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Storms, and other hazards of the Bay

This dramatic picture of the sea wall area of St Peter’s Church was published on a poster for a talk on the care of historic buildings held in the church in October 2008. Other than that we are not aware of its source, It demonstrates the problem of defending the churchyard against storms to which Morecambe Bay is no stranger. The graveyard has been breached on more than one occasion; an eyewitness account of one is contained in this extract the The Heysham Peninsula published by Heysham Heritage. The ‘Navy Hymn’ by the Victorian poet William Whiting with the first verse :

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

will have been sung in St Peter’s many times. The tune is one of many by the prolific hymn tune writer Rev John Bacchus Dykes and is perhaps appropriately in the key of C.

Heysham has its own share of the effects of Morecambe Bay storms; elsewhere on this website the full details of the 1903 wreck of the  S V Vanadis off Heysham Harbour is recorded. The  Pot House in Heysham village bay succumbed to storm in the 1850s, was rebuilt but again the sea prevailed and it was demolished in the late 1960s.

Perhaps the most poignant tragedy for Heysham was the drowning of the   two teenage daughters of George Wright  at Heysham Lodge on the Head, bathing off the rocks virtually in sight of their house; they are buried in the churchyard. No doubt this was probably caused by that other ‘unseen’ hazard, tidal currents. This is of course not the original George Wright who had Heysham Lodge built about 1816 but a grandson and a professional (army) surgeon, M R C S.

If you have clicked the link to the hymn Eternal Father above you will already have seen the well known only seascape by Rembrandt pictured right  The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. The second verse of the hymn reflects the biblical narrative portrayed here. The picture was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts in March 1990 and its whereabouts are still unknown. It figured prominently in a BBC documentary ‘The World’s Moat Expensive Stolen Paintings’ in December  2013 (reshown January 2016).

The picture is also reminiscent of the worst Morecambe Bay (1894) tragedy in terms of loss of life, the capsizing of the yacht Matchless off Jenny Brown’s point in Silverdale. The full story is recorded in The Matchless Tragedy (2013) by Simon Williams available from the Heritage Centre and via our Publications list. Below is the illustration on the cover:

The Matchless was probably built with a shallow draft for its basic purpose of shrimping and therefore be more prone to capsize than other boats. It would most likely have started its journey from one of the several wooden jetties running from the beach into the sea as in the picture on the right.

Many lives were lost and two bodies were subsequently recovered near Heysham. The author records the details  here

The Matchless was a yacht used for shrimping in season and adapted for the new booming tourist trade in Morecambe in the late 19th century in this case to take visitors on a trip from Morecambe to Silverdale .

from Kath Gregson’s collection of archives

.This photograph is labelled on the reverse side as a ’Giant Post Card’ by Photocrom Ltd of Tunbridge Wells who used the Photocrom process under licence in the UK. This is a complex lithographic method of producing colour images from black and white originals invented in the late 19th century.