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Passenger List, "Royal Charter", Dec. 1856

Ship Type single-screw auxiliary steamer
Builder Cram
Place Built Sandycroft, near Chester, England
Date Launched 1855
Registered Tonnage 2,719

iron-hull coal-burning auxiliary steamer

Voyages to Victoria
      Jan 1856 - Jul 1859
      Auxiliary Steamers
No Of Passengers
      320 in 3 classes
Shipping Line
      Liverpool & Australian Navigation Co.
Sister Ships
      Great Britain
      200 n.h.p. twin-cylinder horizontal trunk engines with 2-bladed lifting propeller
      3-mast fully-square-rigged ship; single funnel
Service Speed
      10 knots
      336 ft. (102.4 m) overall

The "Royal Charter" was originally laid down as an iron-hull sailing ship at the Sandycroft yard of Cram. She was purchased by Gibbs, Bright & Co. in 1854 while lying incomplete on the slip after her builder went bankrupt. She was completed as an auxiliary screw steamer or "steam clipper" for the Australian Screw Steamship Co., to be operated in conjunction with the already successful "Great Britain" on the Australian emigrant trade. Fitted with relatively low-powered horizontal trunk engine of just 200 n.h.p. direct-coupled to a liftable 2-bladed screw. Her accommodation was officially designed for 320 passengers in 3 classes, however, she was to carry 375 & 394 on two of her Australian-bound voyages.
The "Royal Charter" entered service in 1855 under the Liverpool & Australian Navigation Co., sailing from Liverpool on 18 Jan 1856. She almost came to disaster in heavy weather off the Portuguese coast, apparently due to over-ballasting and was forced to put back to Plymouth for docking. A survey showed her hull was badly strained requiring some re-riveting before she again set out on 17 February. Then she made an extraordinary passage, reaching Melbourne in a record 59 days, including one 24 hour run of 358 nautical miles during which she topped 18 knots. Her average for the entire voyage to Melbourne was 223¾ nautical miles per 24 hours or 10½ knots throughout the 59 days.
After six successful voyages to Australia, in October 1859 on her return voyage to Liverpool, the "Royal Charter" was trapped on a lee shore off Point Lynas, near Anglesey on the coast of Wales. Her engines were not powerful enough to hold her off and she was blown onto the rocks becoming a total wreck. All but 39 of her 498 passengers and crew perished, whilst her cargo including 68,397 oz of gold and 48,000 sovereigns, worth over £500,000, was also lost. As a young journalist, the writer Charles Dickens visited the village of Moelfre near the scene of the tragedy the following December and published a serialised account of the wreck and its aftermath drawn from interviews with survivors and locals.
Ian Nicholson, "Log of Logs", vol.1, pp.456-7; Don Charlwood, "The Long Farewell", pp.21, 34-36; John M. Maber, "North Star to Southern Cross - The Story of the Australasian Seaways", pp.46-49; Robert Williams (ed), "Shipwreck! - Charles Dickens & the Royal Charter", Magma Books, Anglesey, 1997.