Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Ville de Rouen (1901/10/28)

Ville De Rouen Reef

4-masted barque

Built by Ateliers & Chantiers de la Loire at St Nazaire in France, the Ville de Rouen had one deck, a raised quarter deck and one bulkhead. There were however two tiers of deck beams. The vessel was one of the French Bounty ships (see Glossary), and was owned in Rouen by A. Prentout-Leblond and E. Boniface. The barque had sailed from Cardiff on 25 July 1901, under the command of E. Barthelweld, with a crew of seventeen and a cargo of 1?247 tonnes of coke, 50.8 tonnes of pig iron and 25?000 firebricks for the Fremantle Smelting Works. Also on board were 1?600 bottles of wine. The total value of the ship and cargo was £10?000.
The Ville de Rouen struck the reef that now bears its name some 4.8 km off the mouth of the Moore River. Visibility was restricted at the time, due to bright moonlight being reflected off a heavy mist. The crew made it ashore soon after the vessel first struck, taking with them some ship’s gear, food and, by some accounts, a quantity of the wine cargo.
Bill Fraser, a fisherman on the Swan anchored near the mouth of the river, observed the wrecking. He twice sailed near the Ville de Rouen to offer assistance, but these offers were refused on the grounds that the crew of the barque could look after themselves. Fraser did not raise the alarm until the following day when he reported the stranding to the Rottnest Island lighthouse keeper. The government steamer Penguin, Captain Morrison, was then sent from Fremantle to investigate and en route picked up the barque’s boat in which the mate and four crewmen were making for Fremantle. On arriving at the wreck they found the barque pounding on the reef with 2.54 m of water in the hold. As the breeze freshened the Ville de Rouen began to drift, and finally came to rest with decks awash in 7.2 m of water near the southern end of the reef.
At first the crew of the Ville de Rouen refused to go to Fremantle on the Penguin, but finally Morrison threatened to leave them. They then reluctantly went on board, leaving the mate and one crewman behind to take care of the gear taken ashore. These two men were later ordered to proceed to Fremantle to join their shipmates. Early the next month the master and all of the crew of Ville de Rouen returned from Fremantle to France.
According to a newspaper account at the time, the crew of the Ville de Rouen were on the shore with ‘most of the ship’s gear and a quantity of food’. Because of the distance from Fremantle, the cargo was not considered of enough value to warrant salvaging.
4.8 km from the Moore River on the Ville de Rouen Reefs. The bearing from the Moore River to the wreck site is 262º.
The site of the Ville de Rouen is within the reef at a depth of 7–9 m. The wreckage lies oriented on a SW–NE axis. The hull has collapsed with the topsides still visible, together with masts and spars lying just to the south and near the stern. There are also a stockless anchor, anchor chain, a donkey boiler, a two-cylinder steam winch and a number of other artefacts on site. A quantity of firebricks concreted together can also be seen.
A stockless anchor off the Ville de Rouen was recovered by local divers and is on display at the Guilderton Country Club. The ship’s bell was at the Methodist Children’s Home in East Victoria Park but disappeared about ten years ago. Divers have removed a number of artefacts over the years including bricks, lumps of coke, a pulley sheave and other items. During a wreck inspection the Maritime Museum team recovered a brick, a piece of coke and some rope.


Ship Built

Owner Prentout Leblond and E. Boniface of Rouen

Master Captain Bathelweld

Builder Atel & Chant de la Loire, St Nazaire, France

Country Built France

Port Built St Nazaire

Port Registered Rouen, France

When Built 1891

Ship Lost

Gouped Region Mid-West

Sinking Struck reef

Crew 18

When Lost 1901/10/28

Where Lost Ville De Rouen Reef

Latitude -31.360575

Longitude 115.4463733333

Position Information GPS

Port From Cardiff

Port To Fremantle

Cargo Coke, firebricks, iron

Ship Details

Engine N

Length 66.90

Beam 10.50

TONA 1303.00

TONB 1125.00

Draft 6.40

Museum Reference

Unique Number 730

Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk

File Number 2009/0212/SG _MA-14/86

Chart Number PWD 52015

Protected Protected Federal

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected 1994

Confidential NO