Stickland, 44 years of age, and a seaman named John Dennis, both able and capable men.  Besides these there were on board of her;

Mr Sidney Whettam, traveller for Messrs Devenish and Co. brewers;

Mr Benjamin Kerridge, chief clerk at Mr John Groves brewery

Mr A. Russell and Mr J. Thurger, two of the Metropolitan detective police stationed at Weymouth;

Police Sergeant Apsey of the borough force; his son, Corporal Apsey of the 4th Hussars, home on furlough;

Mr H. Palmer, proprietor of the Cutter Hotel;

Mr Birchall, a commercial stopping there, in the employ of Messrs Evans and Co. London;

A young Frenchman named Maurice, “boots” at that Hotel, and

Mr L. Carter, to whose family the yacht belongs.”

The weather was reasonably fine when the yacht left Weymouth and it seems they made a splendid run to the Breakwater where they moored on a Government buoy half a mile from the shore end of the structure, and some 80 yards from the inner fort.  It was here they started to lay their lines (trots) making use of a small boat provided by John Dennis.  The fishing proved unsuccessful and the weather worsened.  Most on board felt they should make their way back, but the ‘seamen in the party’ felt they should ride it out at the buoy until daylight.  The weather however became exceptionally fierce and the cable to the buoy snapped.  The anchor was deployed but this dragged towards the breakwater and the Quay.  A double- barrelled fowling piece was discharged several times.  They let go the anchor and seven (possibly eight) got into the small boat which unfortunately was staved in while they tried to make sure that every one was present.  The occupants were all thrown into the water.

It is not known who managed to regain the yacht but Kerridge, Burchell, Apsey and Dennis did.  It was reported that Kerridge delayed Dennis in boarding the yacht for some time by hanging on to him in sheer fright.  He was eventually swept away.  Burchell also became lost.

John Dennis followed by Corporal Apsey managed to attain the Breakwater via the Quay wall.  The young Frenchman Maurice attempted but failed and fell into the sea between the yacht and the rocks.  Dennis and Apsey attempted to get their companions to throw a line but this failed and the last they saw their companions they were clinging desperately to the yacht.  Helpless to do more they made their way towards Castletown where they met the Coastguard who, had in fact, heard the shots.  They took them to Coastguard Station, re-clothed them and eventually at seven thirty they were driven into Weymouth to relay the tragic news.

Those lost:

Benjamin Kerridge held a responsible and trustworthy position at the Hope Brewery.  He was Mr Groves ‘right-hand man’ having joined the company as a young lad.  He had, according to the report, been instrumental in the success of the business.  He left a widow and eight children.

Mr Sidney Whettam was reported as a most popular and rising townsman, the son of Councillor Whettam.  Apart from his position at Messrs Devenish, his death, it was said, “created a void in several departments which were difficult to fill”. The previous Friday at a Conservative meeting he had been elected as Secretary to Weymouth Working Men’s Conservative Club.

Police Sergeant Apsey, assistant to Superintendant Vickery, had been in the police force for 28 years.

Mr Palmer, proprietor of the Cutter Hotel was a keen fisherman and swimmer but the sea conditions that night proved just too extreme.

Mr Burchall.  He was little known to the town because he was just a visitor at the Cutter Hotel who accepted the offer of a fishing trip.

Mr Arthur Russell, one of the Metropolitan detectives, had been based in Weymouth for several years and frequently went out on fishing trips.  It was reported that he also leaves a wife and eight children.

Mr J. Thurger, another London detective, was a young man relatively new to the town (the estimate was about 2 years).  He was married and left a widow and family (the number of children is not reported).

Charles Stickland, the Captain of the yacht, left a widow and very large family (again the number of children is not recorded here)

The Frenchman, Maurice, and the son of the yacht’s owner Lewis Carter were both un-married.

This detail above was followed by the Narratives of the two survivors.  Basically traumatic descriptions of the detail as the yacht stuck the Breakwater.  It seems that they were somewhere near what is today referred to as the “Chequered Fort” because there is repeated mention of the ‘Quay’.  This needs checking.  Corporal Apsey mentions the Government Buoy, (possibly also referred to as the Boscawen Buoy) “midway between the training brig Boscawen and the Breakwater.  The violence of the wind finally broke the rope and they drifted steadily towards the Breakwater.  John Dennis puts the wind fresh; SSW at about 5 o’clock on the Saturday evening but during the gale he says it was north and then northwest.

During the Sunday the yacht was made fast to the Breakwater, her mast being above water.  In the afternoon a diver went down found three bodies, Lewis Carter, the Frenchman (Maurice) and Arthur Russell.  These were taken to the Breakwater Hotel to await the inquest.

This article, published on the Monday the 31st, makes no mention of any other bodies being recovered at that time.  Research continues.


It is interesting to read that there were two London detectives based in Weymouth at this period?


Times:  Monday, October 31, 1887, Issue 32217 – Extreme Gale: The wreck of the Laurette of Weymouth on the Portland Breakwater.  Ditto Issue 32217, four bodies recovered by divers.  Ship Incident  See Ship Incident Index

Day of Loss: 30

Month of Loss: 10

Year of Loss: 1887



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