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The wreck of the LONDON

Date: 1866
Dimensions:
Overall: 250 x 190 mm, 0.022 kg
Medium: Paper, card, ink
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017419
Place Manufactured:London

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    Description
    This broadsheet features a ballad about the wreck of the SS LONDON in the Bay of Biscay in 1866. At the top it features a wood-cut illustration of a shipwreck. Many broadsheets were published in London to be sold by hawkers on the streets. They were a popular form of entertainment in 18th and 19th century Britain. Sentimental tragic stories of ship-wrecks such as the LONDON were popular themes with publishers.
    SignificanceThis broadsheet represents the popular interest in tragic shipwrecks in 19th century Britain. The loss of SS LONDON and 220 passengers came as a significant shock to the English public.
    HistoryThe Wreck of the London.

    Now I'm going to say a word of the shipwreck that occurred,
    On board the steam ship 'LONDON', which no doubt you all have heard;
    It is fearful for to tell of the sorrows that befel,
    Oh this ill-fated vessel and the passengers as well.
    If they danced with right good glee as they sailed out on the sea,
    Never dreaming for a moment but safe landed they would be;
    But their hopes they soon were blighted as they looked out far and wide,
    When they found their chance was hopeless in that fearful running tide.

    They sailed that morning so beautiful and bright
    With cheerful hearts the dashed along til land was far from sight,
    Thinking of friends they'd meet so dear, and of welcome when arrived,
    But, alas! for them 'twas not to be, of those hopes they were deprived;
    For a gale it came upon them that made each heart to quail,
    But dealt out death and destruction and tore down every sail;
    It was then the shout that rent the air, so very wild and high,
    "O God! look down upon us all, if now that we must die."
    Now when they found the ship was sinking and death was drawing nigh,
    The Captain did his best to save, and Brookes thought he'd have a try,
    For some of the crew was stupid and stood there like a stump,
    But G.V. Brookes kept his spirits up and still stuck at the pumps,
    And up to his knees in water, with nothing on his feet,
    He worked away, I'm told, all day, for he knew that life was sweet;
    But when he found his task was o'er, to the Steward he did say,
    "Give my love to my Melbourne friends when I am far away."

    Then a boat was lowered quickly stowed with saving from the wreck,
    While a deathly pale shone on each cheek upon that crowded deck;
    Captain Martin would not go with them, for he stood there heart in hand,
    And the last words on his dying lips -- "God speed you all to land."
    There he stood so noble and so calm, whilst the waves they dashed around,
    Fully resigned in his own mind with them he would go down;
    'Twas then the lady offered a thousand pounds ifthey'd take her in th boat,
    But they could not put back again now once they were afloat.

    Oh! what must be the feelings of that terror-stricken crew,
    As they left that awful scene of wreck and o'er the ocean flew;
    With timid hearts and glaring eyes as they glanced wildly round,
    They saw the 'LONDON' disappear and all of them go down.
    Then they took a last farewell of them as the waves they bounded o'er,
    And consigned them to their resting place whence they'll return no more,
    But let this be the prayer of all where sympathy may be--
    May God look down upon them all who now lie in the sea.


    The SS LONDON was a 1429-ton iron screw steam ship used on the Australian trade route. It was travelling from Plymouth to Melbourne, Australia on 1 January 1866 when it sank in the Bay of Biscay, only ten days into its journey. The ship and its 220 passengers were lost with only 19 people surviving. It was suspected that the ship was overloaded with coal and iron for railway lines in the colony. This ballad may be based on the poem written about the disaster 'The Wreck of the Steamer LONDON while on her way to Australia' by Scottish poet William McGonagall.


    Broadsheet rhymes and verses were the cheapest prints available during the 18th and 19th century. They were sold by street sellers known as Flying Stationers, who charged a minimal fee of a penny or half-penny. They featured popular songs that were often sung in homes, inns and taverns and covered a range of themes relating to contemporary events or stories. Printed alongside the songs were woodcut illustrations. Most of the broadsheet publishers did not date or mark their works, making it difficult to pinpoint when they were produced.




    Additional Titles

    Primary title: The wreck of the LONDON

    Web title: The wreck of the LONDON

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