The remains of this 82ft long schooner lie on at the eastern end of Sand Acre Bay on the River Lynher, Cornwall.
The Excelsior was built in 1875 in the Channel islands and was registered in Guernsey, possibly built for Elijah Seagers of Shoreham in Sussex. Between 1883 and 1893 she was registered in London and owned by John Mitchell of Gravesend in Kent then by William McDonald of Crosshaven, Co. Cork. In 1900 she was owned by Owen Rudge of Bridgwater then in 1902 she was bought by Richard Foster of Gloucester until 1916 when she was bought by David Williams of the same town. Table salt manufacturers Salt Union Ltd. of Liverpool owned Excelsior between 1924 and 1926 then the Forward Lighterage Co. in London took her from 1927 to 1936 where she came under the same flag as her beachside neighbour Harry Herbert .
Shipping and towing company R. & J.H. Rea Ltd. of Liverpool owned Excelsior from 1938 to 1940 then she moved to Plymouth in 1947 under the ownership of Bellamy & Co. (Plymouth) Ltd., shipbrokers based at Millbay Pier who are still in business today.
The pair were sold as barges stripped of sailing gear to coal merchants John and Joseph Haskell of Plymouth and were used as coal hulks; loaded with coal and towed by Reynolds tugs to refuel steamships at anchor in Plymouth Sound. The Excelsior and Harry Herbert were beached and abandoned in Sand Acre Bay in the 1950s when they reached the end of their useful lives, they were stripped of timber and at some point the hulls were set on fire which destroyed much of what remained.
Cotswold Canals Heritage says that 'at the end of her sailing life she was a lighter at Avonmouth Docks' and Excelsior is 'now badly disintegrated at the Purton ship graveyard, a mile from Sharpness'. The schooner Excelsior is mentioned in Langley and Small's book Lost Ships of the West Country.
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The massive keel, keelson and lower frames of the Excelsior can be found at the high water mark in Sand Acre Bay. The Excelsior was abandoned alongside the Harry Herbert and parts of both vessels can be seen mixed together under a blanket of seaweed, not far from the two Target Floats .
The Excelsior is the westerly of the two hulks, she was left lying on her port bilge with her bow to the shore. The remains include the badly eroded 11in wide keel and a keelson 27in high held together with 1.25in diameter iron through bolts, intact forward to her forefoot where some of the bow timbers can still be seen. The lower frames only remain on the foreshore and are 6in x 6.5in with 2 to 3in spacing, with outer planking 2in thick by 8.5in wide.
Sand Acre Bay, Lynher River, Cornwall, eastern end, towards Wearde Quay.
From Saltash, take Wearde Road south to Churchtown Farm where the road bears hard left. Follow the footpath south-west, cross over the railway line at the bridge then take the footpath on the left leading down to the beach. Walk along the beach 250m eastwards and the hulks can be seen on the foreshore at the eastern end. These hulks can only be seen at low tide.
Last updated 03 Jan 2021
Position OS: SX 42164 57619
Position GPS: 50.397213, -4.222085
Aubin at Jersey in the Channel Islands
Sail, schooner rig
92 GRT, 77 tons net
Captain Lost in a Storm
In 1900 the Excelsior was towed into Greenock by the Austrian steamer Rubino, having been picked up disabled. Her captain had been lost overboard off The Smalls in Pembrokeshire on a voyage from Cardiff to Cork with a full cargo of coal. The ship was caught in a gale, part of her gear gave way and her captain was knocked overboard by the sail boom. A lifebuoy was thrown to the Captain, which he caught, but he was carried away in rough seas and his body was never found. The Captain was William Hawker, aged 27, from Saul in Gloucestershire.
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