Anderson Smith

The Smith Family

c.1912. Amy Helen Maud (Bindloss) Anderson Smith, with Mary, Reggie & John –
great grandchildren Capt. Anderson (see below). Mary was my grandmother.

Read extracts of Capt Anderson's memoirs
Prisoner of the French
North Sea Journal

Steer Family Connexions
Steer main
Evans main
Parry memoirConnor
Catharine Biddlecombe Steer Memoir 1850
Elsa Steer Memoir 1957
Prospectus of Forelands sale 1919
Charles Steer IV Memoir 1999
Inventory of the Limpsfield Rectory 1931

Prisoner of the French
Extracts from the diary of Capt. John Anderson, my great-great-great grandfather,
concerning his years of captivity in France during the Napoleonic Wars

Edited by his great-nephew G. Ridsdill Smith

“LIFE of John Anderson, with sundry remarks and reflections during his Captivity in France from February 1809 to April 1814" … Thus began the diary of my great-grandfather, written in an elegant copybook hand and continued until he retired from the sea in 1833. There follows a brief account of his childhood, of his going to sea as cabin boy at the age of seven, and of gradual promotion until in 1808 when he was 35 he took command of the Nelly, 278 tons burthen, at Grangemouth and sailed her with a cargo of shot and shells to Woolwich. Thence in convoy he sailed to the West Indies, returning the same year and setting out again from London on December 10, bound for Surinam. He had a licence to run his own cargo to Cork, which he reached three weeks later with some of his crew disabled and all exhausted by the gales they had met.

Even here he had little respite. "On the 4th January" he writes, ”a most dreadful gale of wind. The ship drove away with no less than three anchors ahead, drove foul of a brig and carried away her bowsprit as also lost my stern boat and quarter boards.“ After discharging his cargo and taking in 100 tons of provisions he joined the convoy, under ”escort of H.M. Ship Fylla, Captain Rodney. We were scarcely clear of the harbour when it began to blow strong gales from the N.E. which soon increased into a violent gale accompanied with snow. This gale carried me into about latitude 46.30 and longitude 15 west, but never saw our Commodore from leaving Cork. The wind then flew round to the S.W. and clear weather. Saw a Store Ship on our lee with nine sail in company. I immediately bore down and joined them, but the wind continued to blow hard gales from S. to W. and in general rainy weather.“

”On the 30th the wind flew round to the N.W. accompanied with a tremendous squall which lasted without intermission four hours in which I lost my main topsail, fore staysail and split the mizen. Eight of our squadron rec'd so much damage as forced them to bear up for England. Heing then left alone with the Store Ship I wore to the southward and set reef courses, the wind then being at N.N.W. But during the night the wind came round again to the S. W. with tremendous gales and thick weather. From that time I saw no more of the Store Ship and experienced continual gales which drove me into latitude 49 N. and longitude 12 W. where I was captured on the 10th of February 1809.

”Remarks on board the Nelly, Friday 10th Fcb'y, the Day of my Capture: at 7 a.m. saw a strange sail, supposing her to be running for the Channel. At 8 she hove to 6 or 7 miles on our weather beam. I was then laying to under the mizen staysail, with hard gales at W.S.W. At 9, being favoured with a shower of sleet, lost sight of the strange sail. I then wore ship to the south'd and set low sails in hope of losing sight of her, as I concluded from her motions she was an enemy. At 10 the weather cleared and saw the strange sail near hull down making all sail after us. I immediately altered our course to E.N.E. and made all sail possible, going 9 and 10 knots part of the day.

“At 4 p.m., after exchanging a few shots, was brought to and struck to the above vessel which I found to be the Gerande of Bordeaux, Capt. le Compte, Commander, mounting 14 guns and 80 men. We were about five hours exchangjng prisoners, which was operated with a great deal of difficulty and danger, the sea running very high and blowing a hard gale of wind. My fate was to be exchanged in the last boat and on going alongside the privateer the boat was stove in and filled immediately which exposed us to the most imminent danger of perishing. The hurry and confusion to rescue 9 souls whose lives were at the mercy of catching a rope, and who were invisible to those on deck amidst a dark night with a tremendous sea running, may be better imagined than words can express. On recovering my senses I found my arms were hung to the bobstay and it was not till these were almost wrung off with claching in the water every time the ship pitched that J could get assistance to pull me in. The Captain took me below immediately and behaved more like a generous friend than an enemy."

Later in the evening he went on deck and watched, with a heavy hcart, the Nelly sail away under French colours. There was another ship's crew also prisoners of war aboard the Gerande and all had to man the pumps to get her safely into L'Orient. A fortnight later both crews were paraded in the streets of L'Orient before setting out on their march to Verdun, but being under 25 in number, were not permitted to have a cart and so had to leave most of their kit behind. For the next seven week." they marched across France, covering 20-30 kilometres a day and spending their nights in the town halls.

At Versailles Anderson found, scratched on the wall, ”I have had the misfortlme to remain here 5 days upon 3 herrings," and adds "God has, in a manner, taken away my appetite so that I have often fasted 24 hours and sometimes much longer without the least inconvenience, and still enjoyed good health and spirits". At Verdun hc hcard, from anothcr sailor friend, Capt. Hall, that his elder brolher, captured at sea four years before, had died in Valenciennes.

After seven months at Verdun 66 of the prisoners were marched to Auxonne, a distance of 150 miles and here Anderson was allowed to live in lodgings with three other captains. Two days after their arrival a fire broke out which might well have destroyed the town. “During this scenc of terror" he writes" I was ahout two hours on the roof of one of the houses on fire with several of my countrymen, bending on ropes to tear off the roof in order to prevent the fire from spreading, which was effectuated with much risk and danger. During these transacttions the timid females were imploy'd in handing wine round by bucket fulls, and by great exertions from every quarter the fire was happily got under. A few days afterwards Ictters of thanks from thc chief magistrates at Dijon were put by our Commander for public inspection, in handsome language retuming their sincere thanks to the English gentlemen for assisting the inhabitants of Auxonne to extinguish so dreadful a fire. A gentleman of the town (who was no doubt a bigoted Catholic) said 'What brave men. What a pity it is they are not brought up in the Christian faith!'"

Though in comfortable lodgings and cared for by a landlady whose "amiable disposition is an ample compensation for the deficiency of nature's beauty" (and more amply compensated for by her daughter – "a fine-looking girl, whose disposition is equally as amiable") he and Capt. Hall in February 1810 were planning to escape. An Austrian officer supplied them with old uniforms and, after spending a night out in the fields on the last day of the month, they paraded next morning with a detachment of 250 Austrian prisoners who were being repatriated. For the next eight days they marched beside the Vosges with this column under the names of two who had already died before they themselves joined it. Many marched barefoot in the snow and ceach morning fewer answered their names when the roll was called. On the ninth day they reached Strasbourg, after covering 200 miles ; but here they were betrayed by a woman in the contingent, the wife of one of the Austrians who was also a smuggler and wished to divert suspicion from herself. The road they marched back along, under escort, was "covered with country people repairing and gravelling it, as also erecting arches for the Empress Marie Louise, Bonaparte's intended spouse;“ and further on, when they had joined a wagon-load of deserters, pickpockets, harlots, ex-galley slaves and an old jailer and his drunken wife, they were overtaken by the imperial bride-to-be and her 20 coaches.

After three months in Auxonne jail the two friends were allowed to return to their old lodgings, where they received their first letters from home, one and a half years after their capture. Resisting all home comforts, Hall made another (and this time successfull) attempt at escape. Anderson I suspect was once more enthralled by the charms of his landlady's daughter – a common complaint, for when at the end of March 1811 all merchant officers were ordered off to another camp in Longwy and set out, 60 strong, they were ”accompanied for a few miles from the town by more than 100 people, chiefly females." Anderson himself had taken leave of his females “in tears and kisses, their grief being such she could not even say adieu". The father had anticipated such scenes and gone out early, leaving behind ”a certificate signed by the Mayor on stamp paper which might serve me at some future period". At the end ofa 230-mile march they reached Longwy in mid-April. Here there were no lodgings with amiable landladies. The prisoners slept 14 to a room in barracks, had to wear black cockades. and be back. in their rooms by eight o'clock, with lights out at nine. The penalty for escaping was six years in the galleys or, if within 10 miles of Paris, death.

Three events lightened the monotony: public celebrations on the birth of an heir to Napoleon; the appearance of a comet; and a lctter from Hall, who had got to Malta. Prisoners were ultimately allowed to live in lodgings, at a price, where they economised by buying their own corn and making better and cheaper bread than could be got in the shops. Anderson also augmented his pay by, as he puts it, “engaging myself to attend on a few gentlemen to instruct them in the French language." The war news improved, especially after the Moscow fiasco "My Lord and Master is driving fast to leeward; in fact I believe the Great Bear had panic-struck him". The wreck of the Grand Army began to crawl through Longwy ”without either shoes or stockings and their clothes in rags and tatters. The sick and wounded are dragged along in open waggons, at this season of the year. Several waggons that arrived had dead in them. Since the hospital has been established here a large hole is dug 9 or 10 feel deep in the churchyard wide enough to hold several abreast, and as the soldiers die, they are carried out in waggon-loads to their long home. When they approach the grave they very composedly take the sheet off the corpses, which are then as naked as they came from their mother's womb. Two fellows on the waggon take hold of each corpse by the head and feet and cast it into its last abode in the most inhuman manner I ever saw.

”Our last attendant, the grave-digger, jumps down as composedly to lay the body on one side in order to make good stowage, a few moulds are thrown over each row until the hole is full of those brave warriors, and all this is performed without any religious ceremony, or even the least vestige of decency. Sometimes horses passed' through in as deplorable state as the men, some with only three legs they could go on, some even with only two. It was shocking to see them use these poor animals in order to drive them from stage to stage, and the unfortunate soldier met with very little better treatment from his officer. What heart could help being moved at such afflicting scenes except the hearts of these Lorrain Wolves?"

By December “The very streets resounded with their groans, and howling wintry winds and snowy nights rendered the scene still more dismal. No man could sit com fortable in his chamber with such objects as these under his window. The inhabitants were astonished to see the Englishmen take their countrymen from the waggons and carry them to such places as were appointed, and all posts were ordered to let the prisoners pass through without molestation. Since then our countrymen are always waiting to receive them and not only carry them to the different hospitals but stop with them the greatest part of the night. Some are employed in dressing their wounds, washing their feet and applying remedies to those who have their feet frost-bitten, which are in great numbers. I have seen numbers of their toes break off like burnt sticks, and when they approach a fire the pain is so acute that many of them cry like children."

Near the end of 1813 plague swept the town, 800 inhabitants dying in one month alone. Anderson got it on Christmas Day, was ”insensible to anything in this world for 14 days" and lost all his hair. But, he adds, “notwithstanding my dean shave I am well received by my. female acquaintances with whom I pass many hours". In mid-March for some reason all the prisoners were confined to barracks, "not even being allowed to quit the room to perform the most delicate needs of nature". Anderson and a friend with the sinister name of Galor planncd another escape. This involved climbing through a small staircase window and dropping down into the barrack yard. They had to do this at different times. Anderson got out and" made sail through the town gates under the disguise of a Bloody Butcher", After one and half miles he was challenged and, his tale being doubted and the hue and cry raised, was soon recaptured and sentenced to solitary confinement on black bread and water. "I was strictly examined how and in what manner I had procured my cIoathes, at the same time being threatened with dungeons, irons, etc., if I did not denounce the person who had procured me them. But the Butcher had travelled too far to be intimidated with such language."

The war however was ending and in a few weeks' time, on Easter Sunday, the Governor of the town was ordercd to ”put himself and garrison under the colours of the new dynasty of Louis XVIII and to release all prisoners of war." Which he did, but directed them to their depot, Chatelleraut, “a distance of 500 miles instead of directing us to the nearest sea-port." Luckily after 27 miles a Hessian officer, who gave them supper and bed, changed their passports to the nearest route and provided them with a waggon and four horses. ”So, with white cockades in our hats, we made sail for Antwerp, nine in company as before, all as gay as larks."

Hospitality was lavished on them as they passed through the towns and villages, from that of the ancient nobleman of Navian whose breakfast with wine "made some of the party merry all day" to the poor Ardennes family's meal of milk and eggs. It ceased only when they reached Malines in whose public square they stood for more than three hours while "British officers, who I am sorry to say are in general a race of proud, stinking, red-coated rascals" ignored them till Anderson “made bold to address the General on parade, who appeared very angry that we had been so neglected by his subaltern officers. However after all we only got a soldier's Tommy and a small piece of indifferent beef". They reached Antwerp on May 4, the day before the British made their triumphal entry into the town" amidst huzzas and acclamations from every quarter, accompanied with music and the roaring of cannon from every part of the town. ”The French garrison had the liberty of marching out with the honours of war."

Early next morning they found a ship bound for Rotterdam and embarked. "Once more I find myself afloat for the first time upwards of six years; the pleasing sensation of which may be better felt than I can describe. Of course we had to pick for the softest plank." In Rotterdam Anderson boarded a brig bound for Hull which, four days later, anchored off Stallingborough and a boat took him off. “What passed on meeting my parents and sister after an absence of six and a half years I shall not attempt to describe."

North Sea Journal

Extracts from the journal from 1815-1833, the end of Capt Anderson's career at sea
HAVING formed the habit, during his prisoner-of-war days, of keeping a diary John Anderson continued it until the end of his sailing career. After eight weeks' "rural recreation" at home in 1815 he took command of the schooner St. Paul.

"On the 24th August" he writes, "I left Portsmouth with a fleet of 100 sail and did not arrive at Seville until the 27 September, which was occasioned by almost continual calm. I lost convoy off Lisbon, which gave me much anxiety, as a few days previous to that we received accounts from a Packet three days from Lisbon that two American frigates were on the coast, and notwithstanding I was following my lawful and honourable occupation, yet my feelings were very little better than those of a highwayman who apprehends being overtaken by every traveller.

"Every strange sail I saw I endeavoured to avoid, supposing her to be an enemy, and the remembrance of past events in captivitymade me dread the idea of falling a victim to it again;, However I arrived at St. Lucar the 23 September, which stands at the entrance of the river about 50 miles from Seville by land and at the least 150 by water, having to sail upon every point of the compass towards Seville. … Here I paid at the rate of 15 pence per pound for meat that we should bum in our markets; and as to a pretty girl, I have scarce seen anything like one. Having lately visited Holland and Spain I must still say France is my favourite country."

He sailed with a full cargo of oranges and lemons, but "experienced almost continual gales and torrents of rain. She was a fast sailing vessel so that we never had a dry foot during our passage of 22 uncomfortable days … I arrived in Hull Dock the 18th November. After going through the forms of Custom House for entering the Ship, the collector had just given me the Prayer Book to swear to the true contents of my documents, when ,Mr. F-, the tide surveyor, recollected an Order in Council dated October 1814, which was to put all vessels under Quarantine coming from between Cape St. Vincent and Gibraltar. The greatest confusion tookplace and one would suppose I had brought ten thousand plagues into the town through the inattention of those whose duty it was to stop the vessel at the Quarantine ground; the result of which was I was ordered to take my crew on board again and hoist the yellow flag in Hull Dock and proceed down to White Booth as soon as possible with all those who had been on board, which consisted of eleven in number,"

Soon after this he became engaged to the daughter of a Lincolnshire farmer, and shortly before the wedding compiled and sent her a treatise headed Sailing Instructions for the Good Ship Ann, now at anchor near London River and by God's grace bound for Felicity - a harbour they both reached, and saw quite a lot of in the 35 years of their married life. In a letter from Carthagena, on his first voyage after the honeymoon, he writes, "I find coals are a bad article, two ships having lately delivered here; and as to my cheese, I have not yet ascertained how it sells. However I shal1 dispose of part if possible, as since we entered the Mediterranean Sea the weather is extremely hot and r find the cheese fast decaying. I cut two open the other day which were full of maggots. In fact, my love, whilst thy poor old man is scrawling this he is almost drowned in sweat, but thank God as hearty as a buck, smoking his pipe and a glass of ale before him."

Returning in September with a cargo of nuts he "narrowly escaped shipwreck on the French coast near Boulogne. During several days we had experienced most dismal gales and thick rainy weather and no observations could be taken. The 24th October, about midnight, we discovered land and found the water shoalen so0 fast and dead upon a Leeshore blowing a heavy gale. We tried to stay the vessel, but to no purpose and no room to ware in this perilous situation. I fortunately let go the best bower anchor which brought her head to the sea immediately and after veering out 90 fathoms of cable we were in five fathoms of water.

“In this position we lay with aching hearts until daylight, when the scene became still more dismal. About half a cable's length from the vessel the sea was breaking mast-head high. so that had we been that distance further in we must have been dashed to pieces. On further approach of day we saw numbers of people on the shore who no doubt expected the vessel to part from her anchor. About 8 in the morning the wind suddenly drew round to the S.W. and became so moderate that we were enabled to get our anchor again and clear the land without the loss of a rope yam."

His next voyages were to Antwerp, sometimes with passengers, and in August 1816 with a Major and Mrs. Cotes, two maids and 10 children, all of whom, children and adults, were sick as soon as they reached the open sea. "Two days later" as he writes to Ann, "they all declared they never ate so hearty in their lives and never expected thy old man could furnish the table with a famous piece of roast beef, fry'd ham, eggs etc. and all agreed that I made excellent soup. We din'd at 3, after which sat over port and sherry telling long yams until '6 or 7 o'clock. Then I made both coffee and tea, and our time pass'd on very pleasant, but I must say my old bones got sore with laying on deck 5 nights." They were luckier than the four passengers he took to Antwerp that September, who were at sea 25 days.

Another voyage to Antwerp in 1817 illustrates the vicissitudes of saiL "On 23 October I commenced a fourth voyage to Antwerp under the frowns of Providence. The 28th being then off Yarmouth a most tremendous gale arose at WSW in which we lay until 2nd November. By this time we had driven to the east of Texel; then gales came on at Sand SW which drove us to the north of Sunderland. After much toil and anxiety I regained the south of Spurn on the 9th when a hard gale came on at SW which compell'd me to bear up for the Humber. I ran the vessel up to Hull to the no small disappointment of all concerned, who fancied I had made my voyage. I remained wind-bound until the 13th and again proceeded with a brisk gale which carried me to Yarmouth where I anchored with south winds; on the 18th Providence smiled upon us with a NW wind which brought us to Flushing the 19th and to Antwerp the 20th, where I discharged my cargo in good condition and took in another of flax, bark and apples for Hull. The 6th December left Antwerp and arrived at Hull the 14th. Thus closes the year 1817."

Next year Anderson changed ships and sailed in the brig Leeds to Hamburg. "If the morality of its inhabitants,“ he wrote "corresponded with the charming prospects that are exhibited sailing up the river at this season of the year, they certainly would merit a place in Paradise. But alas they will have such a distant view of the celestial place as that of Dives." At the end of the year he was persuaded by his employers to sacrifice his "comforts in the home trade" and take command of the ship Fortune in the West Indies trade.

"On the 2nd January 1819" he writes, ”I left Hull on my intended voyage to Madeira and Jamaica, with the most pleasing prospect of a happy and prosperous voyage, under the favour and protection of opulent owners, a fine ship under my command, extravagantly fitted out and well. stored with every necessity for such a voyage. After experiencing most tremendous gales on the coast, and twice driven into the North Sea, on Sunday night about 7 p.m. the 17th January in a most tremendous gale and thick weather, we fell into shoal water and, after various exertions to extricate ourselves, let go an anchor as our last resource.

“But in a few minutes the ship began to strike so heavy that the boats appeared the only method of saving our lives. Three were successively stove in and lost in getting out. We still had a fourth, the large long boat, which appeared impossible to get out in the dreadful manner the ship was shaking and sea breaking over her. But after great exertions we got the long boat over the side with four hands in her, having previously made a warp fast and intending to hang her in the tackles until we got some provisions and then all get in and cut the tackles. But scarcely was she over the bulwark when a sea came and took her away and the greatest mercy in the world that the same had not washed most of us from the decks.

“On recovering ourselves we saw the long boat on the top of a sea astern. Knowing we had made a warp fast to her and the other end on board, and finding the rope, we got the boat hauled up until we could hail those in her, who informed us they had almost got her dry again. But the second mate was laid dead from a blow by the tackles. The difficulty now was how we should get into the boat as it could not come near the ship. We resolved at length to lash the mizen boom down, and by ropes from the end drop overboard, until those in the boat could get hold of us; and by this means all got into the boat, 18 in number.

"By this time I suppose it was about 9 o'clock, all drowning wet, no provisions, no liquor, still a great dreadful hurricane, expecting every moment to be swallowed up. If we left the ship perhaps certain death might be the consequence. We determined to hang by the ship until daylight, in hopes that relief might come from some quarters, as we supposed ourselves on or near the Kentish coast. At times the sea broke so heavy over the boat that little hope appeared to see daylight again. About 4 a.m. Monday 18th the ship's masts went over the side and she began to break up so fast that wreck came upon us in such quantities that we were obliged to cut and abandon ourselves to the mercy of God, in a foaming element that threatened to overwhelm us every moment.

"Our first care was to get the boat right before the wind and sea as in that direction she ran pretty dry. Having a compass we appeared to go about east in course, wind west, still continuing a gale and rainy weather. Daylight so long wished for came on, but alas not to cheer us. It rather, if possible, added a greater horror as each viewed his companion in all the bitterness of real distress. In the course of the day the wind veered from W to NNW. But still heavy gales and rainy weather closed in upon us. I anticipated some faint hope that we might fall in with the land near East Cappel light. This was the only glimpse of hope we had left and some were appointed to keep a look out for this so much desired object.

”Providence so changed the wind that this, our last and only hope, was joyfully descried about 9 in the evening, at the sight of which every one appeared animated with a new existence. I got the compass and found the light bore ESE. Having long frequented this navigation I knew that bearing would carry us on the sands. Therefore I told the men they must now exert themselves to get a small sail set, which we had in the boat, clear her for bailing, and steer NE until we brought the light SSE; tho' bringing the boat's beam to the sea might be attended with the greatest danger, yet if not persevered in, certain destruction awaited us; each then lent his feeble aid and we got the sail set and steered NE.

”At times we were awfully threatened that the boat would either fill or upset while running to bring the light SSE. When at this bearing we steered for the East Gatt, on entering which the sea broke in a most dreadful manner, and the top of the first sea ran right over the boat. My poor lads were so alarmed they cried out. Mind your helm," I said, "keep her before the sea, and bail away. It is the strong set of tide that causes the sea to break, and not shoal water. To convince you I will put down a 20 foot oar". It had no bottom, as I expected, but I had not the strength to pull in the oar again.

“Fresh courage and hope animated every breast, the two or three seas had well nigh buried us in the deep. But Providence guided us safe to land off the West Cappel light. My crew wanted to run the boat immediately on the beach. This I strongly opposed as being attended with more dangers than those we had escaped as everyone was so weak they could not make themselves the least assistance to get from the boat. I had not now the least doubt of running the boat safe up to Flushing where we arrived in the most deplorable condition. I crawled up to myoId friends, Weeks and Becker, who kindly got a house to receive my poor lads and took myself and mate in their own house".

Five days later Anderson, his mate and a boy sailed for Hull in the schooner Telemachus. Great SSW gales forced them to man the pumps and throw overboard the cargo of wheat. By coincidence the two ships Anderson had previously commanded were also wrecked - the St. Paul, driven ashore on the island of Ameland in that same gale and the brig Leeds on the island of Sylt two months later. The Leeds' new captain had resented Anderson's promotion and even hinted to the owners that he had "embezzled part of the ship's property". Which drew from the accused: “But alas my adversary has stumbled and fallen into the same pit that he so dexterously dug for me. On his voyage from Hull to Hamburg in the Leeds he was wrecked on the 17th March and two hands drowned. Perhaps the reader may say a most extraordinary circumstance, and the same day of the month as I lost my ship. Yes, and what is still morc extraordinary, my ship's stern with her name on it was driven near the same place, a distance of near 300 miles, as some say to witness against him for the injustice he has done to an innocent man; also buoy of the ship Wash which he had bravely said I did not know where to look for. However it has now turned out a most convincing proof that it was not there, as I had stated."

The period 1822~1823 was uneventful. In May 1822 he crossed to Hamburg on "the smoothest sea I ever remember, the whole surface of the great deep beautifully corresponding with the serene heaven;" while in August he was out in one of the worst flights I ever experienced from thunder and lightning and torrents of rain." His closing remarks for 1823 were, "With a venerable Patriarch of old I would say, except the presence of God accompany me on the trackless ocean, forbid that I mount its lofty wavess. But thanks by that Great Friend of Mariners has provided them with an invaluable Chart with suitable instructions to all those that do business in the great deepss This Sacred Chart is now so much prized that scarce a navigator will venture to sea without it."

The first voyage of 1824 was to Antwerp, another stormy one. ”We had no sooner cleared the Humber than a violent gale came on at NE with snow. About 3 a.m. on the 4th, still a heavy gale, we found the water shoalen and discovered land to leeward. Both anchors had been cleared as we fully expected that ere daylight came on we should be driven on the Norfolk coast, and had previously determined as our last resource to letgo both anchors in case of discovering land, so that our plan was immediately put into execution on shoaling water.

"In this last effort I had the misfortune to get my right hand severely crushed with the cable and rendered past assisting in this great extremity of danger. Both cables were given to an end and most providentially rode fast. But should the gale continue its present violence we saw but little probability of riding long in our present situation. Unfortunately I had three gentlemen passengers, to whom we communicated our situation and begged they would get up and dress themselves. And as all human efforts had now been tried to save us from impending danger Mr. Greenwood (passenger and frequently a preacher in the Baptist Society) went to prayer. As to myself I lay on the cabin floor in most excruciating pain, but most gladly joined in the solemn representation of our case to G0d.“ And surely in mercy to our petition the gale soon sensibly abated and by daylight was more moderate.

A more peaceful passage to Hamburg is recorded for June l826. "Having no passengers I took out my little daughter Ann and Rebecca Kirkus (nearly the same age) as companions for the voyage, not less amusing for myself as gratifying to these little folks, who at their age, wi1l long remember the variety of scenes that Hamburg produces;' and in addition to the scenery we are just in the meridian of cherry season, strawberries etc. Cherries 2 lbs. for a penny ha'penny. and strawberries a penny per lb., and other fruit in proportion. In fact Hamburg is a port so free and easy of access that almost every article may be bought from 20 to 25% cheaper than in any other port on the Continent. This voyage fell in with a complete cargo of wool, with which I sailed July 12". Ann was not so lucky next year.

”After leaving Flushing with a contrary wind, when about halfway down the East Gatt the wind suddenly veered to west in so violent a squall that we were obliged to clue all sails up aod immediately let go the best bower anchors After riding in this situation about three hours, the wind veered to NW. Still hard gales and heavy squalls and such a tremendous sea we were under the painful necessity of slipping the chain, intended to run back to Flushing. But after being under sail about half an hour the wind veered WSW and blew so heavy the ship would not sail up the channel, so that we were obliged to let go the second anchor, and at low water not more than two cables' length from the shores In this perilous situation we rode with a continual heavy gale, pitching bowsprit and bows under water till Sunday 13th.

"About three in the afternoon in a violent squall the chains broke and in a few minutes we were driven on the strand. Fortunately it was a falling tide, but the ship beat extremely heavy near an hour, and the sea very heavy over the decks. Unfortunately I had brought my dear little daughter Ann for a voyage. When the water left us, as the gale still continued and fearful the ship would either fill or break up with the coming tide, we took part of our clothes and some provisions to a farm house about half a mile from us, where my litt1e girl was also conveyed and kindly taken care of. Surrounded with Land Sharks I was determined to remain on board my poor Rebecca the coming tide, whatever might be the consequences in which decision my crew joined me.

"During the tide it still continued blowing very hard and the vessel beat heavy and came about two lengths higher up the strand. But notwithstanding beating so heavy the strength of my dear compariion bid as it were defiance to the raging sea and still made no water … After much persuasion and dear paying I at length got a vessel to come on the strand to take out part of the cargo, tho' previous to this on first getting on shore had had built a temporary shed of boards to receive the cargo in case the vessel should make water, where part of the Bark was. landed in order to get to the heavy goods.

"During a succession of many days the weather proved extremely stormy and the ship continued beating on the sand very heavy at tide time, but as I observed her great strength still resisted the foaming elements and made no water. On the 24th the weather became moderate and, having agreed with a company of men for £25 to get the ship off, a number of hands came down and dug a deep trench and on the evening tide I again had the happiness of seeing my poor Rebecca once more afloat and off the strand.

"We had scarce got her warped off into a fair berth when it began to blow and rain at SW. The 25th we had a violent gale at west, ship pitching bowsprit and bows under water, also making part water and expecting every moment to be driven on shore again. However towards evening the gale moderated and drew to NW. Having plenty of shore-men on board we got the anchor and got safe into Flushing harbour where I was under the necessity of discharging the whole cargo and hove ship down to caulk her bottom. The old adage is but generally too true, that one misfortune seldom comes alone.

“The company who got the ship off went to fetch the Bark left on strand in the shed mentioned. They set off on a beautiful fine evening, laid on shore and commenced loading. But when they had got about 3 or 4 tons Bark in, the wind sudden1y changed to west and began to blow hard. On the flood the poor fel1ows had the misfortune to Jose their vessel, about 15 tons. She first turned bottom up and afterwards was. dashed into a thousand pieces, the crew narrowly escaping with their lives, losing their cloaths etc. Of course we lost the Bark which is also, with ship, not insured." The close of the year introduced Capt. Hall, Anderson's fellow prisoner-of-war who had escaped with him in 1810, the pair disguised as Anstrian soldiers. On his proposal and recommendation Anderson was admitted a Younger Brother of Hull Trinity House.

The year 1829 opens with frost and snow which lasted till the beginning of February. "At one period the Humber was full of drifting ice from 4 to 5 feet thick; on the Continent it appears by letter from Rotterdam the winter was particularly severe. The 2nd February the frost still continued its severity. On that day Booths and sundry diversions were still continued on the ice on the river Maas. However with us the frost had totally disappeared by the 6th as the steam packets commenced their usual routes, and on the 9th I unmoored my little bark for Antwerp. We never had occasion to take in a reef and arrived at Flushing the 14th.

"Here I was taken flat aback as no pilots would take charge on account of the ice not having broken up in the river. Thus situated I was either obliged to go into Flushing Harbour or seek such shelter as the 'Ramicus' afforded. This latter I took as the former was crowded with about 50 sail, entered during the winter. Here we lay dreaming until the 19th when the navigation became free, and reached our final destination the 29th, but then pack ice was still in the river,"

There was ice again in 1830. The Humber was frozen, but "the 7th February a rapid thaw commenced which in a few days set the Humber and interior navigation free. The 16th commenced our intended voyage. When within 2 miles of Flushing, most unexpectedly a solid mass of ice appeared, so heavy and close packed we dare not take it. Being then two thirds ebb we continued plying to windward of the ice until flood and nearly dark. Came to anchor towards the French shore, tho' much exposed to wind and sea, but in such a situa tion no alternative. The night continued moderate so we rode all well. The 20th towards high water, the principal part of the ice having passed us, got safe into Flushing Harbour where I found about 80 sail of vessels of different nations having taken this port under similar conditions in the course of the winter,"

On August 18 of that year he sailed with a cargo of wheat for Liverpool, was forced by contrary winds to put into Portland Roads where he was windbound for six days, met gales again which drove him into Milford Haven, and eventually reached Liverpool on September 10. The new railway was opened while he was there "the flying carriages propelled by steam setting off at the rate of about 18 miles per hour" - and Huskisson was killed. "If Mr. Huskisson had been a King he could not have had more respect shown to him by the Town of Liverpool. The day after his decease every shop in the principal streets was closed, and all the ships in the different docks had colours half mast. The Funeral, being at the expense and direction of the Corporation, was one of the most splendid and largest I ever saw, as I believe scarce a merchant or respectable tradesman but were present, all genteely dressed in mourning, and moving in the procession six abreast. Mr. Huskisson had long been a Member of Parliament for Liverpool and one of its principal supporters in trade with the western world, tho' we on the east coast of England have severely to lament the Reciprocity Act which originated from the able abilities of this statesman. But its national benefit remains to be proved.

The death of another in this same month, his brother-in-law and owner, left him acting trustee to carry on a brewery “and other extensive concerns" all of which were saddled with heavy debts. He was no match for the creditors ”with their dark lawyers at heel" and next year the brewery was wound up. Shipping was bad that year too and in 1833 he appears to have left the sea, and left off writing what one of his daughters called his Life Book.

In the concluding paragraph he says “My connection with Sea affairs has often led me to think that the varieties observable in our earthly pilgrimage may be compared to the circumstances of a single sea voyage. All have the compass and general rules of navigation to steer by, yet perhaps no two of us the same distribution of winds and weather. Some will glide swiftly to port in ease and comfort, some meet great difficulties and are driven back and perhaps meet shipwreck; others, beset with cruisers and enemies, are obliged to fight their way through." He had learned to accept tribulation young, yet he cannot conceal his grief at the loss of five of his nine children, and the drowning of his only surviving son who, as master of the Union, went down with all hands in the Baltic.

But he ends on a note of thanksgiving to God who had raised him "from Cabin Boy to Captain, Owner and now Father of a Family;” and I think that, in attaining this humble and happy ambition, he must often have taken heart from the words of an impoverished Comte de Cristine he had known when he was a prisoner-of-war at Longwy, who once said "Monsieur Anderson, si vous voulez diversion philosophe et connaitre le monde il faut, mon ami, que vous deveniez, comme moi, pauvre." [If you wish for philosophical entertainment and to know the world, my friend, you must become poor, like me.]

Steer Family Connexions
Steer main
Evans main
Parry memoirConnor
Catharine Biddlecombe Steer Memoir 1850
Elsa Steer Memoir 1957
Prospectus of Forelands sale 1919
Charles Steer IV Memoir 1999
Inventory of the Limpsfield Rectory 1931
Google   Enter search:    all web      |   Site by Sam Steer   |   ©2016 Maxwell Steer