If, in the present day, a distinguished British Admiral, returning at the head of his fleet from foreign service, were to be ship-wrecked on English shores with the total loss of several of his ships and upwards of two thousand of his crews, the whole kingdom would be horror-struck at the accounts of the catastrophe with which the daily papers would be filled the next morning; scores of special correspondents would hunt up and report every detail, and in twenty-four hours the dreadful news would be telegraphed to every part of the civilised world. But in 1707, when Sir Cloudesley Shovell and his brave companions met with their sad fate on the rocks of the Scilly, there were no telegraphs, no special correspondents and, in the modern sense of the word anyway, no newspapers; the few news sheets which then existed, of which there are copies in the British Museum, contained, in a few lines several days afterwards, the barest possible announcements of the wrecks; no court-martial was held, probably because all those responsible for the catastrophe perished in it; and there were no inquests. Hence the only published accounts of the ship-wrecks which we possess are meager and contradictory, and we read them with the feeling that with all the information which they afford, the occurrence of such a lamentable accident and loss of life remains inexplicable.
Some additional and highly interesting particulars relating to the subject are contained in an old paper in my possession, written on the spot two years after the events, which I now venture for the first time to make public. It is in the hand-writing of Mr. Edmund Herbert, who was Deputy Paymaster General of the Marine Regiments for many years, and died in 1769. In 1709, being then 24 years of age and unemployed he was in London pushing his fortunes by the exertion of such family and other interest as he possessed, with the hope of obtaining some public appointment, when he was offered and accepted the conduct of some operations which were then set on foot for the recovery of property lost in the wreck of Sir Cloudsley Shovell's on the Scilly Islands, which had taken place two years before. Some accompanying correspondence shows that the search, which was continued for several months, was not successful. The circumstances of the great ship-wreck, however, still formed the topic of common conversation in the islands, and Mr. Herbert appears to have made these notes during his residence on St. Mary's Island, of such particulars as came to his knowledge. They are written closely on both sides of a sheet of foolscap paper, folded with a wide margin, in which the portions which I have placed in parentheses are written as marginal notes, in explanation or correction of the statements contained in the text.1
Extracts from letters concerning the wrecks:
Sr. C. Shovel cast away 8br 23, 2 being Wednesday, between 6 and 7 at night, (others say between 4 and 5, bet: night & day,) off Guilstone (south) by west, was found on shoar (at Porthellick Cove) in St. Marie's Island, stript of his shirt, wc by confession was known, by two women, wch shirt had his name at ye gusset at his waist; (where by order of Mr Harry Pennick was buried 4 yards off ye sands; which place I myself view'd & as was by his grave, came by sd woman yt first saw him after he was stript;) His ring was also lost from off his hand, wch however left ye impression on his finger, as also of a second. The Lady Shovel offered a considerable reward to anyone (who) should recover it for her, & in order thereto wrote Capt. Benedick, Dep. Governor & Commander in ch. of Islands of Scilly, (giving him a particular description thereof,) who used his utmost diligence both by fair and foul means, though could not hear of it. Sr Cloud. had on him a pr of thread stockings and a thread waistcoat. (Others say a flannel waistcoat and a pair of drawers.) Mr Child 3 (Mr Paxton) Purser of ye Arundel caused him to be taken up and knew him to be Sr Cloudesley by a certain black mold under his left ear, as also by the first joynt of one of his forefingers being broken inwards formerly by playing at Tables; the sd joynt of his finger was also small and taper, as well as standing somewhat inwards; (he had likewise a shot in his right arm, another in his left thigh.) Moreover he was well satisfied 'twas him, for he was as fresh when his face was washt as if only asleep; his nose likewise bled as tho' alive, wch Mr Child (Paxton) said was bec. of himself, for Sr C. had preferred him to Purser of Arundel and was his particular friend. They carried him to Mrs Bant's in ye island, & had on shoar sevrll Doctors of ye ships of ye fleet, but none could embalm or embowll him; (neither did any of ye fleet take much notice of him, but as Mr Paxton was carrying him on board ye Arundel, Capt. _ _ _ 4 Commander of ye Salisbury ordered him on board his ship;) wherefore they put him on board ye Salisbury on a bare table, (the table was Mrs Bant's,) and a sheet only to cover him; the table they kept but the sheet was sent on shoar; and on board the Salisb. They carried him to Plimo where he was embalmed, and afterwards conveyed him to London by land carriage. (Sir Cloudesley was the first man came on shoar, saving one, of the almost 1800 lost in the wreck. His Commission was brought on shoar by one _ _ _, and his chest wch was by him taken up floating.) Many that saw him sd his head was the largest that ever they had seen, and not at all swell'd with the waters, neither had he any bruise or fear about him, save only a small scratch above one of his eyes like that of a pin. Was a very lusty, comely man, and very fat.
Capt. Loads, 5 Commander of ye Association, (Sir Cloudesley's Captain as Admiral, but Capt. Whitacre was Captain of ye ship) wch Sr C. was on board of wn cast away, was also taken up on St. Marie's Island, (In ye same cove near Sr C.) and buried in Old Town Ch. whose burial 'twas reported cost £90, but Mr Withe who was manager of it says ½ that sum. (This Mr Withe rais'd a report that Mr Pennick buried Sr C. before cold, but had sd gent. liv'd 'twould have cost him dear, but himself had misfortn to be cast away, A.D. 170_.) Mr James Narborough 6, (others say John Narborough) and the Ld Bishop Trelawney's son, was likewise buried in sd Church very honourably. Sr C. had a naked small greyhound cast on shoar in ye same cove with, and not far distant, (as about a bow shot,) from him, with a collar of his name & c. round it's neck. (There came on shoar in or very near ye same cove the stern of Sr C.'s barge, wch gives ground to believe he had time to get in it with some of his crew, tho' most people are not of that mind; Captain Loads, Sr John and Mr James Narborough, also the Bishop Trelawney's son, being all cast on shoar on St Marie's Island, give further matter of credit.) The Association, 2nd rate, 7 the Rumney _ _ rate 8 and the Eagle _ _ rate, 9 were all cast away on sd rock, & but one soul sav'd from off the rock, called _ _ 10 who was Quarter Mr of ye Rumney, a North country-man near Hull, a butcher by trade, a lusty fat man but much batter'd with ye rocks. (Most of ye Captains, Lieutenants, Doctors &c. of ye squadron came on shoar and ask'd him many questions in relation to ye wreck, but not one man took pity on him, either to dress or order to be dress'd his bruises &c., wherefore had perished had not Mr Ekins, a Gentn of ye Island, charitably taken him in; and a doctor of a merchant ship than in ye road under convoy of Southampton &c. search'd his wounds and applied proper remedies.) At ye time this horrible accident happen'd there was in Scilly ye Welsh Fleet 11 with _ _ _ men of war, viz. the Southampton, _ _ _, _ _ _, _ _ _, whose boats were early out ye next morning in quest of ye flotsam goods, very much whereof were by them taken up; they matter'd not the wines, brandys &c. at ye first, but let 'em swim by their boats, and pursued wt they had hopes were richer, so yt most of ye casks stav'd, and ye liquors were lost in ye ocean. The squadron consisted of 20 men of war and 2 fireships, and had with them also one prize. About one or two aft. noon on the 23rd (22nd) Octr Sir C. call'd a council & examd ye Masters wt lat. they were in; all agreed to be in that of Ushant 12 on ye coast of France, except Sr W. Jumpers Mr of ye Lenox, who believ'd 'em to be nearer Scilly, & yt in 3 hours should be up in sight of, (wch unfortunately happen'd) but Sr Cloud. listened not to a single person whose opinion was contrary to ye whole fleet. (They then alter'd their opinion and thought 'emselves to be on ye coast of France, but a lad on board ye _ _ said the light they made was Scilly light, tho' all the ships crew swore at & gave him ill language for it; howbeit he continu'd in his assertion, and wt they made to be a saile and a ship's lanthorn prov'd to be a rock and ye Light aforementioned, wch rock ye lad call'd ye Great Smith, of ye truth of which at day-break they was all convinced.) [Can you imagine the horror? Here is Jack's nightmarish lee shore.] Whereupon despatched ye Lenox 13 & _ _ _, _ _ _, for Falmouth wch ships were drove between ye rocks to Broad Sound where they came to an anchor abt 2 in ye morning of the 24th (23rd) after ye wreck had happened, tho' to those ships as yet unknown; about daybreak they weighed and sail'd for Falmo' as ordered, with news of a wreck on ye Scilly rocks, but knew not wt sail were lost. After ye departure of ye ships from ye Fleet, according as Sr W's Mr had believed they were indeed engaged with ye rocks; the weather than being stormy, they could not see ye light on St Agnes; not yet knowing where they were they fir'd _ _ _, soon after wch they struck on ye Ledge _ _ _, and bilg'd; the Rumney also struck immediately and stav'd on the Guilstone. The Eagle was lost on ye Gunnar or thereabouts, by wt of ye wreck floated to St Just and other places at ye Land's End & up ye North Channel.
(End of Mr. Herbert's notes).
Mr. Herbert's notes supply many interesting facts connected with the wrecks, the finding and burial of Sir Cloudesley's body, and the loss of the rings, one of which was afterwards so strangely recovered. They also corroborate and explain many circumstances which we find recorded elsewhere, and they incidentally shew that several existing statements are without foundation. We are also now informed for the first time of the council of sailing masters called by the Admiral on the fatal 22nd, and the extraordinary ignorance of their real position which it discloses.
I am favoured with some valuable and hitherto unpublished information concerning this terrible disaster by the Hon. Robert Marsham, a lineal descendant from Sir Cloudesley Shovell, who has made an extensive collection of extracts from and copies of documents in the Public Record Office, British Museum, and elsewhere, printed books, private letters, and family papers, relative to the birth, life, services, and unhappy fate of his illustrious ancestor; these he has most obligingly permitted me to make use of, for the purpose of the present paper. By collating and comparing the various statements touching the wreck which these papers contain, together with the additional light thrown upon the subject by Mr. Herbert's notes, we are, I think, enabled to arrive at a clear understanding of the tragical occurrence; and have endeavoured to construct what I hope will be found to be a consistent and intelligible narrative of all the events which attended it.
In 1707, the English nation being engaged in what is usually called the War of the Spanish Succession, Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Rea-Admiral of Great Britain, was the Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the fleet in the Mediterranean, and as such took part in the siege of Toulon, which was the last operation undertaken that season. The attack was unsuccessful, the French having mustered in great numbers and defeated the land forces, but the fleet did good service, bombarded and nearly destroyed the town, and burnt eight of the enemy's ships of war then in the harbour. Soon afterwards Sir Cloudesley leaving a squadron of thirteen ships for necessary service during the winter, under Sir Thomas Dilkes 14 prepared to return home with the rest of the fleet, which consisted of fifteen line of battle ships, five of lesser rank and one yacht, viz: 15
On board the Association with the Admiral were Sir John Narborough, Bart., and his brother James, Lady Shovell's sons by her first husband, Admiral Sir John Narborough; Henry Trelawney, second son of the Bishop of Winchester, and several other young gentlemen of good families 16; the captain, Edmund Loades, also was Lady Shovell's nephew, being the son of her first husband's sister 17. The fleet sailed from Gibraltar about the 10th of October, and doubtless indulging in pleasant anticipations of a safe and speedy return to England, they passed the straits and entered the ocean on their homeward course. The Log-books and Journals of the fleet which remain afford very little information about the voyage. The weather at that late period of the year was hazy and stormy, and got worse as they approached more northern latitudes. On the 21st of October the Admiral made an observation, probably the first he had been able to take for many days. The next day, having soundings at 90 fathoms, he brought to and layby about 12 o'clock 18 and summoned all the sailing-masters of the various ships on board the Association, and consulted them as to the fleet's actual position 19. All were of the opinion that they were in the latitude of Ushant and near the coast of France, except the master of Sir William Jumper's ship the Lenox, who judged they were nearer Scilly, and that three hours sail would bring them in sight of the Scilly lights. Sir Cloudesley unfortunately adopted the prevalent opinion. He then detached the Lenox, La Valeur, and Phoenix for Falmouth, with orders to take under convoy the merchant vessels waiting there bound eastward 20. These ships, following a north-easterly course as had been determined on, soon found themselves amongst the myriad rocks and islets which lie to the S.W. of the Scilly groups, where the Phoenix sustained so much damage that her captain and crew only saved the ship and themselves by running her ashore on the sands between Tresco and St. Martin's islands 21. The Lenox and La Valeur were fortunately able to beat through to Broad Sound, an anchorage to the west of the principal islands, where they remained until day-break the next morning; they then sailed for Falmouth and arrived there on the 25th, bringing news of wrecks at Scilly, but little knowing or suspecting what vessels were lost 22.
After the Lenox and her companion ships had departed, the Admiral gave the signal for sailing to the rest of the fleet about six o'clock. It had been customary for two or three light frigates to precede the fleet, and this office had hitherto been performed by the vessels which had been sent to Falmouth 23. The Admiral's ship, the Association, therefore now led the van, closely followed by the St. George, Eagle, Rumney, Royal Ann, Torbay, Monmouth, and the others, steering toward the N.E. in the full belief that they had the English Channel open before them. The night was dark, and the wind had increased to a gale with squalls and rain. What passed on board the Association, Eagle, and Rumney, can never now be known. That which befell the others can best be told in a few words from some of the log-books which remain 24.
Oct 23rd. Hard gales, with hazy weather and rain. At 6 the Genll[?] made the signal to wear, wc we repeated; at 7 the Monmouth made the signal of danger; at ½ past 7 on our weather bow we unexpectedly see ye breakers on the Bishop and Clarks; we immediately wore and made the sigll of danger, wch was very imminent, in wch we had infallible demonstrations of Almighty Providence, first our wearing sooner than usual with main and fore-course, 2ndly when we judg'd ourselves inevitable on ye rocks, yet preserved from ye mighty danger; at 9 ye lights of Scilly bore E. by S. ½ S., about 3 miles; we then steered between ye Wt and ye N.W. till 7 this morning. At 9 sounded and had 60 fathom water, then told 11 sail that followed us; God preserve the rest!
Oct 23. At ½ past 7 we heard several guns fired, and at 8 we discovered ye breakers off from ye island of Silley, we wore ship and stood to ye westward; ye lighthouse of Silley bore E.S.E. ½ S., distt 6 miles at 7 in ye morning. Tackt and stood to ye S. at 9. Counted 6 sail. Admiral Shovell supposed to be lost.
Oct. 22. At ½ past 5 ye signall was made to make sail, wch we did, & endeavoring to get ye flag's light ahead of us we discovered a rock to leeward of us; we immediately wore ship and got clear of it, & in wearing I discovered ye light of Silley bearing E. by Ndly, so I made ye signal of Danger and repeated it several times, so yt it might be taken notice of, and made wt saile I could to the westward, wch was only wth my courses.
Oct. 23. At 6 Sir Cloudesley Shovel made ye signal to wear, at the same time we all made saile, hauling up E. by S., E.S.E. and S.E. At ½ past 7 fell in with ye islands of Scilly; the Genll fired one gun, as we plainly saw, and immediately lost sight of him; then Rear Admiral Noris fired four guns, hoisted several lights and wore, and put all his lights out, at ye same time made the light on St Mary's under our lee bow. At 7 a.m. (on 23rd) saw seaven saile wch I judg'd to be some of ye separated fleet.
Oct 23. This 24 hours had gales of wind until 10 at night, (of
the 22nd) then the wether somewhat
moderate. At four in ye
afternoon (of the 22nd) ye Admiral brought to and sounded; we likewise sounded
& had between 50 and 55 fathom water, a course sand intermixt with
shells. We lay by till 6 foll. (following) at which time we heard
several guns fir'd to ye Soward of us, supposing they had discovered danger;
at 8 at night saw ye light of Scilly bearing S.E. by S. distt per judgment 4
miles. We took it to be one of our Admiral's lights; we steered after it till
we perceaved it to be a fixed light, it being very thick dark rainey wether,
we perceived ye rocks on both sides of us; we being very near to them we
immediately wore our yacht and layed our head to ye westward, crowding all ye
sail we could to weather ye rocks under our lee; we filled full and full,
& by God's mercy we got clear of them all, for wch deliverance God's holy
name be blest and praised, wch caused a great separation of the fleet, for
happy was he that could shift for himself, some steering with their heads to
ye Soward, and others to ye Northward, and those that lay with their heads to
ye Soward, were most of them lost. In ye morning we saw 5 sail besides
ourselves, wch stood to ye westward as we did, the Torbay, Sir John Norris,
the St George, my lord Dursley, the Monmouth, Captain Baker, the Griffin
fireship, Captain Holding, the Weasel, Captain Gunman.
Wensday Oct. 22. Thick weather with small rain. At 8 we saw the westernmost of the islands of Scilly, bearing N. At ½ hour after 8, we lost sight of our Admiral's light at once, and saw Silly light bearing N.N.E. 3 miles. Then ye Royal Ann who was ½ mile leeward of us, extinguisht her lights and did not light them again; in an hour we heard and saw a great many guns fir'd in several places, wch we supposed to be from ships in danger.
Satterday 25th. At 8 o'clock we came up with ye Royal Ann, ye Orford and a fireship. Our Captain went on board Sir George Byng, who gave them an account of Sir Cloudesley being lost on Scilly last Wensday night and that ye Royal Ann hardly escaped.
[End of Journal Extracts]
At this time there was a large fleet of coasting vessels in Scilly bound eastward, under the convoy of the Southampton, Arundel and Lizard, and the Salisbury, Antelope, and some other cruisers, had put in there on the afternoon of the 22nd 25. In the evening those ships heard and saw in the darkness the signals of distress, but it was impossible for them to render any assistance. Early the next morning great quantities of wreckage drifted in, and the wind having moderated, the boats of the Southampton and the Salisbury went out to see what they could save, and rendered some assistance to the unfortunate Phoenix which was lying half full of water in a narrow rocky sound near New Grimsby 26.
The pinnace of the Southampton having taken up a floating paper directed to a seaman on board the Association gave them the first suspicion of what had happened 27, but they soon became acquainted with the whole of the awful occurrences of the night just passed. The Association, the Eagle, and the Rumney had been totally lost, with every soul on board save one 28. The Firebrand had struck and foundered, but her captain and seventeen men had been saved in a boat, and five more of her crew had got ashore on pieces of wreck 29. The Royal Ann was saved by the presence of mind of her officers and crew, who set her topsails on the instant and managed to weather the rocks when within a ship's length of them 30. The St. George actually struck on the same ledge with the Admiral's ship, but the next wave, which beat out the Association's lights, lifted the St. George over the reef into deep water 31. The Journals of many of the other vessels shew that their escape was little less than miraculous. The rest of the fleet were fortunately enabled to extricate themselves from the dangerous neighbourhood of rocks, and reached Portsmouth on the 25th October 32.
The Association, 96 guns, is stated to have 900 souls on board all told; 33 the Eagle, 70 guns, and the Rumney, 50 guns, must have had at least an equal number; so that, including those who perished in the Firebrand, the total number of lives lost could not have been less than two thousand!
The unfortunate Admiral's body was one of the first cast up by the waves early the next morning. It was found in a little sandy cove called Porthellick Bay, in St. Mary's island, and near the same place the bodies of Sir John Narborough and his brother, young Trelawney, and Captain Loades, came on shore soon afterwards; also a small Italian greyhound which had been a pet of the Admiral's 34. As the stern of Sir Cloudesley's barge was thrown on shore in the same place, it was conjectured that he and his companions had endeavored to save themselves in the barge when the Association struck 35. Those who first found Sir Cloudesley's body stripped it of his shirt and took two rings from the dead fingers, on which, however, they had left their mark. One of these rings was a fine emerald set with diamonds, which is said to have been given to the Admiral by his intimate friend and comrade, James Lord Dursley, who so nearly shared his fate on the St. George 36. Strict enquiries were immediately set on foot for the ring by Captain Benedick the Governor of Scilly, at the instance of Lady Shovell who offered a large reward, and made the most strenuous exertions to trace and recover it, but to no purpose. Many years afterward a terrible confession was made by a dying woman to a clergyman on St. Mary's island; 37 she said the Admiral had been cast ashore exhausted and faint but still living, and that she had murdered him for the sake of the valuables about him! She produced the long missing emerald ring, and gave it to the minister, saying that she had been afraid to sell it lest it should lead to a discovery of her guilt, adding that she could not die in peace until she had made a full confession 38. The ring was given to Sir Cloudesley's intimate friend and comrade Lord Dursley. who became Earl of Berkeley in 1710, from whom it descended to his grandson Sir George Cranfield Berkeley, himself a distinguished naval officer, and in the possession of one of his descendants it still remains, having, however, unfortunately been converted into a locket. A contemporary account in the Postboy newspaper of Nov 1-4, 1707, which was subsequently copied in Campbell's Lives of the Admirals and some other publications, represents the 'country-fellows' who found the body and stripped it and buried it, as quarreling about this ring, and thus leading to the discovery of the corpse. The ring had, however, been effectually secreted, and the knowledge of its loss was doubtless derived from the enquiries set on foot by Lady Shovell. The corpse, according to Mr. Herbert's notes, had been temporarily buried in the sandy beach by order of Mr. Harry Pennick, who appears to have been a person of some repute and position on the island; it's discovery and recognition were due to Mr. Paxton, the purser of the Arundel, who owed his promotion to the deceased admiral, and whose friendship for him led him to make the enquiries which resulted in it's [the body] recovery. The body was conveyed to Plymouth on board the Salisbury. and there embalmed; from thence it was taken to London, and received a splendid State funeral at the Queen's expense in Westminster Abbey.
The spot on the shingly beach of Porthellick Cove, which was the temporary resting place of the body of the unfortunate Admiral, is still pointed out, and has been made the subject of a ridiculous legend from the circumstances that grass does not grow upon it. The story is to the effect that on the fatal 22nd a sailor on board the Association ventured to express an opinion, contrary, as we have seen, to that of the majority, that the fleet was very near the Scilly Isles, and not, as was supposed, off the coast of France, and was hanged at the yard-arm by order of the Admiral for his insubordination and freedom of speech 39. This tyrannical and barbarous act, the Islanders say, brought a curse upon it's author, which speedily resulted in his own shipwreck and death and the extinction of his name, in consequence of which grass refuses to grow even upon his temporary grave! If this silly tale does not bear upon it's face it's own refutation, it will be sufficient to point out that no knowledge of any such incident existed upon the island two years afterwards, or it would have been duly noted in Mr. Herbert's paper 40. Another wholly gratuitous supposition is that the crews of many, if not all, of the ships, were drunk on the fatal evening, and thus caused or contributed to the catastrophe; there is absolutely no evidence whatever to support such a statement, and the disaster is quite sufficiently accounted for by the error in reckoning, and consequent mistake in their position, occasioned probably by the continuance of thick hazy and tempestuous weather.
It is not within my purpose to enter into the difficult questions as to the birth, parentage, or family of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, but a few words on his remarkable career, so sadly and prematurely closed, may perhaps appear to be not uncalled for 41. He was a native of Norfolk, and of humble birth as compared with high position to which he ultimately rose. That he was of such lowly origin as to have been apprenticed to a shoemaker, may be doubted, and is probably an exaggeration; other accounts say that he was of a family of yeoman or small freeholders; the subject may, however, be very fitly investigated by the local antiquaries and genealogists of his native county, of which he is one of the worthiest ornaments. He is stated to have begun his sea life as a cabin-boy under the Admirals Sir Christopher Minns and Sir John Naborough [the elder], but he can hardly have served in that capacity under the latter officer, who was only ten years his senior, and whose widow he afterwards married. He very early distinguished himself by his bravery, spirited conduct, and coolness under difficult circumstances, and his promotion in his profession was rapid. His first commission, as Captain of H.M.S. Edgar, is dated March 30, 1689, and he was knighted and made Rear-Admiral the following year, when he was forty years of age. He took an active part in all the principal naval operations of the period from the latter years of Charles II to those of Queen Anne, by whom, as well as by King William III, he was especially honoured and trusted. He represented the city of Rochester in Parliament from 1695 to 1701, and again from 1705 to the time of his death. By his wife, who was the widow of his early patron Sir John Narborough, he left two daughters, of whom the elder, Elizabeth, married 1st, in 1708, Sir Robert Marsham, Bart, (who was created Baron Romney in 1716,) and 2nd, John, Lord Carmichael, afterwards Earl of Hyndford. The younger daughter, Anne, married in 1718 the Hon. Robert Mansel, and subsequently John Blackwood, Esq. In both branches the illustrious Admiral is represented by a numerous and honourable posterity.
From an article entitled 'Sir Cloudesly Shovell', by S. R. Pattison — two letters by Joseph Addison, then Under Secretary of State, one dated 28.10.1707 to Lord Manchester and another dated 31.10.1707 to Mr. Cole. These were originally printed in 'Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne', edited from the papers at Kimbolton by the Duke of Manchester. Volume II, p. 259.
'...On Sunday morning, an express came from Admiral Byng with news that the great fleet returning from the Straits and being near the Isles of Scilly, Sir Cloudesley Shovell's ship (the Association) struck on a rock. Admiral Byng passed by him within two cables' length of him, and heard one of his guns go off as a signal of distress, but the sea ran so very high that it was impossible to send him any succour. Sir George Byng adds that, looking after him about a minute after the firing of the gun, he saw no lights appear and therefore fears he sunk. Two other great ships are missing. Sir Cloudesley had on board with him two of his wife's sons by Sir John Narborough, a son of the Bishop of Winchester, another of Admiral Ailmer, and several other gentlemen. We are still willing to hope that he may have escaped in his long boat or be thrown upon the islands; but it is now three days since we had our first intelligence. It was about eight o'clock at night when Sir George Byng saw him in his distress...'
Cock Pit, 31.10.1707
'Yesterday we had news that the body of Sir Cloudesley Shovell was found on the coast of Cornwall. The fishermen, who were searching among the rocks, took a tin box out of the pocket of one of the carcasses that was floating and found in it the commission of an Admiral; upon which, examining the body more closely, they found it was poor Sir Cloudesley. You may guess the condition of his unhappy wife, who lost in the same ship as her husband, her two only sons by Sir John Narborough. We begin to despair of the two other men-of-war and fireship, that engaged amongst the same rocks, having yet received no news of them.'
From an article entitled 'Sir Cloudesley Shovell' by T. Quiller Couch — a letter which has been printed before in the Transaction of the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society.
Addressed to Sir Jonathan Trelawney, Bishop of Winchester.
Your Lordship's commands having been signified to my Brother at Scilly, he immediately made the strictest enquiry that was possible, all the bodies that had been thrown ashore and buried and being told of one buried at Agnes about Mr. Trelawney's age, was resolved to have him taken up in order to view him, whether it was he or no. He had seen the young gentleman at Torbay, but not willing to depend on his own judgment desired the Captain of the Phenix fireship that was stranded there who knew Mr. Trelawney intimately well all the voyage to go with him. As soon as they had the body up, they found it actually to be the same, tho somewhat altered having been buried 11 days, and in the water 4, however the captain presently knew him and my brother took care to have the body brought over to St. Mary's and interred it in the chancel of the church there, the 8th instant with all the marks of respect and honour, the island could show on such an occasion. Some Captains and the best of the inhabitants being present at the funeral, my Brother took of his hair being cut and that so very close that the left lock was not left to send over, and there is no room to doubt that twas the body of poor Mr. Henry Trelawney. It has not been his good luck as yet to meet with anything belonging to him but whatever of that nature happens to come to his hand or knowledge your Lordship will be sure to have a faithful account of it. They can say nothing in particular touching Sir Cloudesley's loss, only the man saved out of the Rumney tells that Sir Cloudesley was to the windward of all the ships and fired three guns when he struck, and immediately went down, as the Rumney a little after he did. Upon hearing the guns, the rest of the fleet, that were directly bearing on the same rocks changed their course and stood more to the Southward or else in all probability they had run the same fate, as never enough to be admired; how twas possible men of so much experience could be mistaken in their reckoning after they had the advantage of a great deal of fair weather before hand and no bad weather when they were lost. There is a great quantity of timber all round the islands and abundance of sails and rigging just about the place where the ships sunk, and a mast, one end a little above water which makes them conclude an entire ship to be foundered there because all the force they can procure is not able to move the mast. The Eagle is most certainly lost too and I wish no other of the Squadron may be wanting, besides those, tho I'm heartily sorry for the loss poor England has sustained of so many men and in a most particular manner for the share your Lordship has in it.
Mr. Quish by some means or other may convey this letter to your Lordship's hands before you come to Chelsea for which reason I have inclosed to him and am with all possible duty and my hearty wishes for the happiness of your Honourable Family, my Lord.
Your Lordship's most faithful and obedient servant, John Ben'.