SS Stanhope

‘STANHOPE’ of West Hartlepool, 1882 – 1900

By Tunbridge Wells Sub Aqua Club

The keel of Tunbridge Wells Sub Aqua Club was laid down in 1962. Since that time our club has gone through many changes. There have been good times and bad times, and, not unlike the shipyards of yesterday, times of boom and times of hardships. In our club’s heyday, we had around two hundred members. We are now reduced to 18 dedicated divers, who are eager to keep the club afloat and their heads underwater.

Part of our humble club is engaged in naming un-named wrecks. We dive in the English Channel, off the Sussex shores near Beachy Head, in an area strewn with wrecks from collisions and two World Wars. A surprising number of these wrecks are still un-named or incorrectly named. To date we have named seven wrecks, five of which we have named in the last four years.

Wrecks named:-

HMT BORNEO - Lost 18/06/1917. Built in 1906 by Cook, Welton & Gemmell of Beverly. Yard No.100; 211grt.
Trawler. Hired by the Royal Navy in 1914, she was lost while on mine sweeping duties after striking a mine.

HMT AVANTURINE - Lost 01/12/1943. Built 1930 by Cook, Welton & Gemmell, of Beverly. Yard No.542; 296grt.
Trawler. Hired as an auxiliary patrol vessel in 1940, she was torpedoed and lost in an E boat attack.

The other five were collision losses:-

HAROLD - Lost 11/06/1889. Built in 1872 by A Leslie & Co., Newcastle upon Tyne. Yard No.139; 1,108grt;
Length:- 225 feet; Beam:- 30 feet; 2cyl compound steam engine. Owners:- Adamson, Short, Newcastle; 1887 – Charleton, MacAllum & Co. Newcastle. Collision with TOWARD 5nm west of Royal Sovereign Light Vessel.. She was on passage from Bilbao to Tyne with a cargo of iron ore, when she collided with either the ss FRIESE or ss TOWARD in calm conditions.

MID SURREY - Lost 18/07/1919. Built in 1870 by Palmers Ship Building & Iron Co. Ltd., Newcastle-on-Tyne.
Yard No.257; 903grt; Length:- 222 feet; Beam:- 29 feet; Gen. Cargo Ship. Owners:- Dixon & Harris,
London; 1880 – Harris & Dixon, London; 1903 – Harris & Dixon Ltd., London; 1917 – Gardner, Locket &
Hinton Ltd., London. Collision with WADA MARU (3,269grt/1885) (ex. LAWADA. Renamed WADA
MARU in 1912), off Royal Sovereign Light Vessel. She was on passage from Barry to London with a cargo of coal.

LANCER II - Lost 18/07/1918. Built in 1914 by Smiths Dock Co. Ltd., South Bank, Middlesbrough. Yard No.596,
as LANCER. Trawler. 1917 – renamed LANCER II. Engine:- T. 3 cyl Steam. Collision off Brighton Light Vessel. She was bought by the Royal Navy on 11/12/1914 and sunk during a collision with an unidentified vessel.

SS NEWENT - Lost 13/02/1909. Built in 1882 by Short Bros., Pallion, Sunderland. Yard No.134; 994grt; Gen.
Cargo Ship. Lost in a collision with the Norwegian bark, INGA, while on passage from Southampton to Blyth whilst in ballast.

SS STANHOPE - Lost 16/03/1900. Built 1882 by Irvine & Co., West Hartlepool. Yard No.42. 1,367grt.
Lost in collision with the schooner, COAL TAR, while on passage from Bilboa to Middlesbrough with a cargo of iron ore.

The STANHOPE is a wreck we have been diving since 1999. It has become one of our favourites: nicknamed the Arse End, as this was where we first landed on the wreck all those years ago. At that time, the stern was still intact and it was possible to squeeze in on the starboard side by rolling in sideways. The stern has now collapsed. We have been collecting data since 1999, with nothing really coming to light to name her. The wreck team have measured her, listed how many boilers she has, and listed the engine configuration. A door lock was found by Derrick Scott, who discovered that it was a shifting bolt of French design, made by H. J. Owen of Birmingham. In 2010, Rob King found a boiler tile, made by Thomas Peak & Co. of Watergate Street, Tunstall, near Trent and Mersey Canal. This was a breakthrough as it had the words ‘Trade Mark’, which was not used until 1875. So, the ship was built after 1875. I had been collecting coins, mainly pennies, over the years, from my secret penny spot. The latest date on them is 1898. So, she sank on, or after, this date: 1898.

She also has a very broken bow, as though she was in a collision. With these clues, and an approximate length and width, we have concluded the following:- Built after 1875; Lost around 1898; Lost in a collision; She is quite an old wreck, probably pre-WW1 or beginning of WW1; A loss with two boilers and a two cylinder engine, in the vicinity or area local to wreck site.

The Hydrographic Office has her registered as possibly the Inger. This cannot be correct as the boiler tile is English. Also, a local diver, Jerry Keen, has evidence of the Inger being off to the east, around the Sovereign Shoals.

This was where we were after 12 years, until, whilst videoing the wreck, I bumped into the helm. How we had never found it before, I cannot tell you. A quick inspection, and an exploratory tap with my archaeological hammer, confirmed that it was definitely the helm.

We made a couple more visits to check the immediate area for clues, and to have a closer look at the helm. On cleaning the brass centre boss, we realised there was something written on it. After more cleaning and rubbing, Rob King and I tried to read what it said: not as easy as first thought, as the words were upside down and a clear view was hindered by another piece of wreckage. By the end of the dive we had decided it said “Ship Builders, Irvine & Co., West Hartlepool”.

We spent the journey back to shore, and packing the boat away, guessing which wreck it was. In the pub, we booted up the computer and checked the records of loss for each one. The STANHOPE was one of them: it all fitted.
We now had:- A ship built after 1875; Lost around 1898; Lost in a collision; Had two boilers and a two cylinder compound engine; Built by Irvine & Co., West Hartlepool.

Details of the STANHOPE:- Built 1882; Lost 16/03/1900; Lost in a collision with the schooner, COAL TAR; Had two boilers; Two cylinder compound engine; Built by Irvine & Co., West Hartlepool; Owned by English & Co., Middlesbrough; Approximate position of loss reported 6miles south east of Beachy Head.

Just for good measure, we trawled through Lloyd’s Shipwreck Index of the British Isles looking at vessels built by Irvine & Co., which had been lost in this area. One had already been located elsewhere, when her bell was found:-

RIO PARANA (ex-PERSIANA) - Lost 24/02/1915; Built in 1902 by Irvine’s SB & DD Co Ltd., West Hartlepool;
Torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-8;
The U-8 was later sunk with Kapitan-Leutnant A. Stoch and his crew captured.

A visit to the Eastbourne Library unearthed a newspaper report of the sinking, in the Eastbourne Chronicle. The story was as follows:-

“At about 2 a.m., a serious collision between two vessels occurred about ten miles off Beachy Head. The vessel sunk was the STANHOPE, belonging to Messrs. English & Co., of Middlesbrough, and bound from Bilboa, in Spain, to Yorkshire with a cargo of 1,800 tons of iron ore. She carried a crew of eighteen; A. M. Halvorsen being the captain”.
“They had made good progress daily. While making their way up the channel at three-parts speed, a schooner was observed on the starboard hand, which appeared to be proceeding in the same direction, on a parallel line. There was a stiffish west northwest wind, with an agitated swell. A quarter of an hour later, the schooner suddenly bore down on them, striking the STANHOPE amidships, just in front of the bridge. The STANHOPE started to take on water rapidly, while the schooner sheered off in a trice and was lost to view. The crew took to the lifeboats and left all their belongings, including a large black retriever dog to which the crew were passionately devoted. The poor creature was afterwards seen running along the bridge, but only a few minutes later the steamer lurched violently and went down by the head, the unfortunate dog with it”.
“The crew reached the safety of Eastbourne after rowing for some three and a half hours. It would appear they were concerned about the loss of their personal belongings: several of them estimated their individual loss at £20 upwards; and the Captain, £70 worth of property, including about £50 in hard cash”.

Perhaps the pennies I have discovered are part of the Captain’s loss. A full load of iron ore, and going down by the head, might account for the very broken bows, caused by the impact with the sea bed.

With all the evidence we are quite sure she is the STANHOPE, but we will look out for further clues on future dives.

The above article has been published in the "Tees Packet" a quarterly magazine from the Teesside branch of the World Ship Society in Hartlepool . Many thanks to the Editor Derek Hinds for taking the time and effort to help in searching for anything Stanhope related and getting us in print.

Some more pictures and Video is to be found at the link below.