The Nancy Packet & the Wheels Wreck

The Nancy Packet
On a stormy night In February 1784, a mail packet called the Nancy foundered on ledges a short distance west of Rosevear Island, Isles of Scilly. She was on route home to England from India under the command of Captain John Haldane “of Gleneagles”; who was known by his friends as- “the child of misfortune” Haldane had lost three ships in all and Child of Misfortune is carved upon his gravestone as his epitaph.
Ann Cargill

Many of those in the ship took to the ships Jolly boat to escape the wreck; and one of these people was the lover of Captain Haldane, a very famous actress and opera singer named Ann Cargill. Ann lead a scandalous life jumping from one man to another- in a string of very public affairs. She had in fact eloped with Captain Haldane until Prime Minister pitt, the younger, ordered her home saying-an actress should not be defiling the pure shores of india.
All but one person drowned in this disaster; including Ann who was cradling a baby in her arms at the time.
The body of Ann Cargill was found floating in her nightdress with her baby son still clutched tightly to her bosom. It was written at the time she was found that: “The maternal instinct had not yet yielded even unto death itself”. The story goes that Ann sang to sooth her child until the moment their boat turned over drowning them both. Ann Cargill was an extremely famous figure in her time and the tale of this melancholy tragedy struck a nerve with the public and the press. Ann Cargill's personal fortune was lost in the wreck. However, this may have been salvaged by Mr Braithwaite in 1784, as we have evidence of him diving on the site just months after it was wrecked and raising some of the Nancy's small guns.

Original painting of the disaster by James Gilray 1784
All the bodies recovered from this wreck were immediately buried on Rosevear Island. However, as Ann was such a high profile figure, her body was later exhumed and re-interred on St Mary’s Island. Her remains currently lie in an unknown position in Old Town Churchyard. Ever since the incident occurred, Rosevear Island is said to have been haunted, some say by a woman singing a lullaby. This is now local folklore but there are historical references to this particular haunting…………… Written in the diaries of the workmen of 1852 says that- the Blacksmith, who was working alone on the island, heard strains of beautiful music and looked for the boats which he first thought must be bringing his comrades back, but none were visible. Whence he knew that the music was not of this world.  It is also recorded, in the records of Trinity House, that he would not be left alone on the island thereafter.
Rosevear Island

In the Times newspaper  Jan 29th 1913 it states that: the workmen witnessed an anvil weighing some one and one half hundred weight move from a secure position; and attributed the occurrences to supernatural agency. They were with difficulty persuaded to return to the spot”
Also in the Times Newspaper nov 6 1947: a Mr Prowse of Penzance was working on Rosevear Island, when he stepped ashore this morning he went to pieces.

A haunting baring the strains of Beautiful music- could he have have been hearing the drowning actress singing to her child??
Whilst ghost stories are mere romanticism in our view, this project would be all the lesser had we delved into that side of the story too. If nothing else it just goes to show the social history and diversity to be found in underwater projects. (IMAG) The Islands Maritime Archaeological Group, endeavour to embrace and present all aspects of our shipwreck projects- as it seems kind of daft not too. Rumour, stories and folklore, all add to the tale and need to be recorded for future generations.

The Wreck
In more recent times 2007 onwards, our research sent us in search of the wreck of the Nancy Packet and we believe we have found her exactly where our documentary evidence told us she would be- i.e. a short distance away from Rosevear Island. Out near Rosevear Ledges, in just 17m of water, we found British made guns; anchors; and lignum vitea pulley sheaves of the mid to late 18th century period. All were from the size of vessel the Nancy was known to have been. We also found pottery made in the east indies and also dating from the exact same period in history. Although  all this evidence points towards the Nancy we will probably never be absolutely sure until something more personal, with a positive ID turns up. We are still looking for that elusive piece of evidence. Note:- Sadly, as with many of our projects, Mr Richard Larn OBE, has decided to poor scorn on our find by publishing in a book that our wreck site is Dutch and called the Nickerie, which sank in a similar area some 60 years after the Nancy. He ignores all our datable finds and the nationality of them, and states that the Chien Lung pottery we found- 'could have come from either wreck' The Chinese Dynasty the Nickerie falls under is Tao Kuang and not Chien Lung. To further back up his published claim, Mr Larn, also presents coins in his publication (Wrecks of Scilly. 2010) which he states he lifted from our wreck site-the unidentifiable coins he presents in his book did not in fact come from our wreck-Fact. Neither did he lift them from the site. Also fact. The coins he presents in his book came from the wreck of the Earl of Abergavvenny which was lost hundreds of miles away in Weymouth Bay. Mr Larn has since admitted this fact. 
Here is a short film about our project.-

Todd Stevens.

To know more visit-

A report on the Wheels Wreck
Carmen measures a clack valve

This is an unknown wreck off Little Ganinick Island in the Isles of Scilly.  The wreck of this wooden sailing vessel was discovered by my self and Phillip Roberts with a magnetometer on the 4\6\05. Evidence we have seen on the seabed, and the few artefacts raised, suggest that the ship was lost around the year 1850.  

Little remains of the vessel but its interesting iron cargo is found in a large heap on the sea floor. Myself and other members of the Islands Maritime Archaeological Group have measured as many of the individual elements of the cargo as was possible to produce the basic sketches enclosed. Heavy concretion of the individual components of the cargo and the positional circumstances in which some elements are found on the site, make accurate measurements difficult, as did positively identifying the actual shapes of some objects.  Other objects on the site still remain to be measured, drawn and identified; although these have proven difficult to get at.

There are many various sized wheels on the site one of which is tenft wide
Our guess that the cargo had something to do with mining was confirmed by John Smith of Cornwall County Council. John believes the ship was probably on route from one of the following foundries :- Perran foundry sailing from Penryn. Harveys foundry sailing from Hayle.
Copperhouse foundry sailing from Hayle.
Neath Abbey ironworks sailing from South Wales.  This fact alone links the wreck with the Unesco World Heritage Site in Cornwall.

Similar components of this cargo of mining equipment can be found in the Williams’ Perran Foundry Co- Illustrated Catalogue of Pumping and Winding Engines.  1791- 1879 (A reprint by the Trevithick Society- ISBN 0 904040)

Porter Trotman anchor

The remains of a Trotman style anchor circa 1840 stands upright in a rocky cleft about 80 meters SSW of the site; whether this is connected to the wreck is unclear but likely.

Contrary to previous reports by English Heritage archaeological contractor, Wessex Archaeology, that this wreck sank upside down, if one looks at the site one can clearly see that the heaviest objects of the cargo, down on the seabed, are in fact on the bottom of the pile; as would be the case when originally loaded aboard. The heaviest object by far (sketch7 & corresponding pictures) is beneath all other objects. This orientation of the site is also confirmed by the fact that the largest wheel (see sketch and picture no1) and its spokes (see sketch and picture no2) are on top of the pile. Objects like these would not be placed into the hold first with heavier objects then placed on top as suggested by the Wessex team.
Not only does the wreck lay on the seabed in an upright position, it was orientated with its bows pointing towards the North East. This is arrived at by numerous observations as set out below.

1.Beneath the pile at the south western end of the site are what look to be the remains of iron objects from the stern possibly rudder gudgeons and the keel iron.

2. All small artefacts found so far such as- brass fireplace surround; brass door lock casing; muskets; copper kettle; pottery and glass bottles, were all found across the South Western end of the site.

An artefact from the site

3. All four lead scuppers found lay parallel with the above suggested orientation of the site and exactly where one would expect them to be found.

One of four lead Scuppers on the site

4. I believe that the masts had already gone by the time the ship sank in its present position; this is because few remains of lignum vitea pulley block sheaves have been seen on the site. The few that have been seen were found to the far North Eastern end of the site. This suggests that they came from the bowsprit which must have remained to deposit its sheaves in this position.

5. The two iron objects found (see sketch no 5 and its corresponding photograph) could well be the forward iron hawser holes. (I have in fact located numerous iron remains, including iron hawser holes from a shipwreck on the nearby shore of Little Ganinick Island. These are, however, most likely to be from the wreck of the Jeune Celestine which ran aground on the island in 1867)

It is my belief that our ship actually struck elsewhere and in a broken and dis-masted state, drifted on an incoming tide before sinking in its present position. I believe this to be the case- as so little evidence of any top side structure or fittings can be found on the site. It is also interesting to note that the strongest tidal current in this area runs from the South to the North in a narrow channel that enters into the islands. This tidal current passes the Biggal of Great Arthur and runs between the Hats Reef and Little Ganninick Island; the wreck lays on the edge of this channel flow.

Further to the above, the wreck also lays in 18-20 meters of water, 250 meters away from the nearest obstruction in the area; that being Little Ganinnick Island.  Todd Stevens

Mosaic of the site by Wessex archaeology

Below is a report on the Wheels Wreck by the Trevitrhick Society

1.                During 2010 the Trevithick Society received a number of underwater photographs and detailed line drawings.  These were sent by Mr Todd Stevens, a diver of some 30 years experience who lives on the Isles of Scilly and is known for his discovery of HMS Colossus in 1999 and ten other subsequent wrecks.  The pictures were purported to be related to a wreck of a ship and its cargo he had found lying in 18-20 meters of water off the island of Little Ganninick in the Isles of Scilly.

2.                The significant parts of the cargo consisted of cast iron objects apparently designed for mechanical use.  Mr Stevens referred these photographs to the Trevithick Society, established 1935, because of its authoritative interest in industrial archaeology especially that of foundries and mining related to the prolific mining and engineering period from 1750 to 1900, a period in which the ship had apparently foundered.

3.                No member of the Trevithick Society has any experience of underwater exploration and the following remarks are based entirely upon examination of the illustrations presented by Mr Stevens.

4.                Whilst examining the illustrations, the Society has taken care not to jump to any conclusions, nor to speculate beyond offering explanations for what appears to be shown in the illustrations.

5.                A factor that precluded close examination of the artefacts was the amount of natural concretion that had accumulated over the years.  If there has been research into the speed at which such concretion builds in this sea area it may assist in the establishment of the date of the foundering but that is outside the knowledge of this Society and the functions of this report.

Before offering a detailed consideration of each item there are a few general observations.

6.                The photographs revealed a jumble of what appeared to be cast iron objects lying where they had fallen upon impact with the sea bed and possible movement caused by subsequent deterioration of the wooden-hulled vessel that was transporting them.  There was no apparent sign of a violent impact and there is little sign of damage.  Many of the artefacts remained piled upon each other, a factor that precluded a close examination of the items hidden below the uppermost ones.

7.                As far as can be seen from the illustrations, it is difficult to piece together more than a few of the items in order to creat a total mechanical device.  This means that we do not think we are looking at one dissembled pumping engine or locomotive, rather an assortment of castings that may have some relationship to each other.

8.                The cargo could have been a delivery to one or more customers for use, including possible use as replacements, in a water pumping engine and for the construction of tram track wagons.  This widens the possible destination, the purpose of the cargo and little more can be ascertained unless there is access to the remainder of the shipment and some, at least, of the concretion removed.

9.                This suggestion raised the distant possibility that, if the cargo was destined for a newly established mining or other engineering requirement, the remainder of the equipment may have been shipped in another vessel.

10.           However, taking a purely economic view, it is unlikely that the whole assembly of equipment usually found at a mine or other industrial site would have been ordered and delivered at the same time.  Careful probing of the ground or development of a business would reveal the need for certain items of equipment and these would have been ordered as they were required, probably over a period of several years.

11.           While some items apparently reveal their ultimate destination to be associated with the pumping of water possibly for human consumption, the existence of so many tram wheels is not a significant part of a water pumping exercise unless they were intended for wagons required to transport fuel (coal?) to fire the pump’s boiler.  It would, presumably, be the intention to construct the wooden wagons near the destination.

12.           There is the possibility that the variety of artefacts could have been ordered by an agent of the foundry and were destined for more than one customer.

13.           Members of the Society have had difficulty in identifying some of the items.  Although many are clearly connected to a steam operated water pump, many are not directly related to any commonly known steam engine and have possibly been made for a bespoke machine or machines designed for some process that are not evident from the evidence in the pictures.

14.           It is important to state that the cargo did not apparently contain a steam boiler shell or the usual beam or bob that one would expect if the ship had been carrying a complete steam pump.  There is the possibility that, had they been aboard, these items would have been stowed below the other, more insubstantial, items to avoid damage to the latter during the voyage.  The beam of a pumping engine commonly weighs 10 – 20 tons.  Of course, these items may be found below the ones in the photographs, this remains to be seen.  A beam would, almost certainly, bear the maker’s name.

15.      When dating such artefacts it is important not to generalise.  There would have little or no standardisation in engineering design and manufacture at this time. The length and diameter of a boiler’s fire tube is likely to be the design and product of just one foundry.  This fact may ultimately be of assistance in the identification of that foundry.  There would have been many foundries throughout England and Wales wherever the necessary constituents, iron and coal, existed.  All would be making products to their own particular design.  Designs were not driven by instant changes caused by fashion and mechanical improvement as they are today. For instance, Boulton & Watt were still making atmospheric engines long after most of the country had turned to high-pressure steam engines.

16.           There appear to be some significant boiler fire tubes in the cargo.  These are the types of tubes we would recognise today as boiler fire tubes.  History books refer to multiple fire tubes from about 1810 but these were very experimental, usually failures and unrecognisable compared to those on the wreck.  These earlier tubes were made in a variety of shapes from wrought and cast iron, sometimes copper.  The simple, single fire tube as found in the ubiquitous ‘Cornish’ boiler (except, of course, the double ‘Cornish’ boiler) held sway for many years.  Brunel specified ‘Cornish’ boilers for the original engines of ss Great Britain that was launched in 1843.

17.           It was not until the early 1830s that we see any signs of successful manufacture of multi-tubed boilers. Stephenson’s Rocket locomotive used such tubes at the Rain Hill Trials in 1829. It would be a few years later before we see a recognisable fire tube in series production. If these tubes are, as they appear, to be replacements we have to consider that the boiler for which they are required has been in use for sometime in order to require replacement tubes; this suggestion adds a few years.

18.           There is considerable food for thought that might eventually reveal the purpose of the parts not directly associated with the water pump and the date of their intended delivery. These parts were expensive and clearly intended to be put to some profitable use.  In the early Nineteenth Century there were few heavy engineering processes as we know them today.  Food was prepared in villages, bricks were made wherever clay was found with fuel and virtually every creek in the land had its own boatyard.  Many cotton mills became fully mechanised by the mid-19th Century but they did not require complicated water equipment and deliveries from foundries to mills would not have been routed around the Western Approaches.  The provision of water for human consumption in major towns and cities became paramount at this time and the first significant pump for Kew was built in Hayle in 1846. This was followed by a larger pump built in 1869.  Similar pumps had already been built in quantity for mines throughout this country and abroad.  Pumping systems like Kew were unlikely to require some of items found in the cargo.  In his report of 6.12.2009 Mr Stevens suggests a possible date of the disaster in the region of 1850.  From the evidence we have seen, we would not strongly disagree with this and may add a few years.

19.           The search for a process that could have used the relatively complicated industrial hydraulic items in the cargo must narrow the field for the ship’s destination.  This is where the Trevithick Society must defer to general industrial archaeologists but will offer some thoughts that could indicate how further research might be undertaken.

20.           Iron products, such as those in this cargo, would usually have been produced in a foundry that had easy access to both coal and iron.  As there are apparently a number of rising main water pipes the shipment could have been intended for a mine.  We have to suppose that mine, even if it was a coal mine, was not close to a source of iron or it would have had a nearby foundry to supply all its cast iron requirements.  So we are therefore looking for a coal mine that requires sophisticated hydraulic machinery and does not have substantial iron deposits nearby.

21.           The selection of coal from stone at the pit head was originally undertaken by hand, mechanical selection was commenced at some mines in the 1840s and hydraulic selection or ‘washing’ was introduced about twenty years later.  A History of British Coal Preparation. John Hillman, 2003.   A number of mines in Kent produced coal, very little iron and suffered severe problems and many deaths from water ingress. The Dover mine, that could have needed to buy in washing equipment, did not commence serious production until 1886, rather later than the date that has been attributed to the foundering.

22.           The many apparent tram wagon wheels in the cargo are difficult to date although they were probably prior to the Dover mine. Such wheels were used over a considerable period of time and, from the 1820s, the trams were often pulled by steam locomotives.  The wheels do not appear to have flanges. this indicates that the rails, of which we have so far seen none in the cargo, would have been made with flanges.  In a cargo of such variety with what appear to be replacement parts, we would expect to see replacement rails as these were frequently broken in use.  The use by the recipient of flanged rails could be an indicator of the destination and, possibly, indicate the date of the foundering.
23.           The Society will not comment on the position of the wreck other than to say that, whatever course it might have been steering to a UK destination from any foundry on the mainland, it was grossly off course, a possible cause of the disaster.  Other factors supplied by Mr Stevens concerning the possible condition of the ship when it sank and a study of weather reports may help in ascertaining the date of the foundering. The ship may, however, have been intending to sail to a foreign port.  If that is to be considered it would have to be one where there was access to large quantities of fuel and water.  That would exclude, for instance, the West Indies.

Footnote by me-
        It has been published by MR Richard Larn OBE that this is the wreck of the Padstow lost in 1804 but his research is flawed as parts of the cargo of the Wheels wreck were not invented at that time. 

The Wheels Wreck
A poem By
Todd Stevens

As Cornish culture swept the globe;
-we followed kith and kin abroad.
Our mining gear stowed in the hold;
-our wives and loved ones all aboard.

We left our friends; our homes; our jobs;
- Ancestors in the soil.
And sailed away from fair Mounts Bay;
-abroad, for coal and tin, we’ll toil.

‘T’was fine with Cornwall just astern
-and we made the open sea;
-but south of Scilly arose the storm
-that gripped us merc’lessly.

For days we rode the hurricane;
-‘til sails and yards were swept away;
-with rudder shipped and sheets all torn;
-helpless, we drift, in disarray.

Derelict and tossed upon the foam,
-‘til Scilly loomed in dark of night;
-where in greater violence do breakers roll,
- to turn our saviour into plight.

On prevailing tide we drifted close;
-tho’ storm obscured our pleas from view;
- doth shutter rattle; and fire crackle;
- doth howling gale keep curtains drew.

In Crow we shipped an angry sea
-and the water swept in fast.
We climbed aloft as best we may
but the tempest claimed our mast.

By Little Ganinick Island,
-our brig foundered close at hand.
-‘tho’ none perceived our fight for life;
-occurring juxtapose that land.

Down; down; down we went;
-to the bottom of the sound;
-where aside our shattered broken hulk,
-forsaken, we did drown.

All hands and passengers perished here;
-no soul was left to grieve.
One hundred and fifty years shall pass
-‘afore, diver, our grave perceive.