The Good Wreck ‘Nautilus’

Between May 1797and April the following year, Captain Henry GUNTER’s 16 gun sloop, HMS Nautilus captured five French and Dutch privateers. His luck ran out, this day 1799. In late January he had “assembled twenty-two sail at Christiansand” and was shepherding the convoy to Hull when a snowstorm scuppered his plans. Nautilus found herself on a lee shore beneath Speeton cliffs in Filey Bay, and the crew failed to tack her way out of the breakers. Word must have reached the nearby village quickly because there was an audience for the Captain’s next move.

…every possibility of getting off being lost, the best means were taken to lay her in a good situation for preserving the lives of every body on board ; this was happily effected in the course of two hours, to the astonishment of the people on the coast who were competent judges of the difficulty of accomplishing it under the circumstances in which the Nautilus was placed.

All 125 members of the ship’s company made it to shore but, presumably, Captain Gunter had to face some music at the Admiralty. I think the 22 sail made it safely through the storm.

Wreck Site has information and a thumbnail location chart. The source from which the above quote was taken can be found here.

Other than the Captain I could find only one of the fortunate crew online; William POOKE. The National Archives offers a list of the vessels on which he served between 1793 and 1826. FamilySearch has a couple of baptism sources that might fit him – and an 1841 Census record placing a namesake within a mile of the estuary of the River Exe.  But he is not on the World Tree.


It is most unlikely that anyone in Filey would have been aware of the distant drama. On a clear day, naked eyes would pick out a schooner’s sails, but in a snowstorm…

‘X’ marks the approximate location of the wreck, as viewed from Filey promenade this morning.


Richard HAXBY, nine years old in February 1799, may have been one of the Speeton villagers who witnessed the end of Nautilus and shared the astonishment of the older, wiser people around him. He would move the few miles to fish out of Filey and reach the grand age of eighty. One of his sons, Francis, was not so lucky, drowning from one of the yawl Ebenezer’s cobles, 30 miles off Flamborough Head. Their headstone now takes a back seat to a more recent memorial.


In Affectionate Remembrance of RICHARD HAXBY, who died Sep 9th 1869, aged 80 years.

Also ELIZABETH, his wife, who died Oct 3rd 1868 aged 79 years.

Also two sons of the above, ROBERT died April 29 1867 aged 53 years,

And FRANCIS who was drowned April 1st 1859 aged 36 years.

‘Their toils are past, their work is done

And they are ever blest’

The family unit has a foothold on FamilySearch Tree, but for a more extensive pedigree go to  FG&C.

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