Earl of Abergavenny
In January, 1805, the Earl of Abergavenny sailed from
Gravesend on its fifth voyage, outward bound for China via Bengal.
The ship carried 30 cannons and was heavily laden with cargo valued
at £270,000. Copper, tin, lead, iron, cloth, hats, glass, saddles,
wines, Wedgwood china and £67,000 in silver dollars were to be
unloaded at Bengal, to be exchanged for Indian cotton which would be
sold to the Chinese.
The profits from the sale of the cargo to the Chinese would be
used to purchase tea, fabrics, porcelain and other oriental objects
much in demand by fashionable society in Europe, including Britain.
It was a highly profitable trade for the East India Company and the
captain and his fellow officers were allowed to do some private
trading on their own account. To ensure the system was not abused
everyone's cargo was clearly labelled. The initials on the cloth
seal stand for the United East India Company. The logo was widely
used by the Company to identify its property and was even used on
cannons. (Frustratingly it has not been possible to work out the
meaning of the figure '4'.)
The Earl of Abergavenny left Portsmouth on 1st February
1805. Two days into the voyage a strong south westerly gale made
headway difficult. On the 5th February the ship sought shelter in
Portland Harbour but ran aground on the Shambles, an underwater
shingle bank, due to the pilot's incompetence.
As the tide turned the Earl of Abergavenny re-floated and
Captain Wordsworth tried to head for Weymouth sands, but a massive
leak caused the ship to settle deeper into the water. The ship's
pumps were unable to cope with the sea water flooding into the