Now that we have seen the TV pictures of the storms battering the SW coast in the winter of 2013/2014, we can begin to imagine the strength of the Royal Charter Storm, the most powerful storm in the Irish Sea of the 19th century. St Brynach’s Church in Cwm yr Eglwys was destroyed by the hurricane force winds (storm force 12) that blew for 15 hours between 25th and 26th October 1859. The roof was blown off the church and with huge waves, over 50ft in height, and wind speeds of over 100mph, 133 ships were sunk, 90 ships were badly damaged and over 800 lives were lost.
At least two ships were wrecked on Dinas Head.
- The Swansea Trader, a 45′ wooden smack, was carrying a cargo of roofing slate when it was blown onto the rocks and wrecked during the great storm.
- The Mathildis, a 70′ wooden schooner with two masts, was carrying a cargo of culm when it was wrecked. The crew of six lost their lives.
Eight bodies were subsequently washed ashore or recovered from the cliffs. Two burials are recorded in the Dinas Burial register for 30th October – ‘Unknown drowned in a shipwreck during a terrific gale Oct 25th 1859. Abode, both Cardiganish as supposed’. –
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The Storm came to be known as ‘The Royal Charter Storm’. The Royal Charter, a clipper with auxiliary steam engines and an iron hull, was returning to Liverpool from Australia when she went down off Anglesey with the loss of over 450 lives. The gold bullion in the cargo and the personal gold carried by a number of the passengers is said to have enriched some of the local families in the vicinity of Porth Alerth beach.
THE GALE OF LAST WEEK. (From the Liverpool Telegraph) We believe we speak without exaggeration when we say that the 25th and 26th of October has engraved a melancholy line in the annals of maritime disasters. For the time the gale lasted it was, perhaps, the most destructive of any storm since the beginning of this century, the loss of vessels and life being most appalling whilst its devastating fury continued. We speak in re- ference to those whose fate is beyond conjecture, but, to swell the total, numbers of unfortunate craft have foundered with their crews, leaving only floating fragments for the mind to guess at a fate not to be revealed in time. The actual loss to the shipping intereat on the 25th and 26th of October, 1859, is beyond all conception, and perhaps without parallel within living recollection.
(From The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser 11th November 1859)
As a result of these tragedies, arrangements were made for the newly established Meteorological Office to use the electric telegraph to warn of storms in British waters.