Wednesday, 8 May 2019

George B Balfour or Millgate

 The Millgate which sank in 1905..is it in fact George B Balfour...
For us the most interesting part of a wreck is the engine. Well where is it !? If only a couple of pieces of wreck survive after the rest rots away and sinks into the seabed it's usually the boiler and engine.
A look in Dive Sussex describes the wreck and mentions the cement bags but only assumes it's Millgate.
Being a shipwreck anorak with every wreck in our dive area logged on the laptop I had a look and one wreck jumped out, George B Balfour. A quick check in Lloyds showed it has very similar dimensions lays really close to the charted Millgate mark and was carrying cement.
Next stop was the Newspaper archives and it turns out Millgate wasn't carrying cement as mentioned in Dive Sussex but blocks of granite from St Sampsons in Guernsey bound for Deptford. This was reported in the Manchester Courier November 3rd 1905.
George B Balfour
Well it just so happens not very far away from "Millgate" there's a pile of square...ish blocks
More research showed the Millgate dropped her anchors as she was drifting dangerously close to shore. There are 2 anchors on the supposed wreck of the Millgate. There is also at the stump of the wooden mast an iron ring for pulling up the sail.

A good few years ago when we were a dive club Gary found the wooden helm plus a few dead eyes on the wreck of "Millgate". Not what you would expect to find on a steamer. A Paul Rodgers ship, George B Balfour was launched 27th October 1885 according to one report or 1886 according to Shipwreck Index of British Isles, a steel and iron three masted schooner. She was run down by the steamer City of Khios on the 3rd of May 1893 on a clear night while becalmed on a voyage to Barrow in Furness with a cargo of bagged cement. All 6 crew were lost.

The George B Balfour was 40.6m in length and 7.1m across. We measured the wreck and, bearing in mind it's falling apart, we recorded 38.9m by 7.9m
Millgate was 43.8m by 7.34. The blocks, intended for Deptford, are just under 1000m to the North East.
The Hydrographic Office has on its wreck report, wreck number 20642 ,that a survey was carried out in 2015 and a strong magnetic anomaly was found. There is no wreck to be seen but it's probably below the sand or under the blocks. Time and shifting sand or just better viz may tell. Wooden deck planking, winch wheels are to be seen.
A metal lump was recorded as being 100m to the west of the blocks but we haven't found anything after searching the area
I am quite sure the Millgate listed in Dive Sussex is in fact the George B Balfour and the pile of blocks is or is what is left of the Millgate.....possibly, the jury is out . A sample of the wreck needs to be taken.





 During the heavy gale in the channel this morning the steamer Millgate of Manchester bound from Guernsey to London with a cargo of stone was observed in distress off Beachy Head. The Newhaven reserve lifeboat QuiverNo1 was launched and took the Millgates crew of ten persons off, landing them at Newhaven at noon. The steamer foundered shortly afterwards. This was the lifeboats first launch on active service.



The gun calling out the crew of the Newhaven Lifeboat was fired at 7am Thursday morning and in less than 20 minutes the boat with full crew was proceeding down the river. The call was in response to information received from a coastgaurd station in Cuckmere that a vessel was perioulsly near the shore. It proved to be the SS Millgate ( Captain Proctor), from Guernsey to London with a cargo of
stone. The crew of ten were taken off and landed at Newhaven. Almost directly after the steamer capsized and sank. Great praise is due to the coxswain, Mr E Eager, andthe crew of the lifeboat for the prompt and successful efforts made by themto save life.



The Lifeboat Crew; on friday last Mr JJ Lines,the hon. secretary of the local branch of the RNLI at Newhaven,received a letter from the Institution containing a cheque for £7 10s, being an additional grant of 10s per man in recognition of the meritorious service performed by them on November 2nd in saving the crew of ten men from the SS Millgate,off Crowlink, in a gale and with a heavy sea running. Mr Lines had written to the RNLI giving particulars of the case.