Collision between the “Duchess of Kent” and the “Ravensbourne” steamers, off Northfleet Point Source: the 1852 Illustrated London News. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Lost of the “Duchess of Kent” Steamer

The passage below, which appeared on the page beneath the engraving, was created using ABBYY FineReader to render the Hathi Digital Library images into text. — George P. Landow

A collision of a most frightful character occurred on Thursday afternoon, last week, in the river Thames, off Northfleet Point, by which the Duchess of Kent, Margate and Ramsgate steamer, was run down by the Ravensbourne, bound to Antwerp with nearly 200 passengers and full cargo. It appears that the Ravensbourne was steaming down the river with full tide in her favour immediately in the wake of and just on the starboard side of the Meteor Gravesend steam boat. She arrived nearly opposite Northfleet Point about two o'clock. On nearing the Point, the Duchess of Kent, Margate steamer, was seen coming up the river against tide and hugging the southern shore—the tide running very strongly. The Ravensbourne was about three parts over the river on the Kent shore, and as she neared the Duchess of Kent, the latter crossed, apparently with the object of pasting between the Ravensbourne and the Meteor; when, in an instant, consequent on the heavy way on the Ravensbourne, before the Duchess of Kent could cross her, she ran into her about twenty feet from the figure-head, or just before the windlass, on the starboard bow. The crash was frightful; the Duchess of Kent immediately began to fill, and to commence sinking, bows foremost. The scene among the passengers, a large number of whom were ladies with children, was truly frightful. The captain of the Ravensbourne finding that the Duchess of Kent was rapidly sinking, backed, when the passengers rushed, in their fright, to the still sinking part of the ship. At this moment the Meteor arrived alongside, and the passengers and crew on deck were literally dragged on to her and the Ravensbourne, with one exception. This was a gentleman named Hale, a brewer, of Broadstairs, late of Thanet, who, being infirm, was unable to be reached. In the meantime the vessel sank, bows first, almost perpendicularly, the keel being lifted as she sank twenty or thirty leet ont of the water. The captain of the Duchess of Kent, it is only due to him to state was, with the exception of Mr. Hale, the last to leave his ill-fated vessel. Mr. Hale, though unable to assist himself from infirmity while on board the vessel, most extraordinary to relate, the moment he reached the water, struck out and kept himself afloat until rescued by one of the boats lowered from the Meteor.

From the moment of the collision to the time the Duchess of Kent entirely sunk beneath the surface of the water, was little more than eight or nine minutes; and, but for the prompt assistance rendered by the enw of the Star Packet Meteor, a great loss of life must have occurred.

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“Opening a portion of the Lancaster branch of the North-Western Railway.” Illustrated London News (10 July 1852): 17-18. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Chicago Library. Web. 9 December 2015.

Last modified 10 December 2015