History of Lindal & Marton

A village community at the heart of Furness


Parish Council

The End of the Commerce

This article was researched and written by Peter Sandbach of Dalton, and published in May 2010.

Commerce was a 72 ton galliot built in Ulverston in 1815. The 64 shares were spread between 21 owners. They included Michael Knott of Thurstonville, John Machell esq of Penny Bridge, George Beecham, steward, a painter, a solicitor, farmers, yeomen, a tallow chandler, a blockmaker, merchants, a butcher and a widow. The architect, George Webster held two shares as executor to John Harrison and her master, Oliver Haydock had two shares.

The entries in the shipping registers end with this note: “On the 22nd March 1827 at Pile of Foudray this vessel was blown up with gunpowder. Found about 200 yds from the place where the accident happened, the certificate of registry was delivered on 27th inst”

The Shipwreck Index gives these details: “Ulverston, 24th March...Master Haddock, from hence to Liverpool, caught fire yesterday at Pill Foudray Harbour, near Rampside, and having 200 barrels of gunpowder on board, blew up, and was totally destroyed with the whole of her cargo. The explosion was felt as far away as Lancaster and Preston.”

A more detailed account comes from the Hull Packet and Weekly Commercial, 10th April 1827:


The Commerce, dogger from Lancaster to Liverpool with cottons and general articles and 400 half barrels of gunpowder when off Piel Castle, about 3pm on Friday week was discovered to be on fire, among the cottons, near to the gunpowder. From the situation of the fire, all attempts to overcome it being instantly seen to be fruitless, the boat was lowered, and the ship being scuttled, and the water admitted through the lower tier, the crew departed, being then about six miles from the shore: A strong southerly breeze prevailing, the ship warped round, and losing the direction of the helm, sailed before the wind for about two minutes. In a few seconds after she seemed lifted by her knees out of water, and blew up with a most terrific explosion. The boat was almost lifted out of the water and but for the circumstance of the ship being to windward, they must have perished. They made for shore, which was lined by hundreds who witnessed the accident, many of whom were seriously bruised from being dashed in the ground by the force of the concussion produced by the explosion. The vessel was blown almost to atoms, scarcely a vestige of her timbers or cargo being recovered. An anchor and part of a chain were blown over another vessel, to the distance of 200 Yds. About 20 or 30 vessels were lying not far distant, all of whom escaped without damage except one, which had her boat’s bottom broken by the falling timber. Happily no lives were lost, but the damage done to the houses at Piel Castle, Backborough and the immediate vicinity of the coast was very great; several are said to have been blown down. So dreadful was the concussion and the effects so extensive, that for a distance of 100 miles, it was supposed to be an earthquake. At Lancaster, 40 miles from the place, the windows clattered and the houses and furniture shook so much, that a number of persons reeled out onto the streets, and some made for the plains outside of the town, The windows of Brougham Hall, the residence of Mr Brougham, were shattered by it. Considerable damage was done at Kendal and Lowther Castle, at Milnthorpe, Bolton on the Sands, Poulton, etc, etc.

The three versions may differ on the date, the master’s name, the rig and the distance from land but there can be little doubt about the force of the explosion.

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