Yesterday afternoon, at twenty minutes to three o’clock, the alarm guns once more sent a thrill through North and South Shields, conveying the unwelcome intelligence that yet another hapless vessel had been stranded at the entrance to the harbour. The large crowds of persons who had been on the spot from early morning were considerably augmented, and great anxiety was displayed by many. The vessel in distress proved to be the screw-steamer Blenheim, Captain Battram, of West Hartlepool. On arriving off the latter place, however, the captain thought it imprudent to attempt an entrance and decided to make for the Tyne. When crossing the bar, the steamer was struck by a heavy sea and thrown against the end of the South Pier. So violent was the crash that the vessel was twisted round and broke completely in two pieces. The fore part of the ship containing the foremast and funnel came upon the south side of the South Pier near the part of the gearing that now remains. The members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade on seeing the casualty, ran their van containing the rocket apparatus to a point where they could fire the rocket. They succeeded in effecting a communication, and had the good fortune to rescue five men from their perilous position. The others jumped upon the side of the pier, and scrambled up the rocks until they were safely on terra firma. Thus with the exception of one man, all hands of a crew of twenty men were saved. The man drowned was Nathaniel Richardson, the cook, who belonged to Whitby. He had missed his footing in jumping on to the pier from the deck of the steamer, and fell into the sea. Buoys and ropes were thrown to him, but the waves were so strong that he was washed away and seen no more. Those who were rescued were carried to the Brigade House, where a number of doctors were in attendance, and the poor fellows were supplied with restoratives and dry, warm clothing. Dr Crease, the hon. surgeon of the brigade, was most energetic in his endeavours to alleviate the sufferings of the men, many of whom had received cuts and bruises in their struggle to get onshore. One of the men had a very narrow escape. During the voyage he was confined to his bunk, where he was lying when the vessel struck. When he tried to get out of the forecastle, he found the door jammed, and was kept a prisoner for some minutes. Fortunately for him, a heavy sea washed over the fore-end of the ship and forced open the door, giving him his liberty. While scrambling up the pier, after jumping from the ship, he sustained some injuries. Mr J. T. Sanderson, the mate, got one of his feet severely bruised when leaving the vessel. When the casualty happened some of the crew where in their berths, and it will readily be imagined that they narrowly escaped losing their lives. The Blenheim was a vessel of 705 tons register, and belonged to Messrs Steele, Young and Co., West Hartlepool.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette22 December 1876
Wreck of the Blenheim one man drowned
During the afternoon the steamship Blenheim, belonging to Steele, Young, and Co., West Hartlepool, in attempting to reach Shields Harbour, drove against the end of South Shields Pier. Some of the crew managed to jump ashore, on to the pier, and one man in doing so, named Nathaniel Richardson, the cook, belonging to Whitby, fell overboard and was drowned. Other two of the crew fell and fractured their legs. The rest of the crew were rescued by the brigade. While the work of rescuing the crew was proceeding, the steamer was dashed against the pier-end and broke in two. She will become a total wreck. She was commanded by Captain Battram, and had twenty hands. She was from London for West Hartlepool, but being unable to reach that place she ran for the Tyne.
An accident happened to one of the river policemen during the night, who was assisting the Brigade men. He fell over the rocks and broke his leg. Two of the Brigademen were also slightly injured.
Source Northern Echo 22nd December 1876
WRECK OF THE SCREW-STEAMER BLENHEIM
T. GLOVER & SON will offer for SALE BY AUCTION at the Pier, South Shields, on the 29th day of December, 1876 – hours of sale 11 for 12 o’clock-the screw-steamer BLENHEIM: was a splendid vessel; built in 1875 by Messrs Withy and Co. of West Hartlepool; and classed 90 A1. Tonnage, Gross 1,085, under deck 861. Length 226.2 ft.: breadth 30.3 ft.: depth at main deck 17ft. Engines by Richardson and Son of West Hartlepool, 100 H.P. compound with all the most recent improvements. Size of cylinders 27 inches and 50 inches; stroke 33 inches.
A quantity of GEAR and MATERIAL removed from the wreck will be sold at the same time and place.
The ship is in a position from which there is a fair chance of removing her into the harbour, and is on this account worthy of particular attention. She may be boarded by a gangway, now placed between her and the pier.
Auction Office, 63 King Street, South Shields
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 27 December 1876
The staging and cranes have suffered severe damage from vessels running into them.
The first was the schooner “Russell” which in the middle of the night of the 15th December in a South East Gale ran onto the South Slope of the South Pier- onto which the crew escaped- she was afterwards driven through the staging from the south to north breaking 18 piles which with the framework supported two large travelling cranes and which were consequently thrown down and broken, the two bells and machinery being submerged. Three of the remaining cranes left in danger were brought from the south to the north side for safety.
On the night of the 20th and morning of the 21st the gale and sea still increasing the screw steamer “Tyne” which became a total wreck with loss of all hands and the steamer “Fenella” afterwards stranded-went through the outer staging from NE to SW throwing down about 125 feet of completed staging with some framing still left hanging from the damage of the “Russell”.
In the afternoon of the same day the screw steamer “Blenheim” of Hartlepool came over the rubble base side on to the end of the masonary when she broke in two one half going to the south and the other to the north of the Pier and drifted against the remaining north piles alongside the finished work breaking them and throwing down the three cranes that had been placed there for safety when saved from the wreck of the “Russell”. The sea on this day was terrific.
Source: Piers Committee 9 January 1877