Thursday, April 25, 2013

Captain Edward Goldsmith and the wreck of the "James" 1830

From: Graeme Henderson Unfinished Voyages: Western Australian Shipwrecks 1622-1850
University of Western Australian Press 2nd Edition 1980

VOYAGE of the JAMES 1829-1830
Master mariner Captain Edward Goldsmith of Rotherhithe, just 25 years of age, and newly wed to Elizabeth Day on 24 June 1829 at St George, Derby Square, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, began preparations for his commission to command the brig James, a 195 ton second class American vessel built in 1812, to the new settlement on the Swan River, Western Australia. By December 1829, the James had arrived at a port in Ireland laden with agricultural implements, produce, and passengers. The brig was sheathed in copper in 1826, and originally built with a single deck, but in 1827 it was raised, given a new deck and upperworks, and equipped with three cannon. When the vessel finally set sail on December 23, 1829 for Western Australia, Captain Goldsmith's wife Elizabeth, also on board, was three months' pregnant.

One passenger who gave Captain Goldsmith endless trouble on the voyage was an Irish soldier, Captain Theophilius Ellis of the 1st Royal Infantry (Ireland) Regiment. Against advice from Lloyds' underwriters not to board the James, he proceeded with his plan to accompany his sister and her nine children, and arranged with Captain Goldsmith to partition the vessel to house his sister, her family, and another Irishman, Captain Francis Whitfield. When the ship sailed, Ellis found that the separate section he had requested was filled with stores and luggage belonging to the ship, and the vessel so crowded with passengers - "the class of labourers" - 84 crew, pigs, geese, sheep and water casks, there was barely enough room to stand on deck. Ellis was versed in the law sufficient to invoke The Passenger Act of 1828, which was intended to enforce sanctions against ship owners who falsely advertised luxurious accommodation, and tyrannical masters who treated passengers with total disdain. His later report to the Colonial Secretary included these vivid details of the cabin space, the toilet, and Captain Edward Goldsmith's methods of dealing with him:

"... there was scarcely room for 24 persons to eat and sleep in a space 19'6 x 21'3 [feet] out of which the bulk of the pumps and mainmast of 52 [square] feet is to be deducted. We therefore suffered great inconvenience and want of air particularly as the height between decks in the greater part of our cabin is but 4'6 between the beams and 4' to the beams instead of 5'6 as required by Act of Parliament. In this state we sailed ..., the deck strewn with our packages containing cutlery and goods which ought to have been under cover. There was no place reserved. The goods we had with us (and some were left behind) were destroyed, not only by salt water, but by the treatment they received by the people on deck who broke into our casks by jumping on them, destroying china, glass, and making a passage over them. Our beds and boxes of clothes, silks and bonnets were completely soaked with salt water.

We had to sit up at night for the first week to sop up the water that poured down on us. The water closet that was in our cabin for the use of the families was so badly managed that it let in the sea and helped to flood us...." (cited in Unfinished Voyages, Graeme Henderson, UWA Press, 1980, 2nd edition, p.156).

Seven weeks out on the voyage, and the ship's bows needed urgent repairs. Captain Goldsmith berthed the James at the port of Bahia (Salvador, Brazil) on 23 February 1830 where Ellis and Whitfield promptly requested the vessel be condemned, the passengers refunded their money, and another vessel to carry them to W.A, demands which the Consul refused. Goldsmith in turn suggested Ellis pay for the expensive delay, and when they all re-embarked, relations between Ellis and Goldsmith only worsened.

Ellis and the males of his family had slept on the Round House up on deck at night to make extra space for the women to sleep down below, but Ellis became ill after leaving Bahia and stayed on the Round House during the day. Captain Goldsmith ordered him off the Round House, and erected a gate to keep him and his family away. Further prohibitions were enforced: Ellis and his family were denied the use of the ship's cabin; their servant was solicited by Goldsmith to join him instead of working for Ellis, and when their servant refused, he was not allowed to go aft of the mast to where the Ellis group was situated. Finally, Goldsmith placed water casks over the deck light above the Ellis' cabin so they sat - or rather stood - in darkness day and night.

Five people had died on the voyage by 4 March, 1830: the cook, only one week out from Ireland; a woman Mrs Stewart who told Goldsmith she blamed the crowded state of the vessel for her poor health; a Mr Smith, employed by the owners of the James, who went ashore at Bahia and refused to return until Goldsmith plied him with alcohol and brought him back on board, only to die a week later; and the wife and child of a Mr Entwhistle. Rations on board were at their minimum.

Elizabeth Goldsmith and new-born son Richard thrown into the surf
When the James arrived finally at the Swan River on 8 May 1830, Elizabeth Goldsmith was due to give birth. Twelve days later, on 20 May 1830, the birth of their son Richard Sydney was announced in the press. But the next day, the James was blown ashore and wrecked, along with the brig the Emily Taylor.

In 1947, this account was published of Elizabeth Goldsmith's survival with son Richard on the wreck of the James at Swan River in May 1830. It contains an error - the date of Richard Sydney Goldsmith's death. He died of fever at the Goldsmiths' house, 19 Davey St. Hobart in 1854, not 1868, and was buried in St. David's cemetery opposite:
During that bad hurricane there were seven vessels wrecked in a distance of eight miles. One of the ships, the James brig, was cast ashore. During the gale the captain's wife was confined. They took the mother and baby, sewed them in a blanket steeped in rum, threw them off the gig into the sea and hauled them ashore through the surf. They arrived safely and there was no damage whatever to either. (The child, Goldsmith by name, grew up to be a fine young man; he joined a bank in Hobart and died in 1868) - sic - he died in 1854.

Seven Shipwrecks

"THE captain then fearing the ship would go to pieces got the gig launched alongside and told the passengers that was the only chance of escape. One woman, her husband being on shore, was the only person who would venture. The rope the sailor took ashore was fastened to the stem of the boat and another from the ship to the stern, so that the boat might be hauled backwards and forwards to the shore. This time the boat went safely, and the people rushing into the water took the woman out. The boat was then hauled back to the ship and the next time it was filled with passengers and landed them safely. The third time, being filled principally with women and children, the boat had the rope passed out to it too fast, and it broached to, turning right over . . . The people's heads popped up like corks; they were all rescued.

Thenceforward more care was taken and the remainder of the passengers were safely landed.

"During that bad hurricane there were seven vessels wrecked in a distance of eight miles. One of the ships, the James brig, was cast ashore. During the gale the captain's wife was confined. They took the mother and baby, sewed them in a blanket steeped in rum, threw them off the gig into the sea and hauled them ashore through the surf. They arrived safely and there was no damage whatever to either. (The child, Goldsmith by name, grew up to be a fine young man; he joined a bank in Hobart and died in 1868 - sic 1854).
Source: Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), Thursday 25 December 1947, page 11

Captain Ellis' property
As soon as the James arrived in the Gages Roads, a letter was lodged with the Colonial Secretary, signed by eleven passengers, praying that His Excellency the Governor would be pleased to order an enquiry into the breaches of agreement and ill-treatment, which the passengers had experienced during the voyage from England. Captain Goldsmith refused to deliver the passenger's goods until ordered by the Colonial Secretary to do so on 10 June ....

Colonial Times, Hobart Town, 9 July 1830.

On the arrival of the James, Captain Ellis was anxious to take his tent on shore, and prepare for his family to land, but was prevented by the order of the master.
"Captain Ellis applied to the Magistrates respecting the detention of his property, and an investigation took place before P. Brown Es., and the highly respectable gentlemen who form our Bench.
"It appeared that on the arrival of the vessel, a bill was furnished to Captain Ellis, for balance of passage, and other charges.
"The first item was 50 balance of passage money, which was immediately set aside, as it appeared by a written agreement produced that this sum was left in hand, as a security for the receiving good provisions and accommodations, which was clearly proved had not been given to the passengers.
"The other charges were for attendance, which also was part of the agreement, and a charge of freight double the amount per ton of what was stated in the advertisements of the terms of the vessel.
"Every charge being entirely disproved by documents produced, the Magistrates gave their decision, that the bill furnished was got up for the purpose of illegally detaining Captain Ellis' property, and a peremptory order was given by the Colonial Secretary for the immediate delivery of the goods."
Colonial Times, Hobart Town, 9 July 1830.

A further series of disasters and deaths occurred that were directly associated with the wreckage of the James, but Captain Edward Goldsmith, his wife Elizabeth and their new son Richard, departed the Swan River soon afterwards, boarding the Bombay for Hobart, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on 23 June 1830, arriving in Hobart on 26 July and departing on the Elizabeth for Sydney on 17 September, 1830.

Hobart Courier 31 July 1830

Colonial Times, 17 September 1830

Detail of the Port Officer's Log, the arrival of the Bombay at the Port of Hobart from Calcutta and Swan River, July 26, 1830.

From this nightmarish experience as a young master of a poorly built barque on one of his very first commands in 1830, Captain Edward Goldsmith took two key precautions over the next two decades: the choice of well-built barques, the Rattler being his finest, commissioned for him by owner Robert Brooks and which he commanded to VDL throughout the 1840s and advertised in superlatives; and direction of The Hobart Town and Launceston Marine Insurance Company, established in 1836, which advertised his name as Director in the company of Askin Morrison, Henry Hopkins, Thomas Giblin, and John Foster continuously up to the date of his final farewell to Tasmania in December 1855. His wife's brother, master mariner Captain James Day, returned, however, to witness his daughter's - Captain Goldsmith's niece - marriage in 1871 to photographer Thomas J. Nevin.

Hobart Courier 5 December 1846

For London To Sail in Early January
The new and remarkably fast-sailing barque RATTLER
552 Tons Register, EDWARD GOLDSMITH Commander, having a considerable portion of her cargo engaged will be despatched early in January. This ship has magnificent accommodation for cabin passengers, and the 'tween-decks being exceedingly lofty, she offers an excellent opportunity for a limited number of steerage passengers.
A plan of the cabin may be seen, and rate of freight and passage learnt, by application to Captain Goldsmith on board, or to THOS. D. CHAPMAN & Co. Macquarie-street, Nov. 17.

Captain Goldsmith, Director of The Hobart Town and Launceston Marine Insurance Company
Colonial Times, Hobart, 8 June 1855

THE WRECK of the JAMES (1830)

The Gages Roads: Narrative of a Voyage to the Swan River 1831

"For some reason the pioneers hung tenaciously to the entrance to Cockburn Sound through the passage between Garden Island and Carnac. Far less dangerous was the passage now known a the South Passage, and the rounding of Rottnest the present accepted fairway ... "
This review of the disastrous decision to use the entrance to Cockburn Sound by early pioneers was published in 1932, but the alarm was loudly sounded a month before the James had even left British shores. The Sydney Gazette of 6 November 1829 ran an article incredulous of the choice of the Swan River, Western Australia as a suitable site for a new colony:

Sydney Gazette 6 November 1829

On Saturday last the long expected Calista arrived from England, via the new settlement at Swan River. The accounts brought by this ship of that place are far from satisfactory. The proposed colonization would seem to be a total failure. We have not room in our present number for the detailed account we purpose to give of the proceeding of the new colonists; we can only now give a mere outline thereof. Governor Stirling, the autocrat of all the swans and gulls, and other of his subjects under the "Act of Parliament" arrived in due course at his seat of empire. His entrance thereunto was far from being propitious. The master of his ship, the Parmelia, on approaching the opening, which when Captain Stirling was in the Success frigate had been found by him to be so excellent and accessible, thought he saw somewhat of breakers, and insisted upon hauling his wind until a boat had been sent to survey. But Captain Stirling was so satisfied of the accuracy of his own observation, that he insisted upon proceeding, and upon the master refusing positively so to do, Captain Stirling himself took charge of the ship, and boldly steered for the entrance. Unfortunately the ship struck, and although she beat over the obstruction, yet it was with so much damage that she has been despatched to the Isle of France, where she must be hove down to repair. The next ship which arrived was the Marquess of Anglesea. This vessel struck and received so much injury that it was found necessary to make a store house of her, as it was considered unsafe to send her again to sea. The Calista had the good fortune to get away with only the loss of her three large anchors. The Amity, a Colonial brig of the sister Colony, also got onshore, and was nearly wrecked in Gage's roads. Thus much for "the safe harbours and good anchorages," of the new colony. We now come to the land part of the affair. The entrance to Swan River was found totally inaccessible, even to boats; there being not more than four feet water upon the bar over which it unceasingly broke. The stores, and every thing else taken from the shipping, was therefore of necessity landed upon the beach, and carried a long distance across the land to the river inside the bar, to be again embarked in boats for conveyance to the proposed settlement, some 8 or 10 miles up the river. But the very worst part of the "Peel Colony," (as Mr. Hume called it in Parliament) is that the country itself seems to be altogether unsuited for the residence of man. The land is barrenness itself. Sand, sandstone, and granite, without an acre of good land, as far as observation has gone. The want of water is also most seriously felt; instead of those purling streams, and bubbling springs, which the London papers spoke of, the only bubbling appears to have been that which the Peel folks effected. In a word, the whole scheme seems to be an entire failure of the most unqualified description.
Sydney Gazette, 6 November 1829

June 18, 1829: the official Proclamation was read on
Garden Island to officials and colonists.
Morison, George Pitt, 1861-1946.
The foundation of Perth [picture] / G. Pitt Morison, 1929.
Original oil on canvas held by Art Gallery of Western Australia


Panorama of the old Fremantle Power Station and the site of the James wreck
Courtesy of Luke Austin 2008

From W.A. Museum Shipwrecks Database.
NB: the webpage has mistakenly named Captain Goldsmith as Captain Goldfields, an error since corrected. The error was made by Kenderdine, S., 1995,Shipwrecks 1656-1942: A guide to historic wreck sites of Perth. Report - Department of Maritime Archaeology Western Australian Maritime Museum, No. 99.

"The wreck event
On 21 May James was blown ashore along with the brig Emily Taylor. Captain Goldsfield [sic] refused to deliver passengers their goods until ordered to do so by the colonial secretary. Several incidents occurred involving injury to a man using explosives on the vessel, and another drowned during the transfer of goods by boat from the wreck to Fremantle.
Plans were made for the wreckage of the vessel to be incorporated into the building of a jetty but this never eventuated. There are no records to indicate James was ever refloated.
Site location
The site is adjacent to the South Fremantle Power Station, close to James Rocks, about 50 metres from shore. It is 81 metres south-east of the cooling water outlet pipe and the shore end is about 3.1 metres from the rocky sea-wall in front of the power station.
Site description
The wreckage once lay on a sandy and rock bottom in 4 metres of water. It is significantly affected by sand movement in the area and is now completely covered. Various artefacts have been removed from the vicinity of the site.
Guns recovered
In 1976, a carronade was found about 600 metres from the James wreck site. This heavily concreted iron gun was removed from the site by Museum staff and after conservation treatment an excellently preserved 6­pounder trunnion carronade was revealed (Green et al., 1981:101). A gun carriage was later built for its display at the Museum.
A second gun, this time a small iron signal cannon which had been spiked, was found by in the grounds of the abattoir some 20 kilometres from the wreck site. Research revealed it had been removed from the vicinity of the wreck and was probably the second of the three guns known to have been aboard. A third gun remains on the site.
Statement of significance
Technical and scientific
Analysis of the design of the carronade from the James wreck site may help in understanding the manufacturing process of these ordinances. Conservation of James's carronade has resulted in new methods of treating salt impregnated iron artefacts. The in situ analysis of the third remaining gun can also provide useful information.

W.A. Museum Shipwrecks Database.
NB: the webpage has mistakenly named Captain Goldsmith as Captain Goldfields, an error since corrected. The error was made by Kenderdine, S., 1995, Shipwrecks 1656-1942: A guide to historic wreck sites of Perth. Report - Department of Maritime Archaeology Western Australian Maritime Museum, No. 99.

Survey of the Port Coogee Development Area, Jeremy Green, Report - Department of Maritime Archaeology Western Australian Museum, No. 213, 2006
Read the Report here – pdf – courtesy of the curators of W.A. Maritime Museum.

Graeme Henderson Unfinished Voyages: Western Australian Shipwrecks 1622-1850
University of Western Australian Press 2nd Edition 1980

Many thanks to the curators at the Western Australian Maritime Museum.

On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872