The Wells Lifeboat Disaster

The Eliza Adams was the Wells lifeboat in 1880. She was made of wood and powered by a mix of steam and oars. The Lifeboat house was on the Quay and often the Eliza Adams would use the help of a Steam Tug to reach the sea.

The 29th October 1880

On the 29th October, the seas were very rough and around midday the lifeboat was launched to assist Sharon's Rose, who was stranded at Holkham. The Eliza Adams and her crew rescued 7 people from the Sharon's Rose and headed back to Wells.

On their arrival back in Wells, another distress flag was seen to the East of the harbour mouth. 8 of the crew were changed and, with the help of Steam Tug Promise, headed out to help the stranded Ocean Queen. At about 3.30pm the Eliza Adams was released by the tug, about half a mile from the stricken ship. The Ocean Queen had been driven onto the sands by the storm, and the crew of the lifeboat could now be of no further help.

About 15 minutes into their journey back to Wells a large wave broke over the ship, making her capsize. 12 of the 13 crew were washed out, the mast stuck in the sand meaning she could not self-right. William Bell managed to safely stay with the ship until her mast broke and she self-righted and Thomas Kew was washed ashore alive. The other 11 died, their names are listed below:

Robert Elsdon (Coxswain)
Frank Abel
John Elsdon
William Field
William Green
Charles Hinds
George Jay
Charles Smith
Samuel Smith
John Stacey
William Wordingham

As the storm eased that evening, the crew of the Ocean Queen managed to safely walk to shore. The ship had survived the storm, protecting them until it was safe.

A memorial to the crew of the Eliza Adams can be found at the start of the Beach Road, opposite the Old Lifeboat House.
Website by Starsol Ltd Email / Telephone