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The Ilfracombe Disaster - more bodies recovered

Newspaper reports of more inquests and the other nine bodies are eventually recovered.

West Somerset Free Press - Saturday September 10th, 1887

On Saturday morning, the bodies of two missing passengers of the yacht Monarch were found three miles out of Ilfracombe, having been first seen by the steamer Velindra, and subsequently picked up by boatmen. The bodies were much mutilated, but were identified by friends as those of Mr. Lunn, of Burton-on-Trent, and Mr. F. G. Cox, of Chard, whose widowed mother is still in the town.

The inquest was held on Saturday evening, at the Britannia Hotel, before Mr. Brenham, the coroner. Among these present to represent the friends of the deceased wore Messrs. J. Lunn and John Smith (Market, Harborough), Herbert Cox (Chard). A. Hands and Lefevre (acting for Mrs. Cox). Captain Dennis, harbour master, was chosen foreman.

The jury having been sworn, the Coroner said he desired to make a personal explanation, but in doing so he hoped that he should not wound the feelings of any person present, although he did not think that everyone had been so careful as to his own feelings.  At last Saturday's inquiry he had the assistance of fourteen of the most respectable and experienced gentlemen in Ilfracombe, several being members of the press, whilst the foreman was a well-known seaman.  He specially directed attention to the fact that the inquiry was respecting five particular bodies, friends of each of whom were present, whilst in two instances a solicitor belonging to a well-known firm in Bath also watched the case.  The inquiry lasted from half-past one until six, and he had no hesitation in saying that it was a most thorough investigation.  In addition to the evidence which the police necessarily hastily collected, he invited questions or evidence from anyone present, and that invitation was readily accepted, several sensible and trenchant questions being asked.  When those questions were exhausted neither he nor the jury saw any reason for adjourning the inquiry. Gentlemen who were at the time absent, or who were not connected with any of the five deceased, could not give information respecting the disaster.  Therefore an adjournment was unnecessary.  

He had carefully read leading articles and letters in local and other papers, and though he had the deepest sympathy with the relatives, he thought they wore mistaken in making the remarks they had made.  He felt at the time that other bodies would probably be found, and other friends would then have an opportunity of attending the inquest to ask questions or elicit further information.  That they might now do.  He had always endeavoured to do what he could, as he was sure the jury did.  He had always studiously avoided answering leading articles or letters in papers, but as that second inquest was being held he took the opportunity of making an explanation.  Had he known at the time of the inquest that friends of the missing persons desired to be present, although he could not see the advantage, he would have conformed to those views.  Under the circumstances, however, he must say that the persons referred to were mistaken in arriving at the views they held, and finding fault with the verdict.  

Evidence of identification having been given, Mr. Lunn, by the coroner's permission, addressed the court, saying that with all due deference to the coroner he disagreed with his action in closing the inquiry without an adjournment.  

The Coroner: That you have already said in the press.

Mr. Lunn: I am only repeating that it would have been better to adjourn, so as to have the same jury. The same verdict might now be returned.

The Coroner did not know why he should be questioned ; but as he understood that great though unnecessary dissatisfaction had been expressed with the last jury, he made it a point that a fresh jury should be summoned.

Mr. Lunn : We have not challenged the jury's verdict. You, however, told the jury to return a verdict of accidental death, saying you saw no advantage in votes of censure to the dead or the living — a remark which greatly hurt our feelings.

The Coroner : I can make every allowance for your feelings.  

The inquest was then adjourned until September 20th, pending a Board of Trade inquiry.


Two more bodies were picked up on Sunday. 

About nine o'clock W. Williams and Ben Williams (boatmen), and Mr. Cornhill, a visitor, who has throughout evinced great interest in the matter, put off in the Polly in search of the missing bodies. Whilst cruising about four miles off Little Hangman they found a body floating, which proved to be that of Mr. Thomas Smith, of London, one of the passengers. The body, which had apparently not been on the surface a great time, was brought ashore and lodged in Mr. Carthew’s coach-house.  

About half an hour later the Cardiff pilot boat Stranger (John Russell) came into the harbour towing behind it the body of the boatman, Chas. Buckingham, which was found half a mile off Little Hangman.  The body was much lacerated and decomposed 

All the Ilfracombe boats were during the day cruising about in the Channel, and large crowds of people assembled in the vicinity of the pier in the expectation of further bodies being landed.  

An inquest on the bodies recovered on Sunday was held at the Royal Britannia Hotel, on Monday afternoon, by the coroner, and the same jury as that of Saturday.  The jury, after being sworn, proceeded to view the bodies, which were placed in shells ready for internment, and were lying at the coach-house adjacent to the hotel.  Mr. Frederick Kemp Smith, land surveyor, of Market Harborough, deposed that his brother, Mr. Thomas Kemp Smith 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, and he was aged 22, residing at 46, Buckingham Palace Road, London.

Richard Buckingham, boatman, of Ilfracombe, identified one of the bodies brought on shore on Sunday as that of his late brother, Charles Buckingham, who sailed in the yacht Monarch with Wm. Rumson, and was on board her at the time of the accident.  He saw the body on Sunday on its being brought on shore, and recognised it as that of his late brother 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.  His brother was aged 49, and was a seaman.  

William Williams, seaman and boatman, deposed that he was cruising in the Channel on Sunday on the lookout for the bodies of those recently drowned.  He was accompanied by another boat-man and a gentleman named Carnell.  They fell in with a body floating in the Channel about six miles from Ilfracombe, and about four off the Little Hangman Hill, Comb Martin.  He took it on board his boat, and after looking if any others were about, proceeded to Ilfracombe harbour, where he gave it into the charge of the police. He had since heard that the body was that of the late Mr. T. Smith.

Daniel Connell, pilot's assistant of the Cardiff pilot boat Stranger, No. 75, gave evidence that his vessel was beating down Channel on Sunday in search of vessels requiring a pilot.  About eleven o'clock they spoke a steamer bound up Channel, and the pilot on board informed them that a body had been seen by them astern, and then bearing about west of them.  His boat then made short tacks in that direction and subsequently found the body.  They 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.  It was found about three quarters of a mile off the Hangman Hill.

James Hobbs, sergeant of police, gave corroborative evidence of the receipt by him of the bodies from the persons who had given evidence, and they were by him deposited in the premises where the jury had viewed them.

The Coroner then gave the usual certificate to the representatives of the deceased persons, and the inquest was further adjourned to Monday fortnight, unless the services of the jury were again required by the finding of any more of the bodies of those drowned in the recent accident.


The body of Mr. Francis Windsor, commercial traveller, of Manchester, was picked up on Tuesday.


Ilfracombe Observer - (probably) Friday September 16, 1887

Intelligence was received by P.S.Hobbs at Ifracombe on Thursday afternoon that the body of Miss Mirriam Blyton, aged 30 years, of 77, Greenwood Road, Dalston, London, had been recovered at Lynmouth. P.C. Stentiford at once proceeded thither to ascertain whether the body was in a fit state to be removed to Ilfracombe so as to avoid the empanelling of a separate jury; and Sergeant Hobbs telegraphed to Mr. Blyton, a brother of the deceased, who a few days since returned to London ; and who on Friday started for Illfracombe.

Subsequently a second telegram was received here announcing that the body of Mr Henry Chamberlain, aged 32 years, late of Birmingham, and formerly of Nailsworth, Gloucester, had also been recovered.  A sister of Mr Chamberlain has, it may be mentioned, been staying at the Kensington Hotel, Lynton for some days past.

West Somerset Free Press - Saturday September 17, 1887

The inquest concerning the recovery of two additional bodies from the Ilfracombe yacht disaster was opened at the Lynmouth reading room on Saturday, by Mr. Bromham.

Mr. G. Blyton identified the female body as that of his sister, Miriam Gillard Blyton, aged 33 years, an accountant to a Court dressmaker, at 111 Bond Street, London.  

Mr. Edward Alfred Chamberlain, a manufacturer, residing at Nailsworth, Gloucester, identified the other body as that of his brother Henry Chamberlain, who was a solicitor, aged 32 years, practising at, Nailsworth.  

Evidence having been given of the recovery of the bodies about four miles to the north-east of the Foreland, on Thursday, the inquiry was adjourned until the 27th inst., after the Board of Trade inquiry and the adjourned inquest at Ilfracombe had been held.  

The two bodies were interred at Countisbury, near Lynton, the same afternoon, the Rev. A. Hockley officiating.

Two more bodies are now missing.

Morning Post - Monday 19 September 1887

The only missing body connected with the Ilfracombe yacht disaster — that of Mr. James Hards of Ewell, Surrey, was recovered on Saturday night.  As a farmer named Darch was searching for lost sheep, he observed the body on the rocks at the foot of the Torrs Walks. Information was lodged with 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 missing.

The body of Mr. Harry Rayner, employed by Mr. R.O.Davis, Porchester Road, London, was recovered five miles from Ilfracombe on Friday, and identified on Saturday.



Linked toWilliam Wareham

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