Museum sign
The Cowper and Newton Museum
'The Loss of the Royal George'
The Royal George, flagship of Admiral Kempenfelt, sank on 29 August 1782 with the loss of eight hundred lives, including Admiral Kempenfelt himself.

The ship had been anchored off Spithead for repairs to a leak below the water line and was heeled to raise the leak above water. The starboard guns were run to the port side and it was during this procedure, that a loud crack was heard and the ship sank almost instantly.

Cowper wrote his poem in September 1782 at the request of Lady Austen, who wanted the words put to the march in Scipio. Of which Cowper noted

The tune laid me at a disadvantage, obliging me to write in Alexandrines which I suppose would suit no ear but a French one.

In his poem Cowper gives over-heeling as the reason for the loss of the ship. However, a court martial that followed the disaster, ruled that it had been the result of serious structural failure. The redistribution of the cannon's weight on the ship's frame caused excessively decayed timbers of the hull to break. The finding was suppressed by the Admiralty and did not become generally known until well into the next century.

The ship was raised from the sea in 1840 and souvenirs were made from the materials found aboard.

The two photos show a model brass cannon made with metal taken from the wreck and a paper knife made from a beam taken from the Royal George.

Toll for the brave
The Brave that are no more,
All sunk beneath the wave,
Fast by their native shore.

Eight hundred of the brave,
Whose courage was well tried,
Had made the vessel heel,
And laid her on her side.

A land breeze shook the shroud,
And she was overset,
Down went the Royal George,
With all her crew complete.

To top of this page / To Home Page

Website design by Jeremy Cooper at oliomedia