The Jane was a schooner which carried cargoes between the various ports of the North Sea. She had been built in Saltash in 1841 and was 121 gross registered tons (official number 365). In 1863 she was bought by William George Walker of the Marlborough Head Inn in Colchester having previously been owned in Sunderland.
Whilst Mr WG Walker was the majority owner of this vessel, Mr Joseph Hadley of Wyvenhoe had a quarter-share in her and who sailed her as Master.
A voyage to Brussels
The vessel left Wyvenhoe on the 14th March 1877, after having undergone extensive repairs it seems, and was bound for Charleston with the Master, Joseph Hadley, and a crew of 5 other men: Joseph Hadley’s son, Albert Hadley and his son-in-law, Frank Kidby, his nephew Arthur Hadley, and two young able seaman, named Fuller and Munson. All of the men lived in Wivenhoe. Four of the men were married. Frank was married to Joseph Hadley’s daughter, Eliza Mary Hadley.
At Charleston, they took on China Clay for Brussels. In Brussels, they loaded coprolite () and they set sail on Sunday morning on 15th April 1877 bound for the north of England. However the boat was caught in a severe gale in the North Sea which blew up later on during that Sunday.
A severe gale in the North Sea
The Jane was spotted on the Monday morning 16th April 1877 on the Cross Sand, six miles off Yarmouth, with a tremendous sea running. When first spotted, she was hull down with her main mast gone but a topsail was still visible on the foremast; the sea was sweeping her decks. It was impossible for the lifeboat to reach her.
According to local newspaper reports, she soon disappeared and portions of her wreck were later washed ashore.
Very few pieces of the Jane were found
A portion of the stern bearing the word Colchester on it was later washed ashore, together with a log slate with the words Charleston and Jane on it, and a couple of oars. A tin box belonging to Joseph Hadley was also washed up containing a number of private letters and a mate’s certificate dated 19th January 1827 and bearing the official number 59,835.
An appeal for funds for the widows and children
A few days after this tragedy which had ‘cast a gloom over the whole Parish of Wivenhoe’, an appeal was launched for the 4 widows and the 11 young children aged from two to ten years. One of the widows was also expecting another child it seems.
An advert appeared in the Essex Standard on 27th April 1877 stating that these ‘poor Widows and Children are left in a most deplorable and destitute condition‘ and ‘an urgent appeal is made to the charitably-disposed, and to a sympathising public, for percuniary aid to assist in relieving their pressing necessities in this time of trial and distress‘.
Money could be given to:
- the Curate in Charge at Wyvenhoe
- the Owner, Mr W.G. Walker of St Botolph Street, Colchester
- or at lists placed at the banks of Messrs Mills, Errington, Bawtree and Co.,
- Messrs Round, Green and Co.,
- or the London and County Bank, Colchester.
More research is required to know how much this appeal raised.
More information, and questions, from Eddie Kidby
The loss of both my great-grandfather, Francis (Frank) Kidby, and my great-great-grandfather, (Joseph Hadley), in such a way is a real tragedy. Losing his son and his nephew as well spared none of the family in the grief they must have endured.
Francis Kidby was born in Ipswich 1852 and married Eliza Hadley in October 1875. Their son, William, was born June 1876 and was 10 months old when the Jane foundered. Eliza re-married James (Dickie) Bird soon after and had a number of children, with whom Francis was brought up. William joined the navy and served until early in the 1920s. William married Mary Cobbold in 1905 and they had three children, William (Bill), Charles, my father, and Clinton. William passed away in 1927.
All three sons joined the RAF as apprentices at the age of 16 (Trenchard’s Brats!). Bill transferred to the Fleet Air Arm, continuing the sea-going tradition in the family. He lost his life when the Royal Oak was torpedoed in Scapa Flow in October 1939. My dad and Clinton had long careers in the RAF.
Neither my Dad or Clinton knew much about the loss of the Jane and it was almost a rumour until my Dad obtained a newspaper article in the late 1970s, which was probably the one from the Essex Standard. He did not pass this information on and I didn’t find this out until the internet finally caught up and the articles in the papers became available.
My grandmother, Mary Cobbold, is the only one of my grandparents I knew, passing away in 1955.
There are many questions that I would like answers to.
- Were any of them found?
- If so, where were they buried?
- Was there an inquest? It is inconceivable that six men could lose their lives without an inquiry.
- Would the loss of the ship have been investigated?
- Were the pieces found on the shore kept for the inquest, if there was one and what happened to them?
- Eliza had seven siblings, (Joseph, William, Alice, Albert, Edward, Minnie and James), and they had a lot of children between them, so is it possible any of their families live in the area and know something about this? (I have a lot of cousins out there!
I appreciate all that is being done here and I hope that relatives and others in the know will be able to add information to what we know already.
Eddie Kidby (February 2016)