Retrieval – what was salvaged from the cargo of the Walter Hood?
As shipping agents and owners are not in the business of salvage, the wreck of the Walter Hood itself was quickly sold at auction on 2 May 1870 by Stubbs and Co for £95. However the flotsam that had washed ashore was owned by the insurance companies, and they were determined to retrieve and sell as much as they could.
On 3 May 1870, Mr Lenehan represented Montefiore, Joseph and Co, Mr Gosling the underwriters and Mr St Julian from the Customs Department travelled to Ulladulla by steamer and then overland to Wreck Bay, which took a tortuous eight hours, even on horseback. They found Constables Beatty and Searson on patrol, watching about 100 people on the beach.
The party sensibly hired 20 of the men on the beach to start collecting the remaining cargo and pile it up on the beach. The wreck continued to break up in the heavy surf.
On 15 May, a steam boat commanded by Captain Brooks arrived in Wreck Bay to pick up the cargo to take it to Sydney but the weather was so rough he had to abandon the attempt and return on 26 May. They loaded up around 80 tons of cargo, including casks of beer and spirits, hogsheads of candles, and bales of corks.
The salvaged cargo was sold at auction for £1,027 12s. 6d.
The wreck was sold again in June 1870, with the salvaging company planning to recover the ironwork and copper. There is also mention in 1903 of another company trying to strip the copper from the hull. But the ‘wreckers’ had struck again.
Another newspaper article in December 1871 mentions a church organ that went down with the Walter Hood. The Wesleyan Methodist Church in Bourke St Sydney took three tries to get an organ from Britain, losing the first on the Walter Hood and then the second in the shipwreck of the Abergeldie.
Over the years, important artefacts have been retrieved from the Walter Hood by recreational divers who have donated them to the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum. Among these is the very valuable ship’s bell.
Who was importing the tiles on the Walter Hood?
But by far the biggest mystery of the Walter Hood’s cargo is the hundreds of tiles that have washed up on Wreck Bay. Many people in the Milton-Ulladulla area have a tile or two as they were still being found buried in the sand decades after the shipwreck. They are lovely tiles, coloured bright blue, ochre yellow, dark brown, olive green, cream and terracotta and some have decorative patterns. But, mysteriously there are no tiles mentioned on the ship’s manifest.
This sample is from the Milton Ulladulla Historical Society’s collection.
They are rumoured to have been destined for a tiled floor to be laid in the newly rebuilt St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, but there’s no verification for that story.
And what became of the hundreds of items washed up from the Walter Hood taken from the beach by locals?