Meeting at Teignmouth 2nd October 1999
The Society's autumn meeting was held at Teignmouth, a town with an interesting maritime heritage, Three aspects of which were covered by our speakers. Malcolm Rae (SWMHS member) talked about the life of Edward Pellew, Simon Burton talked about the wreck discovered off Teignmouth and Christopher Morgan Giles talked about his memories of Teignmouth and the shipyard founded by his father.
The talks were followed by a visit to the Teignmouth Museum. The Museum has recently taken out corporate membership of our Society and 15 Friends of the Museum joined us for the day to bring the total numbers attending to 80.
The first two talks were given in the Alice Cross Centre which is adjacent to St. James Parish Church (unusually constructed in the form of an octagon), and where the well known local marine artist Thomas Luny is buried.
Local Hero, Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth 1757- 1833.
Malcolm Rae gave us a well researched talk on the life of Edward Pellew, the local connection being that he lived in Teignmouth at Bitton House which now provides accommodation for the Town Council. Pellew later took the title of 'Exmouth' because there was already a Lord Teignmouth.
Our speaker took us on a voyage through Pellew's life, from Captain's servant to Vice Admiral of England. Malcolm certainly had the attention of his audience, his talk was put over with panache and the enthusiasm that comes with knowing his subject. A number of well chosen illustrations helped paint the picture.
It was a story which proved the man to be a resourceful seaman and a courageous and successful leader. He was a firm disciplinarian, but showed consideration in the well being of his crew. He had never been seriously wounded, and apart from Algiers he lost surprisingly few of his crew through enemy action. Malcolm quoted Admiral Codrington
"Men worked well for Nelson for fear of not pleasing him, Whilst working well for Pellew for fear of displeasing him."
With all this, the speaker concluded that although Pellew was one of the greatest sailors of his time, he felt his achievements had never been fully recognised, in that there was no public memorial to mark his contribution to the country. (Note The Teignmouth Museum has published a Monograph No.4 on Sir Edward Pellew 1st Viscount Exmouth by Malcolm Rae).
The Church Rock Wreck, Teignmouth
The next talk was by Simon Burton who discovered the Church Rock Wreck in July 1975 when he was a 13 year old schoolboy, and he has been closely in all subsequent activities relating to it.
Simon told us that his first find was a bronze 6 pounder Saker cannon, explaining how he recovered it from the seabed. The cannon which was highly decorated is 11½ feet long, weighs 1½tons, has 3¾ inch bore and was found to be loaded with a 6lb iron cannon ball, indicating that the ship was expecting action at the time it was wrecked. This gun is now on display in Pendennis Castle complete with its replica gun carriage.
The discovery of this gun aroused considerable local interest; Simon's father contacted the local Customs an Excise Office and the cannon was declared to be Crown Property. Advice was sought how to clean and preserve it.
To continue exploring the site Simon was trained to use scuba gear, but unfortunately nothing more was found for two years when he discovered some stone cannon balls which clearly did not fit the Saker. This indicated the possibility of other cannons on the site and continuing the search a second gun was found. This is a swivel gun with a bronze barrel, wrought iron breech and weighed 450lbs. The gun was loaded with a stone cannon ball. Over the period 1977-1982 three further identical swivel guns were found, all of which were highly decorated and in good condition.
Simon related most of the story of the subsequent finds. One of the most interesting being the gold seal which was later identified as being a merchant's seal. The site cannon have been identified as cast by S. Alberghetti in Venice about 1580.
The speculation still prevails. Was this wreck part of the Spanish Armada fleet? Was it an Italian merchantman commandeered by Spain? The quest to find the identity of the vessel goes on, as does Simon Burton's enthusiasm for the project.
Further information on the wreck may be found in the following publications:
Teignmouth Museum's Booklet on the Church Rock Wreck also,
The 16th Century Bronze Guns of Teignmouth-Ancient Maritime Town, published by Teignmouth Museum and Historical Society, 29 French St., Teignmouth.
Burton's Bounty by Viv Wilson, 1993.
The Church Rock Wreck, by Malcolm Rae, The Newsletter of the SWMHS, No.26 1993.
Lunch was taken at the Teign Corinthian Yacht Club with its splendid views over Lyme Bay. During the lunch break Vernon Masters (SWMHS member), the proprietor of the Quayside Bookshop in Teignmouth had arranged a display of maritime books in the Yacht Club, and Teignmouth Museum had produced a display of exhibits on the Morgan Giles Shipyard. These displays attracted considerable interest from our Members. A small raffle was held and a sum of £62 was raised and passed to the Yacht Club to swell the funds of the RNLI.
Morgan Giles Shipbuilding at Teignmouth
After lunch Christopher Morgan Giles gave us an interesting and amusing talk looking back on his memories of life in Shaldon and in the shipyard in the 1920's. Suffice to say, despite the large and excellent lunch, there was no nodding off. Christopher kept us on the edge of our seats with tales of his exploits with his dinghy, and trips in the family Bull-nosed Morris. There was also the occasion when at the age of 4 he asked the proprietor of Ashton's Garage to take him to Borstal in their Model T truck, a venture being cut short when his elder brother Morgan explained to Mr Ashton that he would take him home because his mother had often said Borstal was too good for him.
Christopher said he did not propose to talk about the history of Morgan Giles Shipyard, as there was the display and other information at the Museum .We had ample time before the AGM to find out more about the yard at Teignmouth Museum and indeed take a look at the Bronze cannon mentioned this morning.
The Story of the Morgan Giles Shipyard is recorded in Teignmouth Museum's Monograph No. 6, by G.K. Collyer.
Reported by Derek Kitch
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