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Stephen Gavin
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brig Elizabeth Jane
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Brig Elizabeth Jane - launched Nova Scotia 1817 - Lost July 1854 off the coast of Yorkshire - Found Robin Hood's Bay, July 2003

Newbiggin by the Sea

This page is in progress 4th February 2010. The following extract is taken from Northumberland Yesterday and To-day., by Jean F. Terry, L.l.a. (st. Andrews), 1913.. CHAPTER I. 7 and contains a description of Blyth and Newbiggin. There are photographs of Newbiggin which were taken in January 2010.

From here, northward, the coast is rather dull and uninteresting, although the sands are fine, until we reach Blyth, at the mouth of the little river of the same name. This town is growing rapidly in size and importance; the export of coal has greatly increased since the harbour was so much improved by Sir Matthew White Ridley, and now totals some millions of tones a year. The river Wansbeck not far north of the mouth of the Blyth, in the latter part of its course flows through a district begrimed by all the necessary accompaniments of the traffic in "black diamonds," and reaches the sea between the colliery villages of Cambois and North Seaton. On the point at the northern curve of Newbiggin Bay stands Newbiggin Church, and ancient building, whose steeple, "leaning all awry," is a well-known landmark for sailors. The site of this church is in danger of being undermined by the waves, and, indeed, part of the churchyard crumbled away many years ago; but such defences as are possible have been built up around it,-and the danger averted for a time. Newbiggin itself is a large fishing village and an increasingly popular holiday resort, for it possesses not only good sands but a wide moor near at hand which provides one of the best of golf courses; and, also, a short distance along the coast, are the attractive Fairy Rocks. Newbiggin was a town of some importance in Plantagenet days, with a busy harbour, and a pier; and in the reign of Edward II. it was required to contribute a vessel towards the naval defence of the Kingdom. Northward from Newbiggin Point is the magnificent sweep of Druridge Bay, stretching in a fine curve of ten miles or more to Hauxley Haven. Here, the sands of a warm golden colour, the wind-swept bents of silvery-grey, and the vivid green of the grassy cliff tops edge the curve of the bay with a line of bright and delicate colour, only thrown into greater relief by the brown reefs and ridges which stretch out from the rocky shores, and by the deep blue-green of the waves rolling inshore in long majestic lines, to break into hissing foam on the sharp reefs, or slide smoothly up the yellow sands in the centre of the bay. Above, beyond the grassy tops of the cliffs, stretch deep woods, with the old pele-tower of Cresswell looking out from amongst the trees, fields many-coloured with their burden of varying crops, and wide lonely moors, where one may walk for half a day without hearing any sound save the wild screaming of sea-birds, or the whistle of the wind, with the low boom of the waves below sounding a deep-toned accompaniment. The bay is not always so peaceful, however, and many wild scenes and terrible shipwrecks have taken place here, as everywhere along our wild north-east coast. The Bondicar rocks, by Hauxley, and the cruel spikes of the reef at Snab Point, near Cresswell, have betrayed many a gallant little vessel to her doom. Not, however, without bringing on many an occasion proof of the courage which is shown as a matter of course by the fisher folk on our coasts. At Newbiggin, and Cresswell, for instance, deeds have been done, which, in their simple unassuming heroism, may be taken as typical of the hardy race which could count Grace Darling among its daughters. About thirty years ago, a ship drove ashore off Cresswell one bitter night in January, and the fisher folk crowded down to the shore, watching with sorrowful eyes the hapless crew clinging to their unfortunate vessel, which was slowly being broken up by the waves. There was no lifeboat at Cresswell then, and all the men of the village, except the old men who were past work, had gone northward, when the oncoming storm prevented their return. The women and girls heard the cries of the schooner's crew, and mourned to each other their inability to help. But one gallant-hearted girl, named Peggy Brown, cried out, "If I thowt she could hing on a bit, I wad be away for the lifeboat." But between them and Newbiggin, the nearest lifeboat station, the Lyne Burn runs into the sea, and spreads widely out over the sands; and the older people told Peggy she could never cross the burn in the dark. She set off, however, the thought of the drowning men hastening her on. For four miles she made her way in the storm and darkness, partly along the shore, scrambling over rock's, and wading waist-deep through the Lyne Burn and one or two other places where the waves had driven far up the sands, and partly across Newbiggin Moor, where the icy wind tore at her in her drenched clothing. She pressed on, however, and managed to reach the coxswain's house and give her message. The lifeboat was immediately run out, and the men reached the wreck in time to save all the crew except one, who had been washed overboard. On another occasion one of the fishermen, named Tom Brown, was preparing to go out, with the help of his two sons, in his own fishing coble to the aid of a ship in distress on the reef. A carter had come down to the beach, the better to watch the progress of events, and, terrified by the thundering waves, his horse took fright, and in its plunging drove the cart against the little boat, making a hole clear through one side. "Big Tom," as he was generally called, merely took off his coat, rolled it into a bundle and stuffed it against the hole. Then he beckoned to another fisherman, saying to him "Sit on that." The man clambered in, and without the loss of another minute these four heroes set off to save their fellow creatures' lives, with a broken and leaking boat in a heavy sea. And they did it, reaching the brig only just in time, for it went to pieces a few minutes after the shivering crew had been safely landed. Incidents like these, which could be multiplied indefinitely, bring a glow of pride to the heart, and a reassuring sense that the degeneration of the race is not proceeding in such wholesale fashion-in the country districts, at any rate-as the pessimists would have us believe.


Newbiggin by the Sea, Woodhorn and Lynemouth
Route of Peggy Brown's Journey (see above) shown by blue line in map

View Newbiggin by the Sea in a larger map

SHIPWRECK AT NEWBIGGIN - The Loss of the Embla
It was supposed that all the distressing account of losses of life and prosperity by the late gales had been received last week; but it appears that at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, a calamitous disaster took place on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 7, which resulted in the total loss of a Norwegian ship called the Embla, bound from Portugal to Christiana, 350 tons burden, with a cargo of salt, and having a crew, it is supposed, of twelve or thirteen men. This ill-fated vessel and her crew were lost under very melancholy circumstances, from the refusal to go out of, the men who have charge of the lifeboat, which was stationed there about a year end a half ago at the instance and expense of the Duke of Northumberland, and embodies in its construction all the modern improvements introduced into the architecture of craft of that kind. Between two and three o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 7, the people discovered a vessel, with a flag of distress hoisted, driving towards the shore, to a point a little north of the place, and they immediately set about getting the lifeboat in readiness. They had considerable difficulty in procuring horses to convey her along the coast, and before they reached the spot where her services were required the vessel had stranded, and the sea was breaking over her mountains high. But a new and unexpected difficulty arose. The life-boat requires a crew of fourteen men, and though there were thrice that number of fishermen on the shore where she was, watching the motions of the ship in this perilous position, not more then fire of them could be induced to offer their services to man the boat - a force wholly inadequate for the occasion. The rest were so unnerved by the danger, or prevented by the woman, who implored them not to go to risk their lives, that they could not be prevailed upon to engage in the enterprise of mercy; and a full hour was spent in vain to inspirit the crowd by the Rev. Mr Smith, the curate, and Mr Grace, a resident. At length the life-boat put off to sea, manned by five men who had bravely engaged to go in the first instance, and five others who had volunteered, but who were mostly half-grown men, altogether unequal to the emergency, and after several ineffectual attempts to reach the ship, they gave up the enterprise in despair, anal the crew of the vessel were left to their fate. The ship struck on the beach about three o’clock in the afternoon, and for nearly two hours became the sport of the breakers, when she went to pieces, and all was over. Who captain was washed ashore in the course of the evening, and when found his body was still warm. Upon his person were found 25 sovereigns and five Norwegian notes of the value of £3 in English money, together with a letter written by a lady named Louise Hansen, of Christiana in terms of the fondest endearment, and addressed to Capt. Gustavus Kock, which was afterwards further identified as the captain’s name. He was a remarkably handsome man, about 26 years of age, and was buried on the 11th, in the churchyard of the neighbouring village of Woodhorn, in the presence of two of his countrymen, captains of ships now in the Tyne, one of whom had been his schoolfellow in Christiana, and Lloyd's local agent. - Another vessel called the Elizabeth Jane, of Ipswich, bound for a coal port, in ballast, also went on shore, at Newbiggin, but the crew saved themselves in their boat, and not much damage was done to the ship.


Blyth, April 15 - The Elizabeth and Jane, of Ipswich, which got on Newbiggin Rocks during the gale of January last, was got off this morning and brought into harbour, with keel damaged, &c.

The Newcastle Courant. Friday, April 21, 1854; Issue 9359

Newbiggin Lifeboat Station

The First 150 Years - The Book.
Newbiggin Lifeboat History Book Launched. After some nine years of research the comprehensive story of Newbiggin Lifeboat over the last 150 years is launched.
Priced at £6 the book is available from the lifeboat station with postal orders costing an extra £1.50 for post and packing.(Post orders to RICHARD MARTIN, 3 WINDSOR GARDENS, NEWBIGGIN-BY-THE-SEA, NORTHUMBERLAND,NE64 6UN) Richard J Martin

For more details
contact Richard Martin
01670 856241