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The Wreck of The Heroine

Two wrecks lie submerged within three miles of Lyme Regis. One is the Baygitano —whose story is told elsewhere on this website. The other is The Heroine, a wooden sailing barque.

The Heroine set sail In 1852 from N.E. England for London. Here forty two migrants boarded her with all their belongings and many, many barrels of sherry for export. The skipper then sailed the boat down the Thames and headed west into the Channel bound ultimately for Australia.

Encountering bad weather, the skipper anchored for shelter in Torbay but as the westerly wind increased another ship which was also sheltering in the bay started dragging her anchor and drifting towards The Heroine. The skipper decided to cut the anchor rope to avoid a collision but unfortunately The Heroine then smashed into Hopes Nose, an island in Torbay, disabling the rudder and stoving in several planks on the water line.

The Wreck of the HeroineNow the ship was completely at the mercy of the fiercer and fiercer westerly gale. It’s assumed that all hands would have been manning the pumps but John Walker, a local diver and skipper, actually came across the main pump. Upon stripping it down he discovered that the pump had jammed, a possible reason why The Heroine sank. Other artefacts he has recovered are on display in the Lyme Regis museum.

The townsfolk of Lyme Regis were woken up by the sound of cannon fire from the stricken vessel and many people rushed to the shore realising that the wooden sailing ship was in terrible trouble. Five brave souls tried rowing out in a small boat but in no time at all it overturned drowning four of the men. Amazingly, later that day all the crew and passengers managed to reached the Lyme Regis shore in The Heroine’s longboats.

The wreck of The Heroine was the first wreck to be dived on by early hard hat divers but there is no record of what they found because after all, even in those days, the taxman would have wanted his cut! The ballast in the ship was fire bricks and even to this day they cover the area of the wreck site offering shelter to several conger eels.

Conger on The HeroineIf you look inside the RNLI station on the Cobb at Lyme Regis harbour and peer upwards and to the left you will see the word Heroine written in fire bricks removed from the wreck site. The sinking of The Heroine was the reason the lifeboat service started in Lyme Regis.

So when you are enjoying your Lyme Regis deep sea fishing trip spare a thought for the fortunate Heroine survivors and salute the bravery of those who perished trying to save them.

Published on 17/09/2012.

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