No.44 The Dmitry

As a result of a comment left on the Heritage Calling blog, I’ve been thinking about the relationships between EH properties and wrecks. Coastal properties come to mind: castles and religious sites on easily defensible headlands, overlooking the sea, sites of warning and succour in time of need, witnesses to battle and wreck alike. Here’s one example:

One day in 1885 a brigantine from Narva in modern-day Estonia, but called ‘Russian’ at the time, managed to make it safely into harbour during a ‘storm of great violence’ which battered the north-east coast. A ship had already been lost nearby, and the lifeboat was prepared in case she, too, should need assistance: ‘A little excitement prevailed among the thousands of people on shore, for it seemed certain that if the vessel was cast upon the rocks she would be immediately dashed to pieces and the crew drowned. The craft, however, steered straight for the port, and by good seamanship got into the harbour safely. She proved to be the Russian brigantine Dmirty‘. [sic] Another newspaper noted: ‘A cheer broke from the spectators on the pier when they saw her in safety.’

The following day the gale had abated: ‘The Russian vessel Dimitri [sic] which so gallantly entered the harbour on Saturday in spite of the terrible sea afterwards ran ashore in Collier’s Hope. It was supposed that she would be safe here, but on the rise of the tide yesterday morning, the seas beat over her with great force. Her masts fell with a terrific crash, and the crew were obliged to abandon her. She is now a complete wreck.’  

‘Collier’s Hope’, or Collier Hope, indicates the importance of the coal trade for local ships and others from further afield who called here en route for the Tyne in ballast. The Dmitry was also in ballast, with silver sand from Antwerp for Newcastle, suggesting she too was bound to the Tyne for coal.  

Does she sound vaguely familiar? Then read on!

Anyone at Whitby Abbey that morning would have seen the wreck down below at Collier Hope, in the lower harbour between Tat Hill Pier and the East Pier at the harbour entrance.  She must have been among the most memorable of the many wrecks at Whitby, her loss to a freak accident in apparent safety a shocking counterpoint to her safe arrival when all seemed lost. Here she is:

‘The sequel to the strange arrival of the derelict in the storm last night is almost more startling than the thing itself. It turns out that the schooner is a Russian from Varna, and is called the Demeter. She is almost entirely in ballast of silver sand . . . ‘ (Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897) 

Whitby Abbey, N080819, © English Heritage
Whitby Abbey, © English Heritage

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