By Karl-James Langford

The column I write for the Barry and District newspaper, has for the past year only concentrated on buildings and earthworks that are still visible, and that will remain the case.

It is time however to include some very much overlooked aspects of those visible sets of remains, that being the humble gravestone. As a follow up, from St. Nicholas church last week, I have included an interesting monument in the church graveyard. That being the grave of a certain captain at sea. The fine sandstone slab with capital letters, is located immediately Southeast of the chancel of St. Nicholas church.

I have included the details of the full inscription:

Captain Richard Holten of Moricetown Devonport

Weep for a seaman, honest and sincere.

Not cast away, but come to anchor here:

Storms had o'ver [over] whelm'd [whelmed] him but the conscious wave

repented and resign'd [resigned] him to the grave:

In harbour safe from shipwreck he lies,

Till times last signal blazes thro' [through] the skies

Refitted in a moment then shall he

Sale from this port on an eternal sea.

MDCCCLI [1851]

I have researched with Kylie Langford more to the background of this sailor and his ship and this is what we found:

Whoever funded the stone must have been wealthy, could it have been the company Richard Holten had worked for? But some of the words are shortened, to make the whole script fit and to be organised.

Moreover Richard's body must have been washed ashore nearby.

The tragedy of the fatal sinking occurred on the unlucky date of the 13th July; a Sunday, in the year 1851.

The unlucky ship; a schooner, was that named the Joseph Anderson, she was laden with a full cargo of around 135 tons of coal. She had sailed from Newport bound for Bristol. The Joseph Anderson went down 7 miles off Steep Holm at the Culver sands, she had been manned by our captain Richard Holten, his mate (John Tope) and five other hands.

Events transpired and told to us by two of the only survivors (sailors): that after leaving Newport on the 12th July at 8pm, the Joseph Anderson hit trouble at the Culver Sands, 14 hours later (10am), and was battered with waves for 2 hours; subsequently foundering and sinking. The terror that the crew must have felt must be unimaginable.

The two crew mates that did survive a certain Matthew Croke (seaman) and Charles Sweet (apprentice), survived by the 'age old method at sea', of Matthew being 'lashed to a studding sail boom (part of the additional sail woodwork on schooner class ships)', and Charles was lashed to a couple of oars. Here we see a problem, the person who is tightening the lads to the boom and oars respectively, they would have given up their lives doing do. Was that captain Richard Holten's job? Both floated for some time until being picked up by a boat named the 'Ganymede' off the coast of Weston-Super-Mare. It would have been very cold at sea, even though it was the summer.

Of Richard Holten we know he left behind a large family of 8 children and a devoted wife. Being so far from Devonport which is near Plymouth on the South coast of England, would his family have ever visited their father's grave?

To add to the injury of the loss of the ship it was recorded as not being insured, and owned by the Devon Coal Association. Would there have been any form of compensation offered to the deceased families? The three other sailors lost at sea were: William Sheppard and Francis Drake (not the famous admiral from the 1500s) both seaman, and sadly a cabin boy whose name we do not know.

The final piece next week, will visit another church within the Barry and District. Thank you again for reading this week, and some of the sites that we visit in this column can be found as video's at my YouTube channel, under the name karljlangford.