North West Wales

Underwater footage of 1859 Royal Charter shipwreck

Underwater video footage of one of Wales' most notable shipwrecks will be shown for the first time next month.

The steam clipper Royal Charter was smashed on rocks off Moelfre, Anglesey, by a force 12 hurricane - with the loss of least 459 passengers and crew on 26 October 1859.

The ship was returning from Melbourne on its way to Liverpool, laden with gold.

Chester Grosvenor Museum will show the film on 25 October.

Diver Chris Holden, treasurer of the British Sub-Aqua Club's Chester branch, will show the film as part of a lecture to mark the 152nd anniversary of the maritime tragedy.

Mr Holden and his wife Lesley, of Higher Kinnerton, Flintshire, wrote a book about the shipwreck, called Life and Death on The Royal Charter.

'Maritime catastrophe'

Mary Tetley, chief executive of the British Sub-Aqua Club, said: "Chris and Lesley have done a phenomenal job in researching the story of the Royal Charter and the lecture will give us a new and fascinating insight into this maritime catastrophe."

Along with the unseen footage, it will be the first opportunity for many to see artefacts from the wreck, which include a small model of the vessel's newly invented lifting propeller system, recovered from the wreck site less than 12 months ago.

A bullet mould, one of the artefacts salvaged from the wreck

The 2,719 ton steel-hulled clipper employed auxiliary engines when there was no wind, and the new propeller system lifted out the water when she was under sail to prevent drag in the water.

Retired computer engineer Mr Holden, who has dived the wreck since 1982, has invited Raymond Agius - a descendant of one of the crew members - to the lecture.

Joseph Rogers had managed to swim ashore with a rope, helping to save lives.

The Royal Charter had been carrying 79,000 ounces of gold bullion, which was insured for £322,000.

The scene of the shipwreck, which 21 passengers and 18 crew survived, was even visited by novelist Charles Dickens.

"Since the book I have been contacted by a number of relatives of those who died," said Mr Holden.

"Two or three weeks ago I had an enquiry from a lady in Australia, all she knew was that her great-great grandfather had cut his two sons out of his will, for whatever reason, and then died in the disaster.

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