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Joseph Stockton King - A Victorian Sailing Ship Captain
Joseph Stockton King, an Ancient Mariner, who lived in Westbrook Villas from around 1906, sailed at various stages of his career –
· on the Cutty Sark tea clipper (launched on the Clyde in 1869)
· round the Horn and the Cape of Good Hope
· to India and China for the tea trade
· to Australia for the wool trade
· carried troops to India
· to Russia and the Baltic states for white turkeys
· to America for reasons unknown
in Merchant Navy Uniform.
Joseph Stockton King was born at 20 Burton Terrace, Clifton, York on 2 April 1846. His father, Joseph King, was a dental surgeon and also owned a small estate in Pickering. He was educated in St Paul’s school in York but instead of joining the family firm or looking after the estate, as would have been expected of the eldest son, he more or less ran away to sea to join the merchant service. His first recorded voyages were as midshipman, at the age of 16, on the Middlesex, out of the Port of London. In Later years he sailed on the Ellerman-Wilson Line from Hull where his youngest son was born. He attained his Master's Certificate and the rank of Captain in 1876 at the age of 30 at St Katherine's Dock, London. In the final stages he abandoned sail and became a ship’s engineer.
He sometimes took his family on trips and it was on a voyage to Norway that his youngest son, Donald got left behind, so the ship had to go back for him. Donald was never taken again! Uncle Stockton, as his nieces called him, had a small sea chest (18inch x14inch x 30inch) when he was a lower rank and a large wooden chest with rope handles (43inch x 21inch x 20inch) as his captain¡¦s chest. Both were originally treated with black tar for sea worthiness. They must have been enormously heavy to lug around!
Picture: A Victorian Sailing Ship Captain's Sea Chest.
|Of his voyages only one map remained as a partial record of travel from England to India. The Hydrology Office of the Admiralty issued the map, which cost 2/6p (12 .5p in modern money) in 1875. This showed him sailing on 19 August 1877 in the open ocean between Ascension Island and Pernambuco in Brazil. (Argentina hadn’t been invented in those days and so wasn’t on the map.) On 10 September 1877 the map shows that he arrived near the Cape of Good Hope and Capetown . The final part of the chart shows him arriving at Bombay in India on 31 October 1877. There is no record of the return journey. His maps were kept in a Japanned metal cylinder from H.Hughes, Optician and Manufacturer of 59 Fenchurch St London.
Picture: Nautical chart case as used by J.S.King
With such lengthy voyages its no wonder that he arrived back home in Hull on one occasion to find that his whole family had moved to another town in his absence! When the novelist, Joseph Conrad was a passenger on his ship he observed that Conrad was a man who wrote about the sea but knew nothing about it! He had the saying ¡§the whiter the bread the sooner you¡¦re dead¡¨ when brown bread was unfashionable and considered to be food for the poor.
Picture: Cowrie shells (1.7-2.4 cm in length) brought back by capt King. These were used as currency in Africa and South East Asia at the time of his voyages.
A Victorian sailing ship captain had to be tough and versatile and Capt King had many astounding tales to tell. At one time when stocks of meat were getting low the ship¡¦s cook had managed to serve up a delicious meal of what seemed to be fresh meat. Capt King called the cook to compliment him and pressed him to reveal the main ingredient. Eventually the cook confessed that it had been rats caught on the ship! Other delicacies were the hard tack ship¡¦s biscuits which were often writhing with weevils ¡V a good source of protein anyway!
|A good captain also needed to have a good knowledge of anatomy and medicine and Uncle Stockton had two enormous very comprehensive 3-inch thick doctor’s books for use on voyages. Using these, his penknife and his knowledge and skills acquired through many years at sea he once had to perform an appendectomy on a sailor who would otherwise have died. The sailor survived and when the ship reached land and he was checked over in a hospital the surgeon commented that this was the neatest appendectomy he had ever seen! Sadly these books were a casualty of World War II when they went for paper salvage.
Picture: Nautical telescope as used by J.S.King. Originally the wooden barrel was covered in maroon leather. The objective and eyepiece were mounted in brass.
A miraculous escape for the ship occurred when the whole vessel was lifted up by a monster wave and deposited intact on a beach. Ship and crew survived to tell the tale. Could this have been due to a tsunami from Krakatoa, which erupted in 1883? Unfortunately the ship's logs belonging to Capt King were lent to a local MP and the family never got them back, so much valuable historic information has been lost.
His sons were Joseph Stuart King, born 30 March 1884, George Kenneth Goodlad King, born 29 March 1886, died 15 June 1913 of consumption and Donald Neville King, born 7 August 1888 in Hull, who died 20 Sept 1935 in the diphtheria epidemic in Darlington. Joseph Stockton King died in Westbrook Villas on 29 January 1934.
Picture:J.S.King in later years.
A Victorian Seaman's Rations
A Victorian Seaman’s Rations
In 1869 Joseph King sailed as third mate on the Middlesex (tonnage 1191) from London to Calcutta and back to Poplar in London via the Red Sea, a voyage that took 9 months 17 days. The logbook recorded that the first mate, chief officer William Cuthbert came back to the ship from Calcutta very drunk and assaulted Joseph King. For this Cuthbert was confined to his cabin. The captain, Frederick John Sotham, at the end of the voyage recorded Joseph King’s general seamanship and general conduct as very good. Despite his fall from grace Mr Cuthbert was also given good marks, as were the rest of the crew. The captain must have been a very kind man. From logbooks of similar ships of the period food allocations per man per day included: 1 1/4lb pork or 1 1/2lb beef on alternate days, 1/8oz tea, ½oz coffee, 2oz sugar and 3 quarts of water. 3 days in a week they got 1/3pint of peas. No spirits or grog were allowed.
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