The Wreck of the London

in 1796

Rapparee Cove is the site of the wreck of The London which sank in 1796 in stormy weather. Numerous relics from the wreck have been discovered at there including coins and bones. There is some controversy about the bones which are said to be either the bones of French soldiers or slaves from St Lucia. Ilfracombe Dive Club regularly visit The London and have brought up numerous items including cannonballs.

The Ilfracombe Port Book, at Kew in London (ADM1/2894, log 76) gives the following account for 10th October 1796 “Last evening the London of London, a transport, William Robinson, master, from St Kitts with French prisoners aboard, was unfortunately driven on shore at the entrance of this harbour, upwards of 40 persons were drowned. The vessel was entirely lost”

Admiralty Office Oct 22nd 1796 – Pursuant to an Act of Parliament passed in the 26th year of the reign of his late Majesty this is to give notice to the concerned, that information has been sent to this office that the Transport ship London, of London, whereof William Robinson was Master, bound from the Island of St Christopher’s to Plymouth, was on the 9th instant, in tempestuous weather unfortunately wrecked at the entrance of the harbour of Ilfracombe in the county of Devon.

A painting of the Wreck of the London by J Walter(s) painted about 1850, which hangs in Ilfracombe Museum with the caption “The old slaver ‘London’ from St Lucia in the W Indies, whilst attempting to enter Ilfracombe harbour was driven ashore in Rapparee and wrecked. She had been attached to Admiral Rodney’s fleet in the West Indies and was bringing home valuables and 150 slaves. 46 people were drowned 6 of whom were Ilfracombe seamen who went to their rescue”