Royal Charter memorial

link_to_french_translationRoyal Charter memorial

This memorial was created by the sculptor Sam Holland and unveiled in 2009 by Michael Vasto, the RNLI’s operations director. It commemorates the wreck of the ship Royal Charter with the loss of more than 400 lives on the coast nearby on the night of 25-26 October 1859.

The ship was a clipper with auxiliary steam engine, built in Sandycroft, Flintshire. Its final voyage had begun in Melbourne, carrying home passengers who had made their fortunes from Australia’s gold fields. It had already sailed most of the way around Wales and was closing in on its destination, Liverpool, when it was hit by a storm. The winds were so strong that a link in an anchor chain of Brunel’s recently completed Great Eastern was bent around the prow, despite the ship (the world’s biggest) being in the relative protection of Holyhead harbour that night. Holyhead breakwater was badly damaged.

One of the memorial’s bronze plates depicts the Royal Charter amid the towering waves. The other depicts Giuseppi Ruggier, a Maltese crewman from the Royal Charter. Feted afterwards as Joe Rodgers, he swam and scrambled to shore with a rope which enabled a breeches buoy to be set up. This device, a zip wire of its day, enabled about 40 people from the Royal Charter to be hauled to safety on the shore, but most of the passengers and crew perished. Some passengers might have made it to shore were it not for the gold in their pockets, the fruits of their labours in Australia, pulling them down to the seabed.

Bloated, disfigured bodies were washed ashore for weeks. The bodies were taken to the church in nearby Llanallgo. Coroner William Jones opened the inquest on 4 November, amid “mangled corpses” and sobs from people who recognised friends. Rector Stephen Roose Hughes recorded identifying features before burying the victims. Many bodies were later claimed by relatives and exhumed.

The novelist Charles Dickens travelled to Anglesey to report on the disaster. Bounty hunters have searched Anglesey’s east coast for gold ever since the wreck.

Postcode: LL72 8HY    View Location Map

Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
Charlemont wreck 1790 – wrecked at Holyhead with loss of 110 lives
Castle Buildings, Llanfairfechan
– named after wrecked ship whose timbers were recycled
Statue of Dic Evans – lifeboat cox won two gold medals for rescuing mariners

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