The builders of ships on Rotherhithe are a fascinating bunch, and one could devote an entire blog to discussing them, but one of the many other fascinating things about looking at their output is the subsequent history of the ships they built. Sometimes it is difficult to pick up more than a few isolated details unless the ship was famous for its speed or a specific event. Wynaud, although not one of the top-rated ships of her day, has quite a bit of interesting history associated with her, and she was built by a most interesting character, although somewhat lacking in modern standards of political-correctness.
|Bilbe's patent slip, preserved to the|
left (west) of the entrance to the
Hilton Hotel, Rotherhithe
Thomas Bilbe, who was born in 1803 in Sheerness, was a fairly remarkable man. In the 1996 booklet on Nelson Dock, Stuart Rankin describes him as "an inventor and ship owner, with interests in the far eastern trade. These were to include running opium into China, evading the Peking government's patrols which were attempting to stamp out the drug trade, and the shipping of coolies for use as cheap labour . . all in all, a not untypical mid 19th century entrepreneur!" He was also a very innovative ship designer, pioneering a new method of hull framing a few years after the construction of Wynaud. He was married to Eliza Ann Chappel, with whom he had a daughter named Frances Sarah, who was born in Rotherhithe. I will be writing more about him in the future.
Instead of running opium, she was converted for use in the tea trade, as a full-rigged ship, retaining the carronades and provided with a trained gunner. David MacGregor describes her as "Very lofty with an unusually long, hollow bow. She was found to be slightly tender and needed careful handling." There are no illustrations of whats she looked like at launch. After her years serving in the tea trade she was converted into a barque, which reduced costs but lengthened voyages.
|Wynaud on the Thames with barque rigging|
Her maiden voyage was from London to Adelaide and took 93 days, from 29th August to 30th November 1854. Other examples of her crossing times in the tea trade, which were respectable without being remarkable, were Foochow to London in 140 days during the 1857-58 tea season, Macao to London in 106 days in the 1858-59 season, Shanghai to London, via Deal, in 113 days in the 1861-62 season and Amoy to London in 129 days in the 1861-1862 season.
In the China Sea the weather was often shockingly bad - rain in tropical sheets, thunder and lightning terrible in their intensity. We would be wet through all day, and whenever the wind came fair it was out with the stunsails, No possible chance was lost, for it was always a race.
We boys used to be roused out in our watch below to set topgallant and royal stunsails; and we would perch aloft, reeving and unreeving gear, and setting and taking in the sails, half a dozen times each day.
After working down through the China Sea, with the forest-hung mountains of Borneo on the port hand, the clipper would pass through the Banca or Gaspar Straits into the Java Sea.
All those waters, reef-dotted and shoal-infested, and the coasts of the great islands that hemmed in the narrow seas, wooded from the water's edge to their cloudy summits, swarmed with pirates . . . . Sometimes it was necessary to anchor in deep water . . . Sometimes again the anchor was let go for the night so close to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra that monkeys could be heard chattering in the trees, and the tropic birds singing or screaming; while the roar of the tiger might be heard, as 'stripes' came down to drink at some creek mouth.
On such occasions an armed anchor watch was kept - one man with a loaded rifle at the poop, and another, similarly armed, at the forecastle head, with orders to fire the instant any boat was seen approaching.
In 1863 Wynaud left the China tea trade and was used by her new owner for the Ceylon tea trade.
For London : 69 bags chopped bark, 3 casks sperm oil, Macfarlane Brothers, For Launceston; 717 bags sugar (transhipped from Iris), Murphy and Co.; 30 half-chests tea, 1 case tobacco, 5 cases stationery, 1 case ink, 1 bundle paper 1 case stores. 1 bale clothing, 1 bale sheet, 2 cases oil. Government ; 8 barn-Is tar. Marsh ; 9 packages galvanised iron and nails, Macfarlane Brothers ; 9 packages luggage. Cowle i 68pieces stone, Gillon ; 20 boxes soap, W. Wilson ; 30 packages returned bags, Degraves ; 30 packages luggage and furniture. H. Hagon ; 1 four-oared racing boat, Whitehouse Brothers.
Mr Hagon, who has been in business in Hobart Town as a boot and shoemaker for many years, has un fortunately lost almost everything, his furniture and effects having been shipped on board the ill-fated ship. It was his intention to start business in Launceston shortly, but his hopes have been damped, at all events for the present. The Messrs. Whitehouse also sustained a considerable loss, the boat which was shipped by them having been intended for competition at the ensuing Tamar Regatta, she being valued at £30. Messrs. Roberts and Co.. instructed by Macfarlane Brothers, will offer the wreck and cargo for sale without reserve, at their mart, Hobart Ton, on the 3rd March next, on account of those whom it may concern.
|From the lighthouse.net.au website.|
UPDATE 15/02/2014: Last week I received an email from the friend of a lady who had recently died. She was trying to find out more about her friend's background. The friend's maiden name was Findlay, and she was a descendent of Captain Findlay who had commanded the Wynaud. A lovely details is that her middle name was Wynaud, and that her uncle had had a model of the ship in his home. Sadly, the friend had no more details than this but perhaps someone reading this will be able to shed more light on Captain Findlay and the model.