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CPlay ShipwreckHistory PreparedByRoselynFauth 1


Here is some information about the ships that wrecked and were refloated on and near the coast of Timaru. Keep in mind that many of these were before the harbour was built and the sea was a lot closer to the cliffs.

Timaru was gaining a reputation as a ships graveyard...
From 1864 to 1892, 30 Ships were wrecked or stranded off Timaru coastline.
6 x Barques, 6 x Brigantines, 4 x Iron Ships, 3 x Ketches, 6 x Schooners, 2 x Steamers, 2 x Brigs and 1 x Steamship.

22 Wrecked
8 Refloated
100 Lives were saved by Timaru Volunteer Rocket Brigade
43 Lives saved by Alexandra Lifeboat Crews
15 People died

The harbourmaster kept a lookout during storms. They could give ship crews instructions by hoisting flags, and fire a signal gun to call for crews to race to the rescue. The safety and efficiency of handling cargo and passengers had to be improved. So the locals funded their own harbour. It was only one of two independently owned ports in the country. The Port provided huge opportunity to Timaru and South Canterbury. It also impacted the way sediment moved up the coast. From 1880s sand built out from these Caroline Bay cliffs and created a new sandy Caroline Bay.


Here is a summary of the shipwrecks, with details on when they occurred, why they wrecked, whether the ship was wrecked or refloated, and key cargo details:

1842 Lady Mary Pelham (French whaler) - Sept 2, all hands perished, carrying oil cargo, wrecked on Long Beach.

1864 Herald - Jan 16, beached due to fire, carrying bottled beer, some cargo lost.

1866 Prince Consort (schooner) - Dec 20, wrecked when anchors dragged in Timaru, carrying no key cargo.

1868 William Miskin (steamer) - Feb 4, wrecked going ashore at Timaru, one drowned, carrying miscellaneous cargo.

1868 Despatch (brigantine) - Jun 13, Captain died after being hit on head, carrying livestock.

1869 Collingwood (barque) - May 23, wrecked with 1225 sacks of wheat after anchors dragged.

1869 Susan Jane (barque) - May 23, wrecked in harbor after anchors dragged, carrying timber.

1870 Layard (brigantine) - June 8, wrecked when cables parted, carrying 252 tons of coal.

1870 Aurora (schooner) - Refloated, no key cargo.

1873 Fairy Queen (brigantine) - Aug 27, wrecked, carrying coal from Australia.

1873 Wanderer (ketch) - Aug 27, wrecked with 208 bags of wheat after cables parted.

1873 Lady of the Lake (steamer) - Sept, refloated after springing leak.

1873 Duke of Edinburgh (schooner) - Refloated after beaching, carrying 39,956 feet of timber.

1875 Cyrene (barque) - May 9, wrecked, carrying 8,000 railway sleepers.

1875 Princess Alice (brigantine) - May 9, wrecked after dragging anchors, carrying 800 sacks of wheat.

1877 Isabella Ridley (barque) - Apr 19, wrecked, 10 rescued, carrying 2000 sacks of grain.

1877 Craig Ellachie (brigantine) - Dec 22, wrecked after parting cables in gale.

1878 Lapwing (brigantine) - Refloated, minor casualty of knocked false keel.

1878 Melrose (barque) - Sept 3, wrecked with one death, carrying coal.

1878 Fanny (ketch) - Wrecked after grounding.

1878 Glimpse (ketch) - Refloated after parting anchor chain.

1879 Akbar (brigantine) - 5 drowned, carrying 350 tons of coal.

1879 Pelican (schooner) - Refloated, all landed safely.

1879 John Watson (schooner) - Nov 20, wrecked with 220 tons of coal after striking reef.

1881 Amaranth (schooner) - May 5, wrecked after fouling another ship, no lives lost.

1882 City of Cashmere (ship) - May 14, refloated from beach after tow line failed.

1882 Duke of Sutherland (barque) - May 2, sank at anchor with wheat cargo, no lives lost.

1882 Ben Venue (ship) - May 14, wrecked, no lives lost.

1882 City of Perth (ship) - May 14, refloated but 9 died during rescue attempts in large swells.

1886 Lyttelton (ship) - June 12, wrecked with cargo of frozen meat, wool and other goods after striking wreck.

1892 S.S. Elginshire (steamship) - Mar 9, grounded in fog carrying 550 tons of meat and wool.

CPlay Timaru Benvenue SeafearersMonument SofiaStreet 240630 


CPlay Timaru Benvenue SeafearersMonument SofiaStreet 240630 Plaques



  • 1882 the worst ship wreck year was when 4 ships were wrecked and 1 refloated.
  • City of Cashmere wrecked, Mills was blamed for not making enough effort to save the ship. 11 days before the Benvenue disaster he was reappointed to his former position.
    • On 14 May, 5 ships were lying in anchor.
    • Just a year after the first breakwater was completed.
    • Nine lives were lost when the Ben Venue (carrying coal) and the City of Perth (carrying 6000 sacks of grain valued at 10,000 pounds) both ran aground in heavy sea swells. All the ships’ cargo was lost in the disaster too, drastically damaging the local industry. The City of Perth was carrying over 5000 sacks of wheat, while the Ben Venue had over 500 tons of coal onboard.
      Four of the boatmen drowned, Neilson, Beach, MCDonald and Falgar.
      Captain Mills manned a landing service whale boat with a volunteer crew to reach city of Perth.
      Three boats were drifting and crew were struggling in the raging seas. Orders were given to use a life boat which had not been used for 13 years since 1869.
      Mills died an hour after being lifted from the lifeboat from exposure.
    • After the event ships anchored 1.5 miles from the shore
    • A few days later Mills had been accused of cowardice by the harbour board and dismissed him and advertised his position. The townsfolk wrote many letters and articles in the Timaru Herald with praise to Mills.


The wrecks at Timaru, New Zealand: Lifeboats rescuing sailors in heavy surf, one life boat named City of Perth. . Wood engraving by Ashton, Julian Rossi, 1851-1942 slv.vic.gov.au/permalink/f/1cl35st/SLV_ROSETTAIE670476


The Ben Venue Wreck After The Storm - John Gibb

After the storm (Timaru Beach 1882, showing the wreck of the ships Benvenue and City of Perth, 1883). John Gibb 1883. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, bequest of Mr Thomas Peacock Esq, 1922

TheWreckofthe Ben Venue and CityofPerth 14May1882 ArthurBradley PrimePort 230317

The large painting (about four feet in length) of the wreck of 'City of Perth' and 'Ben Venue' at Timaru hung for many years in the Farmers tearooms and now the painting is at the Port Company Offices, Timaru at Marine Parade. The plate below the painting read : The Wreck of the Ben Venue and City of Perth 14 th May 1882. Presented to The Port of Timaru Ltd. By Arthur Bradley. Last surviving son of Issac Bradley a member of the rescue crafts crew. Located at Prime Port - Photo by Roselyn Fauth.

The Benvenue was an iron full rigged ship of 999 tons. Built in 1867 by Messrs. Barclay, Curle and Company of Glasgow, she was wrecked at Caroline Bay, Timaru in May 1882

The Benvenue moored to a buoy 1880. The Benvenue was an iron full rigged ship of 999 tons. Built in 1867 by Messrs. Barclay, Curle and Company of Glasgow.  https://tiaki.natlib.govt.nz/#details=ecatalogue.195296


Benvenue CityOfPerth Wreck 83689

The Ben Venue (left) and City of Perth (right) ships in Caroline Bay. The Ben Venue was wrecked at Caroline Bay in May 1882. The city of Perth collided with the wreckage and also ran aground but was eventually refloated carrying over 5000 sacks of milling wheat from newly broken in farms of the area. Photographer J Dickie Courtesy South Canterbury Museum 2014/056.01


The wrecks at Timaru, New Zealand : the ships on shore.

The wrecks at Timaru, New Zealand : the ships on shore. - wood engraving by Cooke, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1836-1902  - June 17, 1882 - slv.vic.gov.au/permalink/f/1cl35st/SLV_ROSETTAIE737295


Booklet produced by the Timaru Herald covering the shipwrecks of the Benvenue and the City of Perth in 1882

The shipping disasters and loss of life at Timaru, which occurred on Sunday 14th May, 1882.. Aoraki Heritage Collection, accessed 21/05/2023, https://aorakiheritage.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/239


Conservation officer Mr Ashley Gualter at the city’s memorial for the wrecks of the Benvenue and the City of Perth.

Timaru streets are the sites of many famous wrecks Few people would think, walking into the Caroline Bay Hall, that in May 1869 a 183-tonne barque called the Susan Jane was wrecked there. Local conservation officer Mr Ashley Gualter recently compared records of where many vessels went down at Timaru to where land had been reclaimed. He plotted from information he had obtained from the South Can- terbury museum where each vessel originally sank or was grounded — although many of the wrecks broke up and were scattered. Between 1866 and 1886 what are now the Port of Timaru’s roadways had the unenviable record of having 28 wrecks or strandings.
Passing the South Canterbury Roller Skating Rink on the Port Loop Road, you are crossing over the site of the wreck of the Layard. On 8 June 1870 the 179-tonne brig ran aground there and was wrecked, while discharging its cargo of 257 tonnes of coal. Continuing along the Port Loop Road you cross the bows of where the 214 brig Fairy Queen ran aground in August 1873; the Wan- derer, a 32-tonne ketch which grounded on the same day; and the 237-tonne barque Isabella Ridley. The Isabella Ridley was dragged to the rocks by a strong surf on 19 April 1877.
The Rocket, Brigade had already assembled, and when the vessel beached a rocket was fired through its foresail, setting it alight. By Lindsay Mutch Staff Reporter Its crew of 10 landed safely, but during the night the chief officer and a seaman made an attempt to reach the wreck and save personal effects, but one of them drowned. The other was saved by the po- lice and later discharged with a caution. After passing the site where the Duke of Edinburgh was originally grounded with the Wanderer and the Fairy Queen but later refloated, you can move on to Hayes Street. On Hayes Street you pass over the site where the Prince Consort, a 36-tonne schooner was wrecked on 20 December 1866; and the 272- tonne brig Princess Alice ran ashore on 9 May 1875. Where the corner of Hayes Street. and Hayman Street is situated, the Cyrene was wrecked on the same day as the Princess Alice. The barque of 538 tonnes had been taking on water and ran itself aground about two hours after the Princess Alice.
Further down Haye Street is the site where the Lady of the Lake was grounded in 1873, but later refloated. Numerous other vessels were wrecked around Timaru — apart from the infamous tragedy of the City of Perth and the Benvenue on 14 May 1882. In 1886 the Lyttelton, an iron- hulled ship of 1111 tonnes, was be- ing towed out of the port by the steamer Grafton. However the tow line became entangled in the ship’s propeller and an anchor was dropped. When the tow resumed the ship holed its bottom with the anchor, and sank. It was the last vessel to sink at the port in the 20-year period. Since those years, between 1866 and 1886, the port’s record has im- proved considerably. Although the Elginshire ran aground at Norman- dy, south of Timaru, in 1892.
And in 1958 the Kaitoke ran aground, to be refloated later.
In 1959 the Holmglen sank about 35km east of Timaru, and on 12 November 1964 the 4670-tonne Treneglos was stranded on a reef off Jack’s Point. For four days the liner remained fast on the reef, until about 5000 bales of wool and several hundred tonnes of general cargo had been unloaded for transfer back to the port in boats — or jettisoned into the sea. When lifted, the vessel made its way to port for temporary répairs before being towed to Wellington. Mr Gualter said the study was one small historical aspect in the investigation of the department’s proposed marine reserve for the area.


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The Timaru Herald - Three Bradley brothers in 1882 wreck rescues - 12 May 1982

D E Drake, Three Bradley brothers in 1882 wreck rescues (12 May 1982). Aoraki Heritage Collection, accessed 05/07/2023, https://aorakiheritage.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/3660

Three Bradley brothers in 1882 wreck rescues D. EK. Drake It is not surprising that the dramatic events involving the wrecked Benvenue and the City of Perth in Caroline Bay on May 14, 1882, have been a talking point in the Bradley household over the years. On that fateful day annual reunion of sur- the cliffs alongside the perience of a shipwreck when nine gallant men lost. vivors. Benvenue. If I had known Was in 1873. When he was their lives in the port’s The reunions were dis- of the set as I do now, I only 18 years old, the little worst achipping uisebier, contin eda iS ouenl would never have left the pieamers ie eaeys e Hae Bradley brothers — abou 920 when ere ship.” 4ake, Was wrecked at the saac, Philip and Dan — were only eight or nine On-the journey back to Old landing service. at the ere solved in the Sever. Paes ee aa the shore, the Bradley life- Potton Cle eoree aoe al rescue attempts: which n May 14, 2, Isaac boat capsized. Isaac and n » When he was eo asblacs: oe peliand aspilp aradley were Philip were both rescued, OHNE a the one pilot rother-in-ld seorge among the first volunteers one of them by their Service, he schooner Sunaway, was also there. to crew a lifeboat which brother, Dan, who was a Amaranth got into dif- went out to the stricken member of the crew of the ficulties, and he had to row iT City of Perth, and Isaac, Alexandra, the port’s life- out to the ship, pick up the 5 then only 22 years of age, boat. master, and tow him back was the first man to go on For years afterwards, to shore. The Amaranth board the vessel. Later, he Isaac had plenty of op- later went ashore on Nine- said he was_ sent forward portunity to discuss the ty Mile Beach. by Captain McDonald events of 1882, He was for In 1882, there was the {master of the City of a long time. until his re- loss of the City of Wilfred, Florence, and Perth) to see if the bow an- irement in 1934, the Union Cashmere (January), the Rita (Mrs Pragnell), who chor had been carried Company’s marine super- Duke of Sutherland (May ailivesncbimnacn: away. intendent at the Port of 2) which was wrecked in cineronl vecurvivincarel’ In an interview with a Timaru, and often used to Caroline Bay in spite of ye oe youn iving Tela- vimaru Herald reporter in entertain the masters of nt attempts to save tive of Philip is his grand- Ldeldlaetint ie anna reaper ka her, and, of th son, Mr P. J. A. Bradley, !932, Isaac said it was then Visiting ships in his home. Ben SHC paecOUuse =the PISO OMTIMATUG: “" that a fatal mistake was | But the Rev. Ww. J. Benvenue and City of A vivid reminder of the Made. Brad eons, ise “Thi ee ees ory father dis i Bi ings or 2 scene in Caroline Bay 100 “Most of us thought the aes coun e. sipeln “Black” Sunday” Be May years ago is a fine oil pain- vessel was going ashore on “He used 14, 1882 — but Mr Bradle} ting in the home of Mr A. I Dashing Rocks,” he said. e later considered that his Biciia at 137 eon the a ip, ve pou time went on, but we were Worst personal experience The Saran of CoM ne ieee a ing over really just water rats’,” was with the wreck of the C..M. th , and it did not look Mr Bradley recalled. Elginshire, just south of Jones, once eescribed fas like an inviting place to go Isaac Bradley probably Timaru, in May, 1892. On an engineer aboard the . . . and we took to the had every reason to de- that occasion, he spent 24 be dranimg i chvsfe Sap” gina See, el a a ater Nurs nasal bat nie a z s at, for vas j 2 open sea. Benvenue close in to the shore, she got into a south- Sales eves: eS "'Tsaac Bradley died in Benvenue Cliffs and rolling erly set. and drifted into sailors. His first ex- 1936. He was 76. Isaac, who was almost legendary on the Tir waterfront through his 55 years’ service there, most of it with the old Union Steam Ship Company. is today survived by four of his large family — Arthur, to say ‘we were called heroes as the and the City of Perth . drifting stern-on to the cliffs. Amid the heavy, rolling seas are the life. boats which set out to try to rescue the City of Perth. According to notes pub- lished in The Timaru Her- ald 50 years ago, the paint- ing had been described as “most realistic’’. Mr Arthur Bradley, now 83, said he did not know how the painting came to be in the possession of his family, but ‘‘it was in our old home‘for as long as I can remember”’. And, perhaps, it was ap- propriate for the painting to be in the Isaac Bradley home for not only did he and his two brothers figure prominently in the rescues, but for a number of years afterward his Messrs Arthur (left) and Wilfred Bradley with the C. M. Jones oil painting of ships in trouble in home the venue for an Caroline Bay on May 14, 1882.

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