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The Ilfracombe Disaster - The Victims

Fourteen died on The Monarch, two women, twelve men. Their ages ranged from 23 to 63. As well as some background given at their inquests, I have also attempted to find out a little more from the Census.

The original inquest was held less than 24 hours after the accident on the Saturday at 1.30 p.m. when there were still 9 bodies missing.  This did not go down well with the relatives of those whose bodies had yet to be recovered and they wrote this letter to the local paper :

 

The only name missing was that of the skipper Charles Buckingham, who had been vindicated at the hastily convened inquest, contrary to some of the popular belief at the time.  

 

BODIES PICKED UP ON FRIDAY 26th AUGUST

SAMUEL WALKER, was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, aged 53 - He lived at The Elms, Lower Fore Street, Edmonton, Middlesex.  On the 1881 census he was with his wife, Emily, 2 daughters and 3 servants (cook, nurse + housemaid) and was descibed as a "retired produce broker".  He was the son of the late Henry G.Walker.  The body was identified at the first inquest by Henry Greaves Walker, his son (who was a scholar at The Leys School, Trumpington Road, Cambridge, on the 1881 census).  He said his father “was a retired gentleman ..... on a visit to the town ....  with his mother, sister and himself.  He knew that he had gone for a sail, and he saw when he was brought ashore.” The interment took place at Highgate Cemetery – as per The Times (inserted on both 29th and 30th August).

 

THOMAS JOSEPH PINKER, aged 35 of Tulavilla (?), Bath.  The body was identified at the first inquest by Reverend John Steadman who was a clerk in the Holy Orders and a member of a firm of pianoforte manufacturers.  Said Mr Pinker was the organist of St John’s Church, Weston .... about 30 years of age ..... had seen the deceased twice in Ilfracombe over the past fortnight.  He said Mr Pinker “was a married man.  Deceased’s wife was staying in the town but Mr Pinker had no family.” The body was recovered by a boatman who was out fishing and taken to the pier.  I have tried to find his birth and any trace of him on census.  The best I can do is a "freestone sawyer" from Gloucestershire but he has children, so I am not confident this is the right Pinker.

 

WILLIAM WAREHAM Esq, the oldest of the victims, aged 63, of Manor House, Hook.  He was my 2 x great grandfather on my paternal adopted side and you can click here to read his personal story.  According to a report in the North Devon Journal, his body was recoverd by Mr Price and his son who, on seeing the yacht capsize, had put to sea to try and rescue as many as they could.  They picked up 5 including the bodies of William and Miss Annie Ash.  Once ashore, “every effort was made to restore animation” but in the case of Mr Wareham it proved unsuccessful.  The article goes on to say he was a “merchant of London, who, with his wife was visiting at Castle House”.  His body was identified at the first inquest by Mr Austin, who was a concert agent from Piccadily.  He said he was “a personal friend of his and deceased was staying in the same house as Mr George Turner (who also drowned). Deceased was a merchant and his private residence was at Manor House, Hook, Near Surbiton and he was a J.P. for Kingston.  He was 65 years of age and his wife and family were with him in Ilfracombe”. 

 

GEORGE TURNER, aged 58 - born in Bath, Somerset -  of Landsdown Villa, South View, Bath, and late of 33 Milsom Street - as per Times (inserted on both 30th and 31st August).  On the 1881 census he was shown as a partner in a tailoring business employing 30 men with his brother, John Turner (who in 1891 had become a JP).  He is thought to have been unmarried.  According to a report in the North Devon Journal, “a medical coil was used for over an hour and ether was injected into the arm, but life could not be recalled although the body remained warm for an unusually long time.”  The body was identified at the first inquest by Mr George Pinson of Milsom Street, Bath, a woollen draper.  He said deceased “was of private means”. 

 

HANNAH ANNIE ASH, born Dec 1853 quarter in Pimlico, Middlesex, aged 33 of 111 Bond Street, London.  Thought to have been unmarried.  On the 1871 census she was a “milliner”.  By the 1881 census she is living with her parents and younger sister at 2 Church Place, Westminster, St George Hanover Square.  She is described as a “dressmaker”.  Her father was a tailor.  According to a report in the North Devon Journal, “every effort was made to restore animation” but in the case of Miss Annie Ash “who exhibited signs of life for a considerable time after she was brought ashore” it proved unsuccessful.  During the rescue, Mr Taverner, one of those rescued, did all he could to restore animation while still at sea.  The jury at the first inquest commended both Mr Taverner and Mr Price for their efforts and said they "acted right nobly".  Her body was identified by Mary Ann Popham of the Coffee Palace.  She said “amongst her visitors was Miss Annie Ash of London.  She came on the 13th of this month with Miss Blyton who was also drowned.  Miss Ash was about 26 or 27 years of age.”  Miss Ash was the only body buried in the local Ilfracombe cemetery, on Wednesday following.  Her interment was early in the day “to avoid any public demonstration”.

 

BODIES PICKED UP ON SATURDAY 3rd SEPTEMBER

WILLIAM LUNN, born Midway, Derbyshire, aged 27 from Burton on Trent.  On the 1881 census he was living with his parents and older brother.  His occupation was “coal miner”.  Thought to have been single.  According to the article in the West Somerset Free Press, his, and that of Mr Cox, "much mutilated" body was found three miles out and was first seen by a steamer but was picked up by a boatman.

 

FREDERICK JOHN TREVELYN COX, born Dec 1862 quarter, aged 24 from Chard, Somerset.  He was living with his parents and siblings on both the 1871 and 1881 census.  His father was a blacksmith and he was described as a "labourer".  The local newspaper said that his "widowed mother (Harriot) is still in the town". 

 

BODIES PICKED UP ON SUNDAY 4th SEPTEMBER

THOMAS KEMP SMITH, born Marylebone, London, the youngest of those who died, aged 23, living at 46 Buckingham Palace Road, St George Hanover Square, London which (I think) was a large pub (which became the Victoria Hotel) run by his father, George A. Smith described in 1881 as a "licensed victualler".  His cousin, Thomas P. Godfrey, survived.  The body was recovered by William Williams of the "Polly" about four miles off Little Hangman.  The local paper said it was floating and didn't appear to have been on the surface very long.  He took it to Mr Carthew's coach house.  At the inquest, Mr. Frederick Kemp Smith, land surveyor, of Market Harborough, deposed that his brother was on a visit, accompanied by his cousin, Mr. Godfrey. He had seen the body of his brother on a stretcher on the Quay, on Sunday, between 11 and 12 o'clock. He identified the body by a dark brown Cardigan which he wore, also by a silver watch chain with two coins attached, one being a George III sixpence, and the other an American half-dime. Further by a pocket handkerchief marked "T. Smith" found on the body, and shown to him by the police. His brother's profession was that of a wood engraver.

 

CHARLES LOWER BUCKINGHAM (photo left), aged 49 - one of the two local boatmen in charge of the yacht, an ex-naval man. A fund for his widow and 9 children (three of whom are under 14) had been set up following the disaster and over £382 was raised – a large sum in those days (now worth £28,290 using retail prices index) - Barnstable 5b 301. 1881 Census – lodger at 2 Charles Place, Clifton, Bristol with occupation of a “mariner”.  Entered Her Majesty’s Service at the age of 10.  Served on board HMS Albion during Crimean War when he was taken prisoner by the Russians.  Detained for a considerable period of time then exchanged for prisoners.  Was a member of the local lifeboat crew and had on many occasions risked his life and been instrumental in saving life from drowning.  Four brothers had drowned “whilst pursuing their avocations”.  The Cardiff pilot boat Stranger (John Russell) came into the harbour towing his body which was found half a mile off Little Hangman.  They had got their small punt out but "could not take the body on board, so subsequently made it fast and towed it into the harbour". The body had on a blue jersey marked Monarch on the beast. On arriving at Ilfracombe the body was given into the charge of the police.  The article says "The body was much lacerated and decomposed." Richard Buckingham, boatman, of Ilfracombe, identified the body of his late brother.  He had seen the body on Sunday when it had been brought on shore, and recognised it "by the blue jersey which he wore with the word Monarch in large letters on the breast, also by two of the fingers of one hand being drawn or crooked up".

 

BODY PICKED UP ON TUESDAY 6th SEPTEMBER

FRANCIS WINDSOR, aged 48 born Wem, Shropshire, unmarried.  On the 1851 census his father was a farmer of 25 acres.  On the 1871 census he was staying at an Inn in Derbyshire with an occupation of “commercial traveller”, but I can't find him in 1881.  His younger brother Edward, who identified the body, was a successful draper employing assistants on both 1871 and 1881 census. Edward Windsor was described at the inquest as a commercial traveller from Manchester.  Body was identified from his watch and a ring. 

 

BODIES PICKED UP ON THURSDAY 15th SEPTEMBER

MIRIAM GILLARD BLYTON, born in Stepney, London, aged 33 who at the time of death lived with her mother at 77 Greenwood Road, Dalston, Hackney, London.  On the 1881 census she had an occupation of "bookkeeper" living with her widowed mother and 2 older sisters, all single like her, at 38 Wilton Road, Hackney.  Her brother George Blyton was called at her inquest.  He resided at 16 The Hawthorne, Church End, Finchley and was a civil engineer and surveyor.  It was reported that he had returned to London after the accident but then had to return to Ilfracombe to identify his sisters body.  He said that Miriam’s business address was 111 Bond Street, London where she was an accountant to a Court dressmaker.  She had visited Ilfracombe on the 13th (August) and was staying with Hannah Annie Ash at Popham’s Boarding House.  He identified her from her dress, rings, watch and bracelet.  I have ordered a photograph of her taken by William Henry Batten just before her death, I believe, which is in the National Archives.

 

HENRY (HARRY) CHAMBERLAIN, aged 32 from Nailsworth, Gloucester and late of Birmingham.  The 1881 census has Harry and his two brothers living with their widowed mother at 35 Frederick Road, Edgbaston.  He was identified by his brother, Edward Alfred Chamberlain, who was a manufacturer.  Henry was a solicitor practising at Nailsworth.  They had both come to Ilfracombe on 13th August on a visit but Edward returned home on the 16th leaving his brother.  He identified the body from his waistcoat and a gold watch and chain.

 

BODY PICKED UP ON FRIDAY 16th SEPTEMBER

HARRY RAYNER, aged 24 of Porchester Road, Bayswater, London.  He was employed by Robert Owen Davis, a dressmakers, milliners of 25 - 29 Porchester Road, Kensington, London.  His body was recovered five miles from Ilfracombe. I haven't traced him or his family on any census.

 

BODY PICKED UP ON SATURDAY 17th SEPTEMBER

JAMES HARDS, born Sept 1859 quarter, aged 27, from Ewell, Surrey.  On the 1881 census he is living with his parents and older sister and younger brother at High Street, Ewell.  He was an insurance clerk and his father a grocer.  His was the final body recovered.  A farmer was searching for lost sheep when he he observed the body on the rocks at the foot of the Torrs Walks.  He informed the police, and a party of boatmen towed the body into Ilfracombe harbour. It was found to be almost nude, and the sum of £30 supposed to be in the trousers pockets was said to be missing.


 

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