The Bencoolen

The Bencoolen was a 1,415 ton East Indiaman* barque.

Built in New Brunswick, Canada in 1855

Owned by E Bates & Sons, Liverpool

The ship’s name comes from Bengkulu, a province of Indonesia. The capital and largest city is Bengkulu city. It was the site of a British garrison, which they called Bencoolen.  Bengkulu was also a pepper trading base for the British East India Company.

On 13 October 1862, the Bencoolen set sail from Liverpool bound for Bombay with what has been described as general cargo.

The Captain was William Chambers and there was a crew of 32 men and 1 boy.

The weather was as bad as it gets.

In the nine days that followed, the Bencoolen lost its masts and in falling, smashed the lifeboats, suffered damage to its steering, and was at the mercy of the seas.

Two crew were lost overboard and the First Mate’s leg was broken.

On the afternoon of 21 October the Bencoolen was grounded, driven by huge on-shore seas, onto Summerleaze beach literally a stone’s throw from safety.

The sea was too rough to launch the lifeboat and the rocket brigade was unable to get a line on board.

Of the 33 crew, only six were rescued alive, with a further six being pulled from the sea dead.

*A cargo ship registered to trade with any of the East India Companies