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Loss of the "Henbury" by Fire

New Zealand Bound

Otago Witness Saturday August 27, 1859 page 2

Arrived Port Chalmers August 20. The Henbury, from London at 6 p.m.

    We regret to record the total destruction by fire of the "Henbury," from London within a few hours after her arrival in Otago. The origin of the fire is a mystery.
    The "Henbury", 473 tons, Capt. Robinson, left Gravesend [St Katherine's Docks] on the 23rd April with 10 cabin and 9 steerage passengers, and a cargo of general merchandise, the value of which is estimated at from �15,000 to �20,000.  She sighted the southern part of New Zealand on the 15 inst., but owning to the light and contrary winds which she had off the coast she did not reach the Heads until Friday 19th. Not seeing the light she had gone several miles north of the entrance of the port, and on making for the Heads she touched her stern on a reef some two -three miles off Waikouaiti bay, but fortunately without any damage.  The pilot shortly after proceeded on board, and anchored her safely at Port Chalmers on the evening of Saturday last.  Nothing particular occurred during the voyage, the length of which is attributable to unfavourable winds. The vessel having been safely anchored, the captain, along with seven or eight passengers proceeded in the Victoria steamer on the same evening to Dunedin, where he remained over Sunday, with the view of entering his ship at the Customs early on Monday morning. 
    It appears that during the absence of the captain the crew had obtained a quantity of grog, in which they indulged to a great excess, so much so that under its influence some sever blows were exchanged amongst the crew, and their conduct altogether on the Sunday was so extremely disgraceful as to compel the passengers who were on board to seek refuge some on board the Avondale, some on shore, to avoid the scene which had been originated by drink.  On the morning, about 3 o'clock, the chief mate, who was sleeping below in the after part of the vessel, was aroused by a strong smell of fire, and immediately discovered that the sails and stores in the sail room were on fire, to extinguish which every effort was made; but the devouring element had acquired too strong a hold, and in a short time the entire part of the ship was a mass of fire, the only possible means scuttle the vessel, which was accordingly done, but unfortunately not effectively; we presume with the object to avoiding sinking her in deep water, she was allowed to drift ashore, and having run far in, she could not be sunk deep enough, her stern having grounded, preventing that part from sinking.  The fire continued to rage below deck with such fury as to allow no effective means being taken to save any part of the cargo.  About 10 o'clock in the afternoon the flames burst forth, and quickly completed the work of destruction.
     The "Henbury", a Willis and Co. clipper, now lies on the beach at Port Chalmers a perfect wreck; the whole of her after part, as far as the main-mast, with cargo in the fore-hatch, if not of perishable nature, and not liable to be destroyed by water, may be saved; but we fear she and her cargo -which latter was mostly destined for this Port - will be a total loss.  Fortunately, she was not one of our Government immigrant ships, and the number of her passengers was not great; but the fire having occurred so shortly after her arrival, nothing had been landed, consequently the passengers have lost everything they had on board; many, we hear, had not time to save their clothes, and have landed in the scanty garments which they could lay their hands on.  A subscription list is in course of signature for the assistance of the steerage passengers and we are persuaded, from our experience, that we have only to make the fact known to ensure a liberal contribution to a fund for the alleviation of those who have landed amongst us under the most trying circumstances that have yet occurred.

The following is the names of the passengers - Cabin :
Mr and Mrs Campbell, J. G. Wise, J. Browne, G.W. Campbell, J. Dickson, S. Dickson, E. Pettit. W. Luker, and G. Thomson.
Steerage:  Jane Fitzsimmonds, D. Milne and wife, W. Henry Wilkes, A. Gann, wife and infant, Robert Jackson, William Wither, and W. Wood. 

Inquiry held on the 31st August, at Port Chalmers Hotel, by Dr Hulme, coroner, and a jury, respecting the burning of the barque "Henbury."

Mr Henry Wilkes, steerage passenger by "Henbury," stated I was sleeping in the steward's berth on the morning of the fire (the 22nd August), and was awoke by the ship's cook thumping against the partition. He said, Mr Wilkes, the ship is on fire. I looked up and saw the fire burning in the corner of the sail room,, on the side of the captain's cabin. I jumped out of bed and asked him where the door was, as I could not see it for the smoke, He told me, and I pulled down one of the ventilators and got out through the hole. I went on deck, aroused the mate, went into the chief cabin and knocked at the door, then I went forward and called the second mate and crew. The first mate went below to look at the fire. He came up and ordered the crew to bring buckets of water. He ordered the ship's bell rung. I and some of the passenger's shouted fire. The first mate went below with some buckets of water, but came up again, as he was nearly suffocated by the smoke. He then ordered the hatches to be closed and no one to go below. When I first saw the fire it covered a space about the size of a large table. It was the sails that were on fire. All the crew were intoxicated except the two cooks, Samuel Lacy and Albano, ordinary seamen. William Weller, steward of "Henbury," stated - I was sleeping in the captains' cabin on the morning of the fire. I was awoken by the cry of fire. I got up and first went to the after-hatch. I saw smoke coming up the after-hatch. Mr Andrew Anderson, the first mate, ordered the hatches to be closed....
William Wither a steerage passenger said cases of spirits under the sails so the mate 'told me one day when I was in there helping..
Poerio Le Albano, one of the sober seamen, told me at 9 o'clock on Sunday morning that the sailors had broached the cargo... There is no evidence before us to prove the origin thereof. Thomas Tayler, Foreman for Jurors.

January 21 1860 page 5
The hull of this vessel, with a considerable portion of her cargo, were on Tuesday last raised, and floated alongside the "William Hyde."  The arrangements under the superintendence of Captain J. Robertson, assisted by Captain Everingham, were completely successful. The plan adopted was, by diving under the vessel and stopping the holes which had been made to scuttle her, and them by the application of powerful pumps and buckets to discharge water. This is the second instance in which Captain Robertson has been successful in floating wrecked vessels. He having succeeded in floating the "William Hyde" and bringing her round to Port Chalmers.

Otago Witness August 6 1859
The "Henbury" must be now close at hand.

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