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Charles Steels - a general history

Completed January 1890: Official No. 97385: Code Letters LNHF.

Owners: 1890 J. Lilly, Wilson & Co, West Hartlepool; 1893 J. Lilly & Co, West Hartlepool.

Masters: 1890 T Sawyer; 1891-93 J Stewart; 1893 JW Howling; 1894-95 J Robinson; 1898 Thomas Peet (b. 1870 Hartlepool C.N. 24565 Sunderland 1895).

Charles Steels sailed from Leith on 16th October, 1898, bound for Hamburg with a cargo of coal and a crew of 18, and was not seen again. It was thought she had foundered in the severe gales that swept the coast from the 17th to the 20th October. A boat bearing the words ‘Charles Steels’ washed ashore at Buckhaven, Fifeshire which was assumed to have come from the missing vessel.
Lives lost:
Beal, James, 2nd Mate, Rodney Street, West Hartlepool; Grimwood, C., steward, Middlesbrough; Mitchell, Joseph, 30, fireman, b. Lochee, resided Hull; Peet, Thomas, Master, Scarborough Street, West Hartlepool; Penterman, F., Chief Mate, Straker Street West Hartlepool; Smith, Arthur, 2nd Engineer, Church Street, West Hartlepool; Walker, John T., Chief Engineer, Catherine Street West Hartlepool.

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, Thursday, October 27th, 1898:
THE MISSING WEST HARTLEPOOL STEAMER. HOPE ABANDONED. A West Hartlepool telegram states that no hope is now entertained of the safety of the West Hartlepool steamer Charles Steels, which left Leith for Hamburg October 16th, and encountered the whole force the recent storm. The crew were signed on under the coasting clause, so that owing to changes a complete list cannot be got. The vessel was commanded by Capt. Peet, of West Hartlepool, and the chief officers, first and second engineers, and two petty officers also belonged to the same town. The steamer carried 18 hands.

The following biographical information on Mr. Charles Steels, the gentleman whose company built the SS Charles Steels, has been kindly given to us by a member of the public.




Charles was born 2nd Feb. 1852 and died 22nd Mar.1896 age 44

He never married so no children.

He was born in Chapmangate in Pocklington the son of Richard and Mary Steels.

He is found in the 1861 census as a scholar aged 8 years old.

He was later sent out to learn the trade of a grocer before returning to Pocklington to start his own business as a grocer which he did very successfully.

In the 1881 census he is shown as living above the shop (19 Market Place) with his sister Mary who is shown as a grocer’s assistant and a Laura Sessions a general servant.

He must have been a popular man as in 1893 there was an election for newly constituted Local Board for Pocklington.

He was one of the successful candidates but his brother William did not receive enough votes.

Charles was involved in the setting up of the Pocklington Steamship Company along with other investers.

They had two ships, one was named the SS Pocklington after the town and the second was named the SS Charles Steels named after himself.

It was commissioned in 1890 and was built in Hartlepool Yorkshire. It was approximately 1600 tons.

The company had mixed results for the two ships, the SS Pocklington

Being the more profitable.

This came to a head at a shareholders meeting and resulted in Charles having to go to court to defend a libel case against him.

After various incidents including saving another ship in a big storm after two other ships failed after their hawsers (Ropes) snapped and they had to leave her. The SS Charles Steels stood  by until morning and took it in tow, again the hawser snapped but the managed to get it back under tow and get it safely into port.

In another incident the SS Charles Steels was sailing from Catania when sulphur took fire after reaching Oporto. The fire took days too finally to put out.

The ships last voyage was when it set sail from Leith going to Hamburg with a load of coal but a storm blew up and the ship was reported missing with all hands (18-20).

After six years a bottle was found containing a message from one of the crew saying that they had collided with an unknown ketch and was sinking fast.

Charles died in 1896 leaving around £8000 a lot of money in those days.

The will caused a rift in the family ending up with George and William going to court.

On the base of Charles headstone it says erected by George Steels and his sisters which I assume was snub to William. Perhaps this is what the argument was about, the cost of the headstone.

Still it all seems to have been sorted and William took over running the grocers shop and George later attended William’s funeral.



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