The Shipwrecks of Fylde Coast

Oct 10, 2023 0 comments

The Fylde coast in western Lancashire have seen some of the foulest weather in England’s northwest coast. The area around Blackpool is in particularly treacherous to passing ships when the ocean is in fury. As a result, number of ships have ran aground or floundered near this coast for centuries creating a ship graveyard.

The first recorded shipwreck occurred in the year 1755, when a ship named the Travers was wrecked on the coast. The ship was carrying a cargo of lace, and by the time the coast guard arrived, the sparsely populated coastline had helped themselves to the ship’s valuables. Many Fylde Coast residents were said to have ‘Travers Lace’ curtains in their homes for many years after.

A wave crashes against Blackpool’s promenade, circa 1900. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the autumn of 1779, after a bad summer and poor crops, a ship laden with peas was wrecked at Blackpool. Like the Travers, this ship was also raided and its supply of peas helped out the food supply. The name of the ship is not recorded, but the wreck became known as “The Pea Soup Wreck”.

In 1821, a ship named Fanny, laden with red and black flannel, wrecked at Blackpool. Like with the previous wrecks, much of the Fanny’s payload was missing by the time authorities arrived. For many years thereafter, the women of Blackpool donned petticoats made from the remnants of the Fanny's flannel

In 1833 a ship was wrecked off Gynn Square. The crew were saved by steering towards a light in the upper windows of the old Gynn Inn, which stood at the center of what is now Gynn Square. The incident is commemorated on the signage of the present-day Gynn pub.

In 1839, another ships named Crusader was wrecked at South Shore. It was laden with silk and like all cargoes it too was looted. But some of the looters from Marton were jailed for the theft.

The practice of looting goods from wrecks continued. After a schooner named William Henry with a cargo of flour and lard was wrecked at South Shore in 1861, plenty of cheap tubs of lard were found selling on the South Shore.

Map of the Fylde, Lancashire, showing the location of Blackpool. Image by Dr Greg/Wikimedia Commons

In 1892, a Norwegian ship Sirene was sailing from Fleetwood to Florida when it was caught up in a hurricane and smashed into a pier. The eleven crew members jumped onto the pier to safety. The ship was lost, but it’s wheel was recovered and is now housed in Blackpool lifeboat house. The anchor from the ship was donated to the Borough of Middleton and can be seen resting against the library wall in Long Street.

Two years later, in 1894, another Norwegian ship, Abana, was sailing from Liverpool to Florida when it was caught up in a storm and mistook the then recently built Blackpool Tower for a lighthouse. The crew of 17, as well as the ship’s dog, were rescued by a lifeboat crew, eventually making it safely back to shore after the lifeboat was grounded on a sandbank. The remains of the Abana are still visible at low tide on the beach at Little Bispham. The ship's bell still hangs in St Andrews Church in Cleveleys.

In 1897, the HMS Foudroyant, the former flagship of Admiral Nelson was raising funds by visiting various towns and ports around the coast of Great Britain, when it was caught in a storm off Blackpool. The 80-gun, 56 meter ship was wrecked close to North Pier. The ship was then bought by a local syndicate who made souvenirs and furniture fittings from the wood, including the wood paneling of the former Blackpool FC boardroom at Bloomfield Road.

Wreck of HMS Foudroyant. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wrecks continued throughout the 20th century including the Commandant Bultinck in 1929, killing three of the crew, the MV Thorium in 1964 and Holland XXIV in 1981. The last major wreck occurred in 2008 when a ferry named MS Riverdance was swept ashore at Anchorsholme and beached very close to the remains of Abana. All 23 crew were airlifted from the stricken ferry, which was ultimately scrapped on site after attempts to refloat her were abandoned. The same year, the motor cruiser Coco Leoni ran aground opposite Lytham windmill, becoming the 22nd and most recent ship to be caught up on the Fylde Coast sands. She was refloated a week later.

There is now a memorial on the promenade commemorating all the ships that were lost along the Fylde coast. It stands at Cleveleys, adjacent to the site of the most recently lost ship the Riverdance.

The wreck of Abana. In the distance is the overturned ship Riverdance. Photo credit: Max Sang/Flickr

The wreck of Riverdance. Photo credit: Brian Rogers/Flickr

Photo credit: Andy Hay/Flickr

The memorial to the sunk ships at Fylde. Photo credit: Broadbent Studio

# Growth of the County Borough of Blackpool in the County of Lancashire 1500-1938,
# Blackpool’s Ship Graveyard, Dark Tales


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