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The Earl of Abergavenny
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The Earl of Abergavenny

Yes. That's correct!

Lead cloth seal 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 holds.

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