The Saga of the Wheel Wreck

Ten Years On - The Plenty, Identified as a 'Contender' for the Wheel wreck.

A missive by Ed Cumming

The Vessel Plenty

A possible contender for the Wheel wreck discovered within the archipelago of the Isles of Scilly.

Draft 14/9/2020.


 1 - Discovery of the Wheel wreck site.

It was found by Todd Stevens a local Scillonian diver who spent and still spends countless hours towing an Aquascan MC4 proton magnetometer around the waters of the Isles of Scilly. In 2005 he discovered a huge signal which turned out to be a vast cargo mould of cast iron piping and various iron wheels. Later given the name ‘Wheel Wreck’ for obvious reasons. The majority of the iron pieces appeared to be items used in mines for pumping out the water.

It was not long before Todd informed Graham Scott of Wessex Archaeology of the find. During this period Todd made schematic sketches of many the iron items present on the mound. At the time, extremely well drawn. This data was discussed with the Trevithick Society.

(Not currently relevant to my discussion since the assumption at this early period was that the Wheel wreck cargo was newly manufactured)
However early estimates dated the wreck at 1860 +/- 20 years.

The site was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act on 5th April 2007.
The protected area extends 75 metres around 49⁰56.445’N 006⁰16.381’W

Discussion of the cargo of the Wheel wreck.

This is undertaken, in excellent detail, in the CISMAS report. Todd’s early drawings have been superseded by the excellent professional drawings in the CISMAS report of 2018. The early wreck site plan by Wessex likewise.

Following the work of the CISMAS project team, there are a couple of points of interest in their discussion, to quote;

“Taken as a whole, the evidence suggests that the site seems most likely to date to the end of the eighteenth century – but could be as late as 1820”.

Referring to their list of likely vessels, which does include my early report to Kevin Camidge on the Plenty, they also make the important point that:

“Unless we can discover details of the actual cargo these vessels were carrying, we are unlikely to be able to make an association between the site and a known wreck.”


Why target this vessel in particular.

I went to live on the Isles of Scilly, 2005 to 2009 and joined Todd Stevens as one of the Islands Maritime Archaeological Group which had recently discovered this very interesting and possibly significant site. By the time I arrived they were working with Wessex Archaeology.

One of my own projects while living on the Islands was to compile a list of shipwrecks and maritime incidents which had occurred around these islands. During this period, I had decided to see if I could, possibly discover a contender for the Wheel wreck.

The wreck of the Plenty was recorded in Ships, Shipwrecks and Maritime Incidents around the Isles of Scilly. Museum Publication No 3 which had been revised in June 1999.

“December 2, 1840: The schooner Plenty of Exeter, master Gray, from Newport, struck the Seven Stones. She was taken in tow by a pilot boat but sank about a mile from the Eastern Isles. All her crew were believed drowned.”

No mention of iron, and mention of being a mile off the Eastern Isles. Since I was trying to validate all the wrecks mentioned in this publication, I did come across a reference in the Times newspaper:

"Times: Saturday, December 12, 1840, Issue 17539: Scilly, Dec. 8, The Plenty, (of Exeter), from Newport, struck the Seven Stones on the 2nd inst.; crew supposed to have drowned. She was fallen in wwith after beating over the rocks and taken in tow by a pilot boat, but sank about a mile from the eastward island."

Many months later, when carrying out a much more complex search on the Isles of Scilly’s maritime past for the ‘Shipwrecks & Maritime History in and around the Isles of Scilly’ by myself and Todd Stevens. I came across the following:

Bristol Mercury, Saturday, 26/12/1840, p7*: Shipwreck and Loss of Life – We regret to state that Mr. Parker, of Topsham, has received an account of the loss of his vessel, on the Scilly Isles, all the crew having perished on their way from Newport with a cargo of iron. There were five on board, three of whom were brothers, of the name Gray, belonging to Starcross. The vessel was insured.
* You will note that this report makes no mention of the vessel’s name. It is this report however, which encouraged me to at least consider the Plenty as a contender. This was because it mentions Mr. Parker’s vessel was carrying ‘iron’.

This led to a search for Mr Parker. All credit at this period must go the British Newspaper Archive (BNA) which eventually provided two very valuable reports from the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette.

Shipping and Mercantile Gazette, 11/12/1840, page 2

'TOPSHAM - Dec. 1: Extract of a letter from Messrs. Edwards and Johns, agents for Lloyd's, Scilly, to the owners of the PLENTY: -

'Mr. Thomas Parker – Sir; We are very sorry to inform you that your schooner PLENTY, Robt. Gray, master, struck on the Seven Stones on the 2d inst; crew supposed to be all drowned by getting into the boat, which must have been dashed to pieces by the violence of the sea, as pieces of the boat, with some hats and caps of the crew, have been picked up on the rocks. The vessel was seen floating after she beat off the rocks, and taken in tow by a pilot boat belonging to Tresco Island, but sunk within a mile of the Eastern Island. Some of her papers were taken out and forwarded to the owner at the place. Wind S by E, strong gales and squally.'

 Shipping and Mercantile Gazette, 11/12/1840, page 3:

'TRESCO, SCILLY - Dec. 8: Some of our pilot-boats fell in with on the 2d the hull of a schooner very near the Seven Stones and took her in tow, and, with the assistance of two other pilot-cutters, towed her within a mile of St. Mary's., when her decks blowing up, she went down immediately, in 44 fathoms water.

By some papers we have seen, it appears she is called the PLENTY, of Exeter, from Newport. It is supposed she struck on the Seven Stones the previous night, and it is feared the crew are lost.'

These are particularly significant reports.

What is of significance here, is the 1 mile from St. Mary’s, the decks blowing up and the 44 fathoms! The ‘44 fathoms’ may of course be mistaken, more likely 44 feet since we are only a mile from St. Mary’s!

My target now, was definitely the Plenty and first job was to consult the archive of Topsham Museum.

The Plenty was built as a Stone Boat at Gullpit, Topsham in 1805 by Robert Davy. There was a sister vessel called Peace. The tonnage old measure was recorded as 87 50/94 tons & new measure 82 2610/3500 tons. Dimensions: 59.10½x18.3x6.8ft

In 1838 the Plenty was lengthened:

The tonnage old measure was 100 54/94 tons & new measure 86.5 tons.

Dimensions: 66.2x16.45x10.45ft

During its history there were several owners using the Plenty, initially for the stone trade and later for general trading of weighty cargoes. The master (and owner) from about 1838 was Thomas Parker.

Circa. 1839 the master was Robert Gray and it appears the owner was still Thomas Parker.

Verifiable movements of the Plenty with Thomas Parker, Richard Down(e) & Robert Gray (sometimes spelt Grey in the records) as the masters: (Again all credit to the BNA)


5/12/1835, [Monmouth Merlin] Newport: Outwards: The Plenty, Downe with iron and tin plate.


13/2/1836, [Western Times] Exmouth: Arrived: The Plenty, Downe from Newcastle.

7/5/1836, [Exeter & Plymouth Gazette]: Exmouth: Arrived: The Plenty, Downe from Newport.
(Same report – Parker from Neath)

16/7/1836, [Exeter & Plymouth Gazette]: Exmouth: The Plenty, Downe, Sailed for Sunderland.

13/8/1836, [Exeter & Plymouth Gazette]: Exmouth: The Plenty, Downe, Sailed for Newcastle.

24/9/1836, [Western Times]: Exmouth: Plenty, Downe, Sailed for Shields. (Same report; Holman for Newport)

15/10/1836, [Lloyd’s List]: Plenty, Down from Shields/Newcastle for Exeter, put into Ramsgate October 13 for shelter, windlass damaged etc.

12/11/1836, [Western Times]: Exmouth: Sailed the Plenty, Downe for Shields.

15/12/1836, [Exeter & Plymouth Gazette]: Exmouth: The Plenty, Downe, Arrived from Shields.


29/4/1837, [Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette]
Newport: Outward: Plenty, master Down with iron and tin plates. (Ditto Mon Merlin)

27/5/1837, [Western Times]: Exmouth: Arrived:  Plenty, Downe from Newcastle

1/7/1837, [Exeter & Plymouth Gazette]: Exmouth: Sailed, Plenty, Downe for Newport.
(Speculator – Parker for Neath) (Ditto Western Times)

15/7/1837, [Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette]:
Newport: Outwards: Plenty, Down, with iron and tin plates.

19/7/1837, [Public Ledger & Daily Advertiser]: Chamberlain’s Wharf: Arrived the Plenty, Downes, from Newport.

9/9/1837, [Western Times]: Exmouth: Sailed Plenty, Down (& Mary, Parker) for Neath.

30/9/1837, [Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette]
Newport: Outwards: Plenty, Dowen, with iron and tin.

11/11/1837, [Exeter & Plymouth Gazette]: Exmouth: Plenty, Downe, arrived 9/11/1837.

1838 - Note: In 1838 the Plenty was enlarged.


14/6/1838, [Exeter Flying Post]: Exmouth: Sailed, 11/6/1838, Plenty Parker, for Cardiff.?

14/6/1838, [S&MG]: 13/6/1838, Plenty, Parker for Newport from Topsham.

30/6/1838, [Monmouth Merlin]: Newport: List of Arrivals and Sailings for the week ending the 27/6/1838, Outward, Plenty Parker, with iron and tin plate.

7/7/1838, [Monmouthshire Beacon], Newport: List of Arrivals and Sailings, week ending 3/7/1838, Outwards: Plenty, Parker from Newport with iron & tin plates.

16/8/1838, [Shipping & Mercantile Gazette]: Arrived Plenty, Downe (or Down) from Newcastle on 14/8/1838.

20/8/1838, [S&MG]: Arrived Topsham 18/8/1838, Plenty, master Parker from Newcastle.


7/1/1839, [S&MG]: Plenty, master Gray, Exmouth, sailed 5/1/1839, for Newport.

12/1/1839, [Mon Merlin]: Plenty, Grey, sailed from Exmouth, 2/1/1839, for Newport.

18/1/1839, [Royal Cornwall Gazette]: FALMOUTH, Friday: Arrived (11/1/1839); Plenty, Grey, from Exeter.

18/1/1839, [S&MG]: Plenty, Grey, sailed from Falmouth (St. Mawes) for Newport 15/1/1839.

6/2/1839, [S&MG]: Plenty, Gray, Newport, sailed for Newcastle, 5/2/1839.

8/2/1839, [Lloyd’s List]: Plenty, Gray, Newport, 6/2/1839, “The Plenty, Gray, bound to Newcastle, in beating down the River last evening, took the ground and fell over on her beam ends, but righted the following tide after being lightened; she is very leaky, and must discharge part of her cargo to repair”.

9/2/1839, [Monmouthshire Merlin]: Port of Newport, Exports, from 31st ult. to the 7th inst. inclusive: Plenty, Gray, for Newcastle, iron and tin plates.

15/2/1839, [Newcastle Courant]: Plenty, Gray, – Similar text to Lloyd’s List.8/2/1839; Also, [Newcastle Journal], 16/2/1839 & [Northern Liberator].

16/2/1839, [Monmouthshire Beacon]: Port of Newport, Exports, Plenty, Gray, for Newcastle, 30 tons tram plates, 34 tons bar iron, 76 tons rail iron, J and C Bailey. Interestingly the next entry is for a vessel called Mary, Hopgood, for Bristol, 70 tons, iron, Thompson and Forman. Just ‘iron’!!

26/2/1839, [S&MG], Great Yarmouth, 24/2/1839, 25th – The following vessels are in the Roads, and wish to be reported in the S&MG: Plenty, Gray; of Exeter, from Newport to Newcastle.

6/4/1839, [Exeter and Plymouth Gazette]: Arrived 4/4/1839 at Exmouth, Plenty, Grey. From Newcastle & Stockton. (Note: same report, Speculator, Parker; for Neath*) * If the same Parker?

20/4/1839, [Exeter and Plymouth Gazette]: Exmouth, 18/4/1839, sailed Plenty, Grey, for Newport.

8/5/1839, [S&MG]: Arrived, Exmouth, 4/5/1839. Plenty, Gray, from Newcastle.

17/5/1839, [S&MG]: Topsham, 16/5/1839, Plenty Gray, Sailed for Neath.

25/5/1839, [S&MG]: Sailed from Exmouth, Plenty, Gray, 18/5/1839, for Newcastle.

15/6/1839, [Monmouthshire Beacon & Merlin]: Newport, Exports 6th to 13th of June, Plenty, Grey, for Gainsborough, 140 tons rail iron Rhymney Co.

20/6/1839, [Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser]: St. Mawes (Falmouth?), 16/6/1839: Plenty, Gray, for Gainsborough.

21/6/1839, [S&MG]: Falmouth, Arrived 19/6/1839, Plenty, Grey, from Gainsborough.

28/6/1839, [Stamford Mercury], Stockwith Ship News to the 26th June: Arrived, Plenty, Gray, from Newport, with railway iron.

5/7/1839, [Stamford Mercury], Gainsboro’ Ship News to the 3rd July: Arrived Plenty, Gray, from Newport, with iron. Similar report [Lincolnshire Chronicle], 5/7/1839.

12/7/1839, [Stamford Mercury], Gainsboro’ Ship News to the 10th July: Sailed, Plenty, Gray, with plaster for Newcastle.

10/8/1839, [Exeter and Plymouth Gazette]: Arrived Exmouth, 8/7/1839, Plenty, Grey, from Stockton & Newcastle. Same report: Sailed the Exmouth, Parker, for Neath.

23/8/1839, [Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser]: Dover, 21/8/1839, In the Roads, Plenty, Grey, from Exeter for Newcastle.

28/9/1839, [S&MG]: Topsham, Arrived, 26/9/1839, Plenty, Gray from Newcastle.

30/9/1839, [S&MG]: Starcross* – Exeter: Arrived from Newcastle, 25/9/1839.
* Home of the Gray brothers.

8/10/1839, [S&MG]: Exmouth, sailed 7/10/1839, Plenty, Gray, for Newport.

26/10/1839, [Monmouthshire Merlin]: Newport, Exports from 17th to the 24th inst. inclusive. Plenty, Gray, for Newcastle, 140 tons bar & rail iron.

28/10/1839, [S&MG]: Exmouth, arrived 24/10/1839, Plenty, Gray, from Newport.

1/11/1839, [Newcastle Courant]: Peterhead, 28/10/1839, The Plenty, Gray, for Newcastle, laden with iron, were wind-bound at Exeter on the 25th ult.

23/11/1839, [S&MG], Plenty Parker, Sailed from North Shields on 20/11/1839 to Exeter.


18/4/1840, [S&MG]: Newport, sailed on the 17/4/1840, Plenty, Gray, for Newcastle.

25/4/1840, [Monmouthshire Merlin]: Newport, Exports for the week ending April 23, Plenty, Grey, Newcastle, 100 tons rail iron, & 40 tons of bar iron.

4/7/1840, [Western Times]: Exmouth 2/7/1840, Arrived Plenty, Grey, from Newcastle*. Also, Exmouth, Parker, from Newcastle? * [Exeter and Plymouth Gazette] has Sunderland?

9/7/1840, [S&MG], Exmouth, Arrived, 29/6/1840, Plenty, Grey from Newcastle.

22/8/1840 [Exeter and Plymouth Gazette]: Exmouth, 20/8/1840, Sailed Plenty, Grey, for Newcastle

19/9/1840, [S&MG]: Topsham, arrived Plenty, Gray, 16/9/1840 from Newcastle.

26/10/1840, [S&MG]: Newport, arrived Plenty, Gray, 23/10/1840, from Exeter.

28/11/1840, [Monmouthshire Merlin]: Newport, Exports, week ending 26/11/1840. Plenty, Gray, for Exeter with iron.

So, from the last report of their last voyage we are left with a voyage to Exeter and a cargo of iron!!

Was this the final destination of the cargo? OR did the Gray brothers wish to stop off for Christmas?

Newly discovered reference to the Loss of the Plenty discovered by the (CISMAS) team.

Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser, 26/12/1840.

“The Plenty of Exeter, Robert Gray, master with a cargo of iron, consigned to Messrs. Poole & Co., Dover was lost during the late gales and the whole of the crew perished.”

The obvious added information in this report, is the very significant fact, that Exeter was not final destination of this cargo of iron, and that Exeter was a Christmas stop over which I though may have  been the case. i.e. Starcross where Robert Gray and his brothers lived.

Prior to discussion on the cargo I am going to surmise a scenario for the loss of the vessel.

During this fateful return trip, and the report of them leaving Newport, they are as recorded as heading for their home port of Exeter. They would have known the area well and must have met with a fierce gale near the Seven Stones. I think they were being blown towards this treacherous reef out of control and did not hit the Seven Stones by misjudging their position. It is therefore quite possible they used their anchors to avoid being blown on to them.

We know they ended up on the Seven Stones, so if they did not just drift into them, then the cables broke, hence there would be no anchors to be discovered on the wreck of the Plenty. They may also have cut away the masts.

The crew, reported to be five in number, abandoned the Plenty and met a watery end, in the vessel’s small boat. It appears the Plenty did eventually, float off and was taken in tow for potential salvage by the very efficient Scilly pilots, who discovered the abandoned vessel.

I think the route the pilot took could easily have taken him near where the Wheel wreck lies; we are told she sank in deep water a mile from the Eastern Islands in some reports and one mile from St. Mary’s in another. I feel that if this is case then the hull of the Plenty probably settled on the seabed without too much trauma after the deck was blown up, which appears to me, to be the case with the remains of the Wheel wreck.

The question now, obviously along with other Scillonian wrecks, is there potential that the Plenty could be the Wheel wreck, currently being studied in depth, by the CISMAS archaeological project team. The report of current status of their work, 2018, can be downloaded at This includes the work undertaken by Ms. S. Cant of English Heritage and Mr Kevin Camidge on alternative contenders.

I intend to further discuss my own views in the following paragraphs:

3 – Discussion of the cargo of the Plenty.

The Plenty sank in December 1840 so that none of the items can be older. I have always assumed that, like other interested parties, that cargo of the Wheel wreck was probably new pieces destined for sale.

If from the Plenty then the destination, judging from the voyage record would be somewhere along the coast, from Newport to the N.E. Coast of the UK. Initially, the last report documented in the verifiable voyages, indicated to me, that the cargo was destined to Exeter, not Dover.

At an early stage, because of the many visits the Plenty made to Newport, I realised I needed to know more about the ‘Imports and Exports of Newport’ mentioned in the Monmouthshire Merlin.

Various types of iron cargoes are listed in the Monmouthshire Merlin – Iron ore, Pig iron, Rail iron, Bar iron, Bolt iron, Nail Rods, Tin Plate, Foundry iron Nos. 1, 2, & 3, Bags of old iron, Rod iron, Cast iron, Hoop iron, Sheet iron, Tram plates, Bundle iron, and just ‘IRON’!!
Most of these by the ton.

Whatever the type of iron, that the Plenty did carry, the maximum cargo weight, indicated by these records, seems to be in the order of 140 tons. Transport rates from approximately 10 shilling to 15 shilling, depending on distance travelled. A voyage to Dover could easily cost c. £8000 per trip in today’s money for a cargo of 140 tons.
I have not at this time discovered what is meant by ‘Foundry iron Nos. 1, 2, & 3’.

I have thought now for some time, that the Wheel wreck cargo may not have been newly manufactured items. From my own research into the Imports & Exports listed in the

Monmouthshire Merlin and Advertisements in the Royal Cornwall Gazette, I had noted the following reports:

1 - Royal Cornwall Gazette, 17/5/1839: Iron and Junk for Sale: An Auction will be held on Tuesday the 28th instant, at Poldice Mine, in the parish of Gwennap, by Ten o’Clock in the Forenoon, by James Mitchell, for Selling about 35 Tons of Scrap Iron, 49 tons of Cast Iron, and 4½ of Junk, at the following Mines: (Tons)

Wood Mine  -Scrap 12, Junk 2; Wheal Jewell – Scrap 6, Cast 15, Junk 2½; Poldice – Scrap 4, Cast 10; Wheal Unity - Cast 2; Wheal Gorland – Scrap 2; Wheal Maiden – Cast 12; Carharrack – Scrap 3; Wheal Damsel – Cast 9; East Wheal Damsel – Scrap 4

Wheal Clifford - Scrap 4, Cast 1.

Note the term ‘Cast Iron’

2 - Contemporary report: “Many thousands of tons of Scottish cast iron have been purchased from time to time by the iron masters of South Wales to mix with their own county’s metal in their pudding furnaces this affording in questionable proof of its fitness for conversion into malleable iron”

3 - Monmouthshire Merlin, 10/8/1839: Imports:

Druid, Tavener, Gloucester; “21 tons of cast iron including a boiler etc.”

A term used fairly often is ‘castings’. Castings were often added to the melt of many foundries. They were added to the puddle furnaces to produce malleable iron, so would in my view would have had a reasonable value.

In many cases think this was a ‘special’ scrap which consisted of identifiable, previously high quality, cast iron items, which could be added to the experimental; puddling furnaces.

Since I now know this particular cargo of the Plenty was destined for Messrs. Poole and Co., Dover I decided to find out more about this particular company.

A local researcher from Dover Museum, provided me some detail about the owners of this company during this period. Unfortunately, it would appear the company records are probably lost. However, the following facts I found are of interest.

The company was described as being both Iron Mongers & Iron Founders. They are reported as having cast, in 1843, Mr J. Steward’s Infamous ‘Ponderous Footed Beacon’ which was placed, albeit unsuccessfully, on the Goodwins. So quite a significant operation.

I think, certainly in the case of the Plenty, we may be dealing with a company having a slightly different furnace, which rather than puddling to form malleable iron, it was used to melt cast iron of a known quality to provide other castings.

Other contenders listed in the CISMAS report.

The only other contender, I would consider, having read the details of some of the other wrecks mentioned in the CISMAS report would be the Padstow.

Padstow 1804 – Royal Cornwall Gazette: “The Padstow, of Padstow, Stevens from Cardiff, with iron, to London is totally lost; perhaps part of the cargo will be saved, the crew were saved in their boat. Lost in an easterly gale.”

This vessel has been proposed as another contender for the Wheel wreck by Mr R. Larn. It is stated within his report that being an authority on shipwrecks research that he had accepted identification as a professional challenge and extensively researched this ‘mystery wreck’

He basically says that there are only two possibilities, that it is the brig Padstow or it was an abandoned derelict that drifted in perhaps at night which sank unseen and unrecorded.

In January 1804 the Padstow in question did in fact suffer a stranding on some rocks near Falmouth. Following this she was put up for sale by auction at the Hamburgh Arms, St. Mawes, on the 8th February, 1804:

The good Brig Padstow, Length aloft - 60ft 1ins; Extreme breath – 19ft 6ins; depth in hold 10ft 1 ins. Measures 91 and 49/94 tons (probably old measure). A remarkably strong, firm-built vessel and well found in all her principle Materials and Stores. For a view of the said vessel, and for further particulars, apply the Captain John Stevens, on board at St. Mawes. January 26th 1804.”

This reference can be confirmed as in the Royal Cornwall Gazette, Saturday 4th February, 1804.

The description of the wrecking in the Royal Cornwall Gazette is, for me, not convincing. Coincidental that the wrecking, with saving of the crew, was so close to the auction!

Todd Stevens and his team feel that the Padstow wreck is near the Bartholomew Ledges and Spanish Ledges. It may certainly be worth checking.

Is the Plenty a contender for the Wheel wreck?

I need to discuss the following questions:

Question 1 – Could the cargo on the Wheel site be recyclable high-quality cast iron.

A cargo of scrap cast iron is not favoured by many significantly qualified historians I have consulted. Mainly on the grounds of cargo cost and their view that such items would be broken up for transportation and not stacked so neatly.

I disagree. I believe that shipping complete pieces like those in the cargo mound of the Wheel wreck would be preferable, easier and safer to load in their original form and importantly for the recipients, to be able to identify the items to insure a guarantee of cast iron quality for their specific use.

This would be the case for puddle furnaces and, in the case of Poole & Co. foundry, wishing to re-melt to manufacture new items as iron mongers.

(In the case of the Plenty, a previous accident would also I feel also ensure the cargo was also neatly and securely placed in the hold)

Question 2 – Is the mismatch of the Wheel wreck cargo significant.

It is certainly a mis match of different, cast-iron items. Some experts rightly consider even with second-hand items there could be multiple deliveries which may account for possible missing items in a cargo.

There is a very small chance that the crew of the vessel ditched some of the cargo when in distress, but very unlikely.

However, if it is quality cast scrap, purchased at auction a mismatch would be inevitable.

Question 3 – Are there any observations of the Wheel wreck cargo that are suspicious, i.e. that these were new or sound pieces of mining and drainage equipment for sale.


In Figure 14 in the CISMAS report; I, personally, cannot imagine a socketed pipe being stored in a clack valve body, if a new or second-hand item was being shipped.

In both new and second-hand clack valves I would expect to see a complete assembly with the valve mechanism and the cover plate in place.

The whole of the cargo, it appears, is just cast iron.

Question 4 – Age of the items in the Wheel wreck cargo.

From the work undertaken by CISMAS it does appear that items are earlier than c. 1840.

If these are new items then the Wheel site is older. If scrap cast iron then the Plenty is still a contender. There are some other finds that may indicate the site is older, but as yet not proven.

Question 5 - Other important factors.

Estimated size of the vessel would fit the Plenty, but then so would many others.

There is no sign of any anchors. At least this would fit my theory of the wrecking events.

The lack of ironwork associated with the mast and rigging could certainly, as mentioned in the CISMAS report, have drifted away or been salvaged or, again in support of the Plenty’s case, cut away at the time it was drifting towards the Seven Stones.

They could also have been lost when the deck blows up.

The position and nature of the cargo pile of the Wheel wreck is certainly in keeping with a vessel being towed to St. Marys and having the decks blow and the vessel founder.

Current Conclusion

Can I add any other vessels to the possible list; No

So, with this new information indicating the destination discussed, I feel the Plenty is even more likely to be the main contender for the Wheel wreck.

Notes & References:

1 - Wheel Wreck Investigation 2018 (HE 7698).

2 - Wrecks of Scilly by R Larn, Revised & Updated Edition. Pages 151 to 155.
ISBN: 978 0 9932 5724 7

3 – British Newspaper Archive.

4 – Internet.


Edward M Cumming 14/9/2020.

 Images of Wheel wreck components - Todd Stevens

Figures 1 & 2


 As suggested on the drawing, these two drawings depict two components of the same wheel.  They would have been joined together with wooden spokes that might have been in place at the time of the sinking.  The relatively fragile nature of a ten foot cast rim is likely to have necessitated its sensible location on top of more robust components.


The complete wheel was clearly intended to transmit power in some way and this is indicated by the large sectioned hole in the centre.  Its purpose is unknown at this stage; we cannot clearly link it to a water pump.



Figure 3. 

As this large component appears to rotate in some way it is likely to have formed part of a powerful machine that would have incorporated a substantial base that does not appear to be a part of the visible cargo.

Figure 4.

 Again, this could be part of a machine, or machines as there are apparently three of the components on site; possibly part of a machine made by an individual manufacturer for use by single operator.


Figure 5.

Typical access cover for a water clack valve.

Figure 6.

While this is described as a solid iron component subsequent examination has revealed that it is hollow and could have a number of holes that are completely hidden by concretion.  If this is the case, it could be a sieve located at the foot of a rising main pipe.

Figure 7.

This is another very substantial piece of equipment that was clearly built to transmit considerable power in some way.  It is difficult to associate it with any part of the water pump items in the cargo and its purpose is currently unknown.

Figure 8.

One of the few items to have been damaged.  Bespoke manufacture for a specific purpose that would have involved a considerable flow of water.

Figure 9.

A specially made object (rod) that probably has holes in it that have been filled with cementation. Otherwise it could be difficult to locate or use.

Figure 10. 

As can be seen in the photographs, there are a great number of these straight pipes in assorted sizes and there appear to a quantity of bends in the photograph that shows the rim of the 10’ gear wheel. They could have been intended for a complicated processing plant that is not directly connected to the water pump other than the latter provides the water for whatever the process is.  Such complex plant indicates a fairly late date.

Figure 11.

 There are apparently a great number of these pipes on the wreck site and many are swaged at one end.  These are very likely to be replacement boiler fire tubes.  The other end of the tube would be swaged when the tube was inserted into the boiler.  The fact that there is apparently no boiler shell indicates that the shell is already on site at the destination (or under the other items or on another ship) and that these are replacement fire tubes.  Had the tubes been intended for a new boiler, that boiler is likely to have been shipped complete with the tubes in situ; such shipments of heavy items had been undertaken for many years.  Also, the possibility that a multi-tube boiler existed long enough to require replacement tubes indicates the wreck probably occurred later than has previously been considered.  The variety of swages could indicate that the fire tubes are intended for more than one boiler at the destination, or destinations.

Figure 12.

This cable carrying, sheave wheel is not similar to that found in many industrial and mining scenes.  The purpose of such a wheel is to transfer energy and at that time would usually require a substantial axle on which the wheel would turn, this wheel would not appear to accommodate such an axle.  Also, the recess for the cable appears to be insufficient for normal use unless the design incorporated a tight cover.  There is no sign of this and designs at the time did not usually include this feature.  


A word about boilers.  It was not unusual for new boilers to be shipped complete with all fire tubes installed.  We have seen no evidence of such a boiler or a boiler shell.  There has been the suggestion that a broken cylindrical item in the cargo may have been a boiler shell.  Whatever it was, a boiler shell would probably be the largest and heaviest item in the cargo.  Along with the beam, it would have to be substantial in construction and probably placed at the bottom of the hold to avoid damage to lighter items.  These are also likely be the last items to break in a shipwreck.