Official Number: 45596
Port of Building: Sunderland, UK
Year built: 1863
Port of Registration: Adelaide
Rig Type: Barque
Length: 131.9 ft (40.2 m)
Breadth: 28.5 ft (8.7 m)
Depth: 18.2 ft (5.6 m)
Tonnage: 456 gross, 443 net, 408 under deck
Port from: Hamelin Bay
Port to: Adelaide
Date lost: 19 April 1882
Location: Hamelin Bay
Chart Number: Aus 756, Aus 116 & BA 1472
GPS position: Lat. 34° 12.8741' S
Long. 115° 02.0196' E
Finder: Bruce Melrose
Protection: Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, gazetted 1977
Significance criteria: 1, 3 & 6
The Agincourt was built by William Doxford under Special Survey and launched in January 1863. It was copper-fastened, sheathed with felt and yellow metal, and had a raised quarter deck 12.5 m long. The vessel had been owned by various UK owners until 1880, when it was purchased by a Mr MacGregor of Adelaide. Subsequent owners were the partners W.L. Dickson, C. Russell and E. Trevett, although Dickson is the sole owner listed in Lloyd’s Register of 1882–83. The Agincourt had arrived in Hamelin Bay on 17 February from Adelaide. The barque, under the command of Henry Patching with a crew of eight, had anchored ‘five cables from the jetty in five fathoms water… the jetty was bearing S½E and Edith Ledge bearing N by W½W’ (Captain Patching’s evidence, CSO1455/64). On 19 April it was loaded with timber and ready to sail. The north-west breeze was moderate but later developed in to a gale, with a heavy swell from the same direction.
The Agincourt dragged the port anchor (nautical assessor’s evidence, CSO 1455/64) or parted the port anchor cable (Captain Patching’s evidence, CSO 1455/64). The starboard anchor was dropped but too late to prevent the barque heavily striking Inside Rocks four times. The captain ordered the cable to be slipped and ran the vessel towards the shore, where it went aground in about 5.5 m of water at 3.00 p.m., less than 30 m from the beach. The pumps were manned but without success. At this time, without the master’s consent, the crew launched the ship’s boat. They were ordered back on board, but headed towards the shore where the boat capsized. Here the ship’s carpenter, William Mitchell aged 50, who could not swim, was drowned.
Captain Patching stated in a letter to the editor of the Inquirer dated 15 May 1882 that the reason the port cable parted was that its long scope enabled it to get caught under the rocky ledges. As soon as he had heard the surging of the port cable he knew it had parted and immediately dropped the starboard anchor, letting out 75 fathoms (137 m) of cable. This stopped the Agincourt, and after taking bearings at 8.00 a.m. to ensure that it was not dragging, he went below for ten minutes to eat breakfast. He then returned on deck, and noted that the vessel had not altered position but an already heavy sea was increasing. He therefore ordered springs put on the starboard cable to help prevent surging. This took until 11.30 am, after which he had the crew man the windlass to heave in the port cable so as to fasten on another anchor. However with every swell the vessel began dragging so he stopped heaving ‘so as to give the ship the benefit of the cable that was then out’, a length of about 45 fathoms (82 m). At 12.45 p.m. the vessel struck Inside Rock. Immediate sounding of the pump well showed 18 in (0.46 m) of water which had increased to 26 in (0.66 m) within ten minutes. To save the vessel sinking into deep water he ordered the cables slipped and hoisted the fore topmast staysail to turn the Agincourt’s bow towards the shore, and beached the barque. His explanation of the starboard anchor not holding was that the stock must have caught on a ledge and broken, as the anchor weighed nearly a ton and was attached to a 13/--8 in (3.5 cm) chain, ‘sufficient to drag the windlass out of the ship if the anchor had held’ (Inquirer, 24 May 1882: 3a).
A Preliminary Court of Inquiry was held at Vasse on 24 April 1882. A Court of Inquiry, held on 6 and 9 May 1882 at the Busselton court house, charged that Captain Patching acted negligently in:
1. That he neglected to sight his anchor from the time of arrival February 17th until April 19th, a period in excess of 2 months, being in an open roadstead, and knowing the bottom to consist of rocks with intervening patches of sand, and surrounded with reefs on every side.
2. That he allowed the ship to drift into danger without taking bearings when he noticed that the vessel had shifted its position, and not taking the necessary means to ensure its safety.
The Court of Inquiry, made up of R. Fairburn, RM., Dr C.S. Bompas, JP., and Mr Forsyth as nautical assessor, also held Captain Patching partly responsible for the death of the ship’s carpenter. His certificate of competency was suspended for six months.
An auction of the wreck of the Agincourt was held in late May 1882, conducted by James Moore at the Wellington Hotel in Perth, ‘and the greater part of it disposed of at very nominal prices, owing to the inaccessibility of the vessel’s position’ (West Australian, 26 May 1882: 3b). The only purchaser was H. Tombs, manager of M.C. Davies’ timber company.
The Agincourt is situated 900 m north of the boat launching ramp at Hamelin Bay, and 120 m offshore. It lies just south and inshore of Inside Rock; which is the exact position given by Captain Patching and the crew in their evidence to the inquiry.
The wreck of the Agincourt lies on a sandy bottom on an axis of 104°, bows towards the beach, in 5–6 m of water. The lower part of the hull, which cants slightly to starboard, is intact. It has 95 mm thick planks with a ceiling inside of 70 mm planks. Fastenings are mostly yellow metal, with some copper in the vicinity of the keel. The vessel was sheathed with yellow metal, and some of this remains. A rudder gudgeon is on the sternpost, and there is part of the cargo of neatly stacked timber sleepers still in the hull. These sleepers are 2.6 m long by 220 mm wide and 110 mm thick, and they and the timber of the hull have had very little damage from marine borers. The iron barrel of the windlass lies on the starboard side of the bow. Five metres closer inshore there is a section of the upper hull, with seven chainplates still attached. An iron water tank lies between the hull sections.
EXCAVATION AND ARTEFACTS
The Western Australian Museum wreck inspection of 26–27 April 1977 by Scott Sledge recovered a variety of artefacts including wood samples from the planking, assorted yellow metal fastenings, pot sherds, lead pipe, a number ‘8’ draught marker from the bow and a piece of green bottle glass.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Agincourt was the first vessel to be wrecked at Hamelin Bay, causing the Colonial Secretary’s Office to investigate the anchorage and issue a warning to mariners.
In a letter to the editor of the Inquirer Captain Patching defended his actions during the gale and the subsequent wrecking of the Agincourt. He stated that he had been a seaman for 44 years, over 26 of which had been as master, ‘and without a single casualty’. He had scathing comments regarding the competence of the members of the Court of Inquiry which had suspended his Certificate of Competency for six months:
The Board of Enquiry, to my thinking, were utterly incompetent to adjudicate on nautical matters—the one a Resident Magistrate, without the slightest pretension to a knowledge of shipping, the other a medical man equally ignorant of marine casualties, and the Nautical Assessor (the most important official on the Board), without a word to say, or a single question to ask. I attribute his silence to one of two reasons—his want of a perfect knowledge of such matters—or it might have been illness (Inquirer, 24 May 1882: 3a).
The Agincourt wreck site forms part of the Hamelin Bay Wreck Trail and as such holds potential to contribute towards public education through on-site interpretation. The vessel is associated with the export of the valuable hardwood resources of the South-West, and the remains are relatively easy of access by divers.
Cairns, L. & Henderson, G., 1995, Unfinished Voyages: Western Australian Shipwrecks 1881–1900. University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands.
Clark, M., 1986, Hamelin Bay Expedition 1986. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum.
Loney, J., 1994, Wrecks on the Western Australian Coast. Ocean Enterprises, Yarram, Victoria.
Lloyd’s Register of British and Foreign Shipping 1879. Lloyd’s, London.
Sledge, S., 1977a, Wreck Inspection Report—Agincourt. Report—Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum, No. 28.
State Records Office, CSO 1455/64
The Inquirer and Commercial News, 24 May 1882: 3a.
The West Australian, 25 April 1882: 2g & 26 May 1882: 3b.
Western Australian Museum, Department of Maritime Archaeology, File No. MA 355/77—Chaudiere & MA 356/71—Agincourt.
reward: $100 State 1977
Owner J.T. Russell, J. McGeorge and W.L. Dickson
Master Captain Henry Patching
Country Built UK
Port Built Sunderland
Port Registered Adelaide
When Built 1863
Gouped Region South-West-Coast
Sinking While at anchor
When Lost 1882/04/19
Where Lost Hamelin Bay
Position Information GPS DoLA Aerial 2004/3/31
Port From At anchor, Hamelin Bay
Port To At anchor, Hamelin Bay
Official Number 45596
Unique Number 250
Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk
File Number 356/77, 196/75
Chart Number AUS 116
Protected Protected Federal
Date Inspected 1997/12 MMcC; 1991/05, MAAWA 2002/02