Coastguard Watch Vessels

 

Bradwell Waterside in 1857 showing customs/coastguard gunboat

In 1830 the Coastguard was formed by a merger of the Water Guard with the Customs .

The new body was to be controlled by the Royal Navy with the remit of preventing smuggling and dealing with shipwrecks by lifesaving and then protection from looters.

This continued until 1923 when the duties were once again separated and the Coastguard was solely responsible for life saving at sea, salvage of wrecks and the administration of the rules of the sea.

On its formation the Coastguard found the need for men in the many places that smugglers operated and in the coast of Essex, Kent, Sussex and Hampshire the many inlets proved especially difficult.

This was solved by the use of watch vessels as stationary observation points and bases at key locations and the use of cutters and patrol ships to back up their use. The Watch Vessels were normally ex Naval vessels that were in poor condition and not considered safe to sail although suitable for dismasting and locating in a mud berth in estuaries.

An example of the disposal of Watch Vessels was the London Gazette of 2 January 1866.

The Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland do hereby give notice that on Tuesday the 9th January next at two o'clock they will be ready to receive sealed tenders for the purchase of Her Majesty's Coast Guard Watch Vessel " RICHMOND" ( Brigantine), 240 tons ; lying at Stansgate Detachment (Blackwater Division); as she now lies with the stores mentioned in the inventory annexed to this catalogue available from the Inspecting Commander of the Coast Guard at Bradwell.

Eastern Essex was especially crucial as it was one of the favourite landing places to provide goods for the London market. These were landed in the many secluded quays and taken by horseback to urban Essex and London.

The list below shows the Watch Vessel Number, Location and names of ships used as Watch Vessels.

 

Watch Vessel No

Name of ships at station

Location

 1

Victorine

 Orford Haven

2

 -

 -

3

Blossom/Dolphin

Walton Gap

4

Frolic/Richmond

Stansgate, River Blackwater

( also refered to as watch vessel 21)

5

Chanticleer

River Crouch

6

 Ruswarp

River Crouch

7

Beagle

Paglesham, River Roach

8

Dove

Wakering Haven

9

Harpy

Gravesend- Egypt Bay

10

Swallow

Cliff Creek

11

Star

Gravesend

12

Clinker

Yantlett Creek

13

Elk/Raven/Emulous

Canvey - Haven Hole

14

 -

 -

15

 -

Mucking Creek

16

 -

 -

17

Royal George

Barking Creek

18

Arab/Shamrock

Queensborough/Sheppey

19

- 

-

20

Kangaroo

Burnham on Crouch

21

Eclipse/ Whitworth

West Mersea

22

 -

Kent -Isle of Grain Colemouth Creek

23

Philomel

Colemouth Creek

24

Cadmus

East Swale/ Faversham

25

Britomart

Beresford

26

Dart

Beresford

27

Havock

Castle Coote

28

Elk

Greenhithe

29

Pelican/Drake

Rye

30

Cygnet/Frolic

Chichester Harbour

31

Penguin

Cowes, IOW

32

Partridge

Hamble River

33

 -

-

34

 -

-

35

 -

-

36

Linnet

 -

37

Mastiff

Tilbury

38

 -

Branksea

39

 -

Moville

40

 -

East Cowes

41

Frolic/Lucifer

River Roach

HMS Beagle destined to become Watch Vessel 7

This list has been drawn from several sources that have revealed some confusion in the records of the time given that the  methods of recording locations in civil records differ from Naval that in turn differ from electoral records

 This is further complicated by the use of the same ship in several locations and the process of renaming some of the ships when they have been transferred in from the Navy or in one case the Post Office.

In view of these facts historians would be advised to use the table as a guide and research individual records in the Coastguard's records to be found at the National Archive at Kew.  

 

Essex Family History has a number of other pages about the of the Coastguard's relating to their history as well as their genealogy.

Click on the following link to see the available pages   

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