Case Study: Henry Wright, Master Mariner of Mousehole, died 23 May 1874
Jo Esra, our research mentor, uses the methodology of gravestone mapping to guide her research into our ten maritime churches. Here are the first strands of thought for a new micro-case study on a particular gravestone that captured Jo’s interest. Could you help us piece together the rest of the story?
Looking at closely: the gravestone of Henry Wright, Paul Church, died 1874, aged 73 and his son, Henry, who drowned aged 19 on 4 February 1855 on the Brig the Icarus off the coast of Spain.
Wright’s memorial is inscribed with letters inlaid in lead, on a marble base and attributed to a figure called Pascoe. The inscription says
‘SACRED / TO THE MEMORY OF / HENRY WRIGHT / OF MOUSEHOLE MASTER MARINER / WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE MAY 23RD / 1874 / AGED 73 YEARS / BE YE ALSO READY FOR SUCH AN HOUR / AS YE THINK NOT THE SON OF MAN COMETH / ALSO OF REBECCA; HIS WIFE / WHO DIED DECR.16TH / 1877 / AGED 74 YEARS; / ALSO OF RICHARD TREEEVE / SON OF THE ABOVE / WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE OCTR / 23RD / 1847 / AGED 21 YEARS / ALSO OF / HENRY WRIGHT SON OF THE ABOVE / WHO WAS DROWNED WITH FIVE OTHER BY THE LOSS OF / THE BRIG ICARUS ON THE COAST OF SPAIN / FEBRUARY 4TH 1855 / AGED 19 YEARS / THIS STONE IS ERECTED BY J.H. WRIGHT SOLE SURVIVING SON / AS A TRIBUTE OF AFFECTION’
See the full record here >
Yet the burials database brings to light another date of importance, 27 May 1874. Was Henry Wright thus buried 27 May 1874?
The marriages database similarly provides details about Henry’s family life. His wife, Rebecca put a mark on the marriage document and did not sign it.
The Baptism database tells us of Henry’s children.
Richard, Grace, Mary Ann, Catherine, Henry, Jacob and Rovina.
Note how Richard Treeve is mentioned on the memorial. In the Baptism database, Henry is noted with alternating professions, from fisherman to mariner.
This is also consolidated when looking at further records. Jacob Wright married Jane Edwards Bilkey at Ludgvan in 1861, a farmer’s daughter, where Henry and Jane’s fathers were witnesses. Henry ‘senior’ is listed as a Master Mariner.
The youngest daughter Rovena/Rovina married at Paul in 1862.
We must always ask the relevant questions from our archival sources. So here are some that spring to mind when looking at these type of records:
- what is a coroner’s order?
The 1874 Registration of Births and Deaths Act states
Section 17. A coroner, upon holding an inquest upon any body, may, if he thinks fit, by order under his hand authorise the body to be buried before registry of the death, and shall give such order to the relative of the deceased or other person who causes the body to be buried, or to the undertaker or other person having charge of the funeral; and, except upon holding an inquest, no order, warrant, or other document for the burial of any body shall be given by the coroner. Read more here >
- what is a Master Mariner?
The term mariner can be synonymous with sailor but is more likely to mean that the man was concerned with the navigation of the vessel. Master mariners were those skilled in navigation. A Master Mariner would probably have a Mate or Master’s ticket and be on the Seaman’s Register at the National Archives. Mariners would come under the umbrella heading of the Merchant Navy. Read more here >
- what is a Brig? Can we find out something more about the Icarus?
The Icarus, driven ashore at Conil, Spain on a voyage from Cardiff to Gibraltar, 6 of the 10 people on board died – “Ship News”. Glasgow Herald (5433). Glasgow. 23 February 1855.
What more can we tell from looking at the gravestone?
On the top of grave – a ‘foul anchor’ – an anchor that is ‘impeded’ – in this case by a rope entangled round it – apparently dating back to the seal of Lord Howard of Effingham who served as Lord Admiral of England during the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
The Lord’s fouled anchor consisted of a standard nautical anchor with a rope looping through the structure, then became the official seal of the British Admiralty.
The word is associated with the unfortunately all to frequent and dreaded cases when weighing anchor where the forecastle officer reports to the bridge that the anchor is foul. This means that somehow the cable has got itself wrapped around the shank of the anchor making it impossible to hoist through the hawse pipe, or some sort of obstruction such as a cable has become fouled in the flukes making it impossible to break free, and so forth, causing much strife and trouble to get the anchor clear again.
See the Admiralty flag in the Maritime Museum records >
See how the foul anchor were used, via William Van de Velde’s artwork >
Interested in piecing together elements of Henry Wright’s jigsaw puzzle? Contact us and remember to post your research on social media, tagging us in!
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