At 12noon on 29 October 1880, the Wells Lifeboat Eliza Adams was launched to the aid of a
laden Brig Sharon's Rose which had been seen to run ashore at Holkham beach in a heavy sea and severe gale.
The lifeboat succeeded in rescuing the crew of seven and returned, its crew drenched and exhausted, to Wells.
On arrival at Wells Quay, a second vessel was seen to the East of the harbour entrance flying a distress
flag. The Brig Ocean Queen was riding at anchor in a very heavy sea. After a change of eight of the crew of the lifeboat,
it was immediately towed to the harbour entrance by the Steam Tug Promise, and released around half a mile from
the Ocean Queen at about 3.30pm. By now, Ocean Queen had parted its cable and been driven onto the East
sands. With the vessel aground on the lee shore, it became apparent that the lifeboat would be unable to render any
assistance and the order was given to set sails to return to the harbour.
Around fifteen minutes later, a large sea broke over the lifeboat, capsizing her and driving her mast
into the sand, preventing the lifeboat from self-righting. Twelve of the crew were washed from the boat and eleven lost
their lives. One of the two survivors remained in the boat, tangled in the lines until the mast snapped and the boat
finally righted itself. The other survivor managed to lay on the boat's rudder before being washed ashore. The eleven
crew that were lost left ten widows and 28 children.
The Ocean Queen managed to survive the storm. The wreck dried out as the tide ebbed that
evening and her crew of six were able to walk safely to shore.
The Institution voted £1000 towards a fund raised locally for the dependants of the lost crewmen and
paid their funeral expenses. A memorial was built to commemorate the disaster. This has recently been restored and can be
seen at the start of the beach road, opposite the old lifeboat house.
The steam tug Promise at Wells, circa 1880.
|Robert Elsdon (Coxswain)