British Peer (ship)

United Kingdom
Operator: British Shipowners Company
Builder: Harland and Wolff, Belfast, Ireland
Christened: British Peer
Acquired: 1883, Nourse Line
Fate: Wrecked, 8 December 1896 at Saldanha Bay; 4 survivors
General characteristics
Class and type: Barque
Displacement: 1428 tons
  • 247.5 ft (75 m)
  • Lengthened by 32 ft (9.8 m) in 1878
Beam: 36.4 ft (11 m)
Draught: 22.5 ft (7 m)
Propulsion: Sail
Crew: 22
Notes: Iron hull

The British Peer was a 1428-ton three-masted iron sailing ship built for the British Shipowners Company at the Harland and Wolff yards in Belfast, Ireland, in 1865. She was 247.5 feet (75.4 m) long, 36.4 feet (11.1 m) wide and 22.5 feet (6.9 m) deep. She was bought by the Nourse Line in 1883, and was the fastest vessel in their fleet until the British Ambassador was commissioned.[1] In 1878, however, British Peer's sailing power was compromised, when alterations were made to increase her tonnage by lengthening her hull by 32 feet (9.8 m), and she was never as fast again. She carried a crew of 23, including her master.

On 13 March 1891, during the Great Blizzard of 1891, British Peer struck the 1222-ton steamer Roxburgh Castle, causing Roxburgh Castle to sink with the loss of 22 lives and two survivors.[2]

The British Peer, like other Nourse Line ships, was involved in the indentured labour trade. On 23 April 1892, she carried 527 Indian indentured labourers to Fiji. Two months later, on 11 June 1892, she arrived in Suriname with Indian indentured labourers. She also repatriated 450 Indians who had completed their indenture from Saint Lucia to India in September 1894.[3]

The British Peer had first visited South Africa in 1886, while on a voyage carrying indentured labourers. In November 1894, she again stopped in at the Cape of Good Hope, carrying a cargo of salt and 471 Indian indentured labourers. On 8 December 1896, she struck a reef in Saldanha Bay, South Africa, and was destroyed; there were only four survivors. A Court of Enquiry, held on 7 January 1897, found that "the loss of the ship was occasioned by reckless navigation on the part of the master".[4] The wreck of the British Peer itself still lies in about 9 metres (30 ft) of water in Saldanha Bay.

See also


  1. Macgregor, David Roy (1984). Merchant Sailing Ships, 1850-1875: Heyday of Sail. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-951-0.
  2. The Blizzard in the West. Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. 1891.
  3. Cheddie, Richard B. (27 August 2000). "Updated List of Ships that transported E". GenForum.
  4. "The Grave in the Dunes". Route 27 West Coast South Africa. Retrieved 12 May 2013.


Coordinates: 33°30.4′S 18°18.70′E / 33.5067°S 18.31167°E / -33.5067; 18.31167 (British Peer)

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