Plaque will mark tragic HMS Lutine’s final journey from Great Yarmouth
A blue plaque is to be erected to mark Great Yarmouth's close links to the Lutine Bell, which rang in Lloyds of London every time a ship was lost at sea.
HMS Lutine's departure from the port in 1799 was the last she would ever make; striking sandbanks off the Frisian Islands off Holland, with the loss of 250 passengers and crew.
She was carrying a £1m cargo which included the Crown Jewels of the Prince of Orange. Today the cargo would be worth billions.
The plaque will be unveiled on Monday, March 21 at 11am on Maritime House on the seafront Marine Parade, the former Shipwrecked Sailors' Home and currently the Greater Yarmouth Tourism headquarters. The plaque is sponsored by Great Yarmouth Local History Society.
Before the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars letters and documents for the Continent went by 'mail packet' from Dover or Harwich.
However, with French ships patrolling the North Sea and the English Channel, following the capture of the Netherlands and the danger from privateers it was felt the English Channel was unsafe so Great Yarmouth was thought to be a safer port for valuable cargoes.
The Admiralty offered the services of one of their fast and well armed Frigates.
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In his Perlustrations of Great Yarmouth, C J Palmer wrote: 'In October 1799, the Lutine frigate of 32 guns, Capt Skinner sailed from Yarmouth Roads, having on board several passengers and bullion to the value of a million and a half for the supply of the British army; in addition to which were the crown jewels belonging to the Prince of Orange, which had been recently reset by those well known jewellers Rundell and Bridge.
'Bullion also was sent in her by private firms for the relief of mercantile houses at Hamburg, and a large cargo of merchandise, so that the ship and her contents were estimated at a total of value three million sterling.'
The La Lutine (The Sprite) was originally a French ship captured by the Royal Navy and was commissioned into Admiralty service in 1793 as HMS Lutine. The 44ft-long frigate had had a full refit in 1798 and was thought to be generally seaworthy.
During September, convoys of wagons left London under a military escort for Yarmouth where the valuable cargo was loaded onto the Lutine probably via the now demolished Jetty rather than the harbour.
There was a reception on board the Lutine attended by the great and good of Yarmouth but they were hurried off as it was felt a prompt departure was expedient.
At 3.10am the following morning during a north-north west gale, the Lutine struck a sandbank between the islands of Tershelling and Vlieland. There may have been just one survivor but this is not certain.
The sandbanks off the Frisian Islands were known as being notoriously unstable and only a small amount of the cargo was salvaged - most sank into the sands.
The bell of the Lutine however, was salvaged in 1859 and it now hangs on the Rostrum in Lloyds of London.