Ships Lost off Porthleven and Gunwalloe

As we approach the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic it reminded me of a photo a friend sent me a little while ago when we were talking at the school gates about diving on sunken ships. I knew many ships have foundered along the cost of Cornwall, but I was very surprised in the number of recorded ship lost along a few miles of coastline between Porthleven and Gunwalloe.

As you can see from the photo, the number, and type of ship lost is staggering. It does not say how many lives were lost, but I would imagine the figure is rather high, especially if the ship foundered in strong seas, and the ability of being able to swim was not common.

In the notes it says reporting before the 19th Century was patchy, and there is likely to be many more unrecorded and unmarked wrecks along this stretch of coast. It also make the point of the dramatic drop in ship losses post the introduction of screw propulsion in the late 19th Century.

It is still a fascinating piece of information





  • Pz01

    It’s my understanding that the high number of ships wrecked off Porthleven and eastern side of Mounts Bay came about due to sailing ships sheltering within Mounts Bay during South Westerly gales, many would lose their anchoring and then be driven across the Bay. Porthleven harbour, is relatively modern having only been completed in 1825, the harbour being designated a port of refuge, enabling ships being driven across the Bay, to attempt a safe refuge within the harbour. A lifeboat was also stationed in Porthleven in 1863.
    The number of wrecks also led to the development of “The Rocket Apparatus for Rescue at Sea” by Henry Trengrouse of Helston.

  • Mike Williams

    I live in Sweden, and have an interesting longcase clock made
    by John Bennett of Helston in about 1770. It has a high tide
    moon dial which shows the high tide at Ganwallow
    (now Gunwalloe). I would be interested to hear from
    any descendents of this clock maker.

  • Andrew Wallis

    Could you drop me an email please, and I will see what I can do!

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