Hearts of Oak

Isles of Scilly



The Penzance / Isles of Scilly Mail Packets

The Mail has been carried between the Isles of Scilly and the Mainland since 1548, when Henry VIII began his fortifications. Pilot boats have carried mail and passengers.


Falmouth. 1st August 1666.

Thomas Holden, in a letter to Joseph Williamson,

Editor of the Gazette, later Secretary of State,

states “a French man-of-war chased

two Falmouth vessels, which escaped

but took the Scilly packet boat and a collier”.


Records begin in 1779.

Vessels in service and their dates of commencement,

as well as history and fate, where known.


1779 GRACE

Built: 1779, Sloop, 43 tons, Length. 46ft., Breadth. 15ft. 

Master: James Gibson,

Original Owners John Medbury and John Wellcock ( merchants, of Scilly )

Owners: James Gibson and John Medway.



Built: 1779, Sloop, 10 tons

Owners John Wellcock and Mrs Badcock ( butcher, of Paul, Mainland ).


It should be noted here, that at that time,

Paul was of greater importance than Penzance

( Penzance did not begin to grow until around 1820 ).


1786 HOPE

Built: 1786, 27 tons,

Builder: James John, Cowes IOW,

Owner William Wellcock

Wrecked 1795

Master: James Tregarthen,



Built: 1797, Sloop, 46 tons, Scilly,

Master: James John,

Owners: William JOHN, William Willcock, James John. 

Penzance to Scilly Packet from 1803.



Owners Tregarthen, Banfield and Edwards

Built: 1813, Sloop, Scilly.


In 1803 The General Post Office Established Royal Mail Packets,

and in 1804 the tender was acquired by HOPE ( built 1786 ),

The first contract was awarded to James Tregarthen at the

suggestion of the Garrison Commander.

The Mail Service was charged at 2 pence per letter.


1810 LORD HOWE smack built IOW

owned by local traders

Master : James Tregarthen, 

Sunk off Runnelstone 1819.


1813 LORD WELLINGTON 25t Cutter,

Built 1813 Cowes, IOW

Owner : William Wetherall. 

( In 1834, she first brought Augustus Smith to the Islands. )

Broken up 1842


1819 PRINCE REGENT 32 tons smack

Built: 1819, Scilly,

Master : Paul Hicks 

Owner : Alex Banfield


Trading Vessels listed in Pigott’s directory of 1823

To and from Penzance and London.

AMITY, John Heath.

FAME, Thomas Barns.

GRACE, James Rosewall.

HAPPY RETURN, William Woolcock.

To and from Penzance and Bristol.

BRISTOL PACKET, William Richards

ONE AND ALL, James Read.

A Packet to the Scilly Islands every Fri. and returns the following Tuesday.

N. B. All Parcels for this conveyance to be left at the Dolphin.

POST OFFICE, Chapel-street. Nicholas Phillips, Post Master.

The mail to London, through Falmouth, every morning at eight,

and arrives every afternoon at half past two.


1825 CHERUB  45  tons Cutter rigged. 

Built 1825 Dartmouth

Owned by Scilly Packet Company

Lengthened at Scilly 1831 - 57 tons converted to Schooner.

Wrecked October 1837


The Mails were carried for the fee of £300 per year


Royal Cornwall Gazette November 1825
"The New Scilly Post Office Packet, the Cherub, William Tregarthen, master.

THE PUBLIC are respectfully informed that the NEW PACKET will sail from Penzance for Scilly every Friday morning, and will leave Scilly for Penzance every Tuesday. This packet has lately been fitted up with very superior accommodation for ladies and gentlemen, and from the size of the vessel is better calculated for the comfort of the Passengers, than any that has yet sailed to and from the Isles of Scilly.

Goods taken to and from Scilly at a moderate freight.

Any further information can be obtained by applying to

the Master at the Dolphin Tavern, on the Quay.

Penzance, October 22nd, 1825."


Royal Cornwall Gazette June 1831

"The Public are respectfully informed that, in compliance with the wishes of a great number of Ladies and Gentlemen of Falmouth, Penzance, etc. the Steam Packet Sir Francis Drake, James Mill, commander, will leave Falmouth (weather per­mitting) on the 25th inst., immediately after her arrival from Plymouth, for Penzance, from which place she will proceed early on the following Morning, for the Scilly Islands; returning to Penzance in the Afternoon, and to Falmouth on Sunday Night. Fares: Falmouth to Penzance, and back 5 shillings, Falmouth to Penzance, Scilly, and back 10 shillings-., Penzance to Scilly and back 5 shillings. Refreshments may be had on board."


West Briton Newspaper report : Friday 1st April, 1836

“The Scilly Packet, “Lord Wellington,” sailed on Sunday,

but finding the gale coming on put back.”


West Briton Newspaper Friday October 28th, 1836

“The excessive violence of the late gales,

detained the Scilly Packet at Penzance

above a week beyond her usual time,

to the great inconvenience of many.

A larger and more commodious packet is much wanted.”


For the period 1843-45, Naval cutters carried the mails [ by Act of Parliament ]. 


1843-1844 SNIPE Sail Cutter

Launched 28 June 1828 : Wooden Hull 

Displacement 122 tons;  Guns 6

9 March 1839 Under Lt Commander Thomas Baldock, coast of Ireland

31 May 1843 Under Lt Commander George Raymond, particular service

Scrapped 1860


1844-1845 SPEEDY Sail Cutter

Launched 28 June 1828 : Wooden Hull

Displacement  123 tons ; Guns 4   

25 July 1838 Under Lt Commander John Allan Wright, Sheerness

9 August 1841 Under Lt Commander George Beaufoy, Sheerness

8 March 1845 Under Lt Commander George Spong, particular service

1853 became a mooring lighter

Scrapped 1866


Winter of 1845: Houses of Parliament

The Scilly Isles : Captain Pechell moved for "all communications addressed to the Treasury respecting the Post Office arrangements at the Islands of Scilly, with the answers returned thereto, etc, since the 1st August 1844, up to the present time; copies of all communications addressed to the Post Office on the same subject, with all answers returned, from the same date; copies of all correspondence that has taken place with the admiralty in the course of the year 1844, respecting conveyance of the mail to the Islands of Scilly; return of the expenses incurred for the SPEEDY and SNIPE cutters during the period the same were employed in conveying the mails to and from the Islands of Scilly, during the past year; also any copies of special reports that were made by the commanders of the said cutters relative to the said service; return of all places in the United Kingdom having the benefit of money order post-offices and distinguishing whether the said places are established as post-offices, sub-post, or branch offices". The arrangements of the Post Office, the honourable and gallant member said, were very unsatisfactory with respect to these islands. For six months at a time they were left without any regular mail whatsoever. At that moment there were no regular mail to those islands. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he looked into the matter, would see that the interests of those islands had been grievously neglected by the Post Office. To enable the inhabitants to proceed by memorial to the Government or otherwise, it would be necessary to have this correspondence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had no objection to produce the correspondence, if the honourable and gallant gentleman thought it necessary, but it struck him the subject was hardly worth the production to the house of so much correspondence. After a few words from Sir C Lemon, the papers were ordered; the last return, on the suggestion of Mr Hume, being ordered to be made as a separate and substantive return.


1842  LYONESSE 49 tons Cutter  

Built Scilly 1841.

Mail Service 1842 – 1851

Captain Frank Tregarthen

Wrecked March 1867. 


1851 ARIADNE 53 tons Cutter

Built 1841 Sandgate,

Bought by Tregarthen and Banfield.

Last of the Sail Packets.

Captain Frank Tregarthen

Mail Service 1851-1858

Wrecked : October 1859.



1858 – 1872

Scilly Isles Steam Navigation Company

Thomas Johns Buxton : Ship Agent

James Phillips : Ship Owner

Francis Banfield : Ship Agent

James Bluett : Merchant

Richard Edwards : Ship Owner


During the 1840 to 1889 period,  Francis Banfield & Sons owned a lot of vessels sailing all round the world including the biggest built in Scilly which was

the "John Banfield" at 528 tons.  They also owned a larger vessel,

the "Anne Laity Banfield", built in Glasgow and of 743 tons. 

These Scillonian ships were trading all round the world, Chile, Argentina, New York, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and the Mediterranean.




1857 SCOTIA Steamship 

F McFarland reports that SCOTIA was the “First with Steam”

She was chartered until the LITTLE WESTERN was delivered.

Built 1847 for the Chester & Holyhead Railway

Chester & Holyhead Railway Company

In 1848 the Chester & Holyhead Railway Company

commenced operating a passenger service between

Holyhead and Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) / Howth.

The fleet was transferred in 1859 to the

London & North Western Railway Company.

Iron paddle steamer 400 horse power.

480 ton gross; 263 tons net; ( originally built as 202 tons net )

194 feet length; 27 feet 1 inch breadth; 13 feet 2 inches depth;

powered by a 2 cylinder engine by Maudslay of Blackwall;

Built at Blackwall ( London ) by Money and Wigrams in 1847;

( one of a four-ship fleet ) taking mails between Holyhead and Kingstown.

She was purchased by the City of Dublin Co., in July 1851,

1858 Chartered to run the mails between the Isles of Scilly and Penzance

until 1859 when she was sold to the London and North Western Railway Co.

December 1861, at Liverpool, she was sold as a Blockade runner.

She made four runs ( two each, in and return ) and on the fifth ( inwards, attempting to reach Charleston ) run she was captured ( as well as the British steamer ANGLIA ) by the Federals 24th October 1862 at Bull's Bay, South Carolina.

By the 23rd January 1863, she had been sold by

the Prize Court and registered at New York as the GENERAL BANKS.

During the year 1863 she had again been sold a number of times,

ending up registered at Nassau; as the FANNY AND JENNY ,

now 508 tons gross 297 tons net; Captain Coxetter ;

later in the year, making two more runs against the Blockade,

but driven ashore by the USS FLORIDA Wrightsville Beach,

Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina; off New Inlet 8th February 1864 ( inward bound ).

The ship was reported salvaged by the owner and the ship

continued in the ownership of Augustus John Adderley until 1914.



1863, Registered Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas : 508tons.

There were two vessels involved in blockade running with the name of
Scotia. The second ship to bear the name was built by Tod & McGregor, Glasgow, in
1845 for Otto Henry Kaselack and captured 1st March 1864, coming out of

There were a number of vessels at this time named


It is therefore unclear as to whether or not

the entries and references actually are relating to one and the same ship,

let alone the authenticity of the legend of the Jewelled Sword and its Fate.

There are many other references in Civil War Records,

but here are a selection.


Civil War Naval Chronology 1861-1865.

ORN Vol. 13 & Vol. 9 and

Stephen Wise’s "Lifeline of the Confederacy"


Delaware Prisoners of War

"SCOTIA" 24th Nov 1862. Hi Seas. Bulls Bay. Steamer. ("FANNY & JENNY")

William A. Beeson - Seaman

The largest number of prisoners is made up of blockade-runner crews. The crew was likely to be foreign sailors sailing under the British flag. As long as they did not return fire they were usually released (sometimes to crew the same ship for the Union.). The Captain, Pilot and Supercargo (owners' agents, etc.) along with any Confederate military personnel were forwarded to Union prisons. The civilian captains and mates were held as witnesses for the Prize Courts while military personnel were held as regular POWs.


March 1st 1864 U.S.S. CONNECTICUT, Commander Almy, took blockade running British steamer SCOTIA with cargo of cotton at sea off Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Then from a diary entry

28th July 1864 Hot and dry. Made a call in the morning on Mrs. Kelly, a cousin. At eleven o'clock took Steamer SCOTIA (a captured blockade runner which now runs from Portland to Augusta) to Gardiner. Arrived there at 3 o'clock.


During the American Civil War, some British sympathisers purchased a jewelled sword worth $2,500 in 1864 as a present for Confederate General Robert E. Lee. This sword was placed on the British blockade runner FANNY AND JENNY for the run through the Union blockade. The FANNY AND JENNY a 727 ton, 497 bulk tons iron steamer, was built in 1847 in London, England. The FANNY AND JENNY had also been known as the SCOTIA and GENERAL BANKS. While running the earlier Union blockade as the SCOTIA she had been captured.


Feb 10th 1864 U.S.S. FLORIDA, Commander Peirce Crosby, forced blockade runner FANNY AND JENNY aground near Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina. Immediately thereafter, Crosby sighted blockade runner EMILY aground nearby. Unable to get either steamer afloat and under fire from a Confederate Whitworth battery, Crosby burned them. The Florida managed to capture several of the FANNY AND JENNY’s crew, and while a few did escape, the Captain and the purser drowned before Confederate shore batteries drove the Florida away. FANNY AND JENNY carried an assorted cargo including a quantity of coal, she sank in only twelve feet of water. EMILY carried a cargo of salt. On FANNY AND JENNY was also found a solid gold jewel-studded sword scabbard inscribed: "To General Robert E. Lee, from his British sympathizers." Crosby reported that information given him by the captured crew members of FANNY AND JENNY indicated that ten blockade runners had sailed from Nassau for Wilmington ". . . during this dark of the moon. Three have been destroyed, and one put back, broken down, leaving six others to be heard from."

The sword is reportedly lost.




1858 - 1872 LITTLE WESTERN - ON 19050 

Steam Schooner 2 cylinder Iron Screw.

Built 1858 Renfrew; James Henderson & Sons

115 ( 148 ) tons gross; 67 tons net;

115ft 9ins length; 18ft 5 ins breadth; 9ft 4ins depth

Owner : Captain F B Tregarthen

Wrecked  on Southward Wells Reef, 6th Oct 1872,

attempting to give assistance to a disabled brigantine.


Captain Tregarthen opened the first hotel on Scilly in 1848.

My grandfather Francis ( Frank ) Thompson used to say his father ( Archibald Thompson ) told him that the Little Western sometimes only ran when supplies were to be brought from the mainland, so some visitors had a longer stay on the islands than they had planned.


1861 Census (Little Western) Isles of Scilly

William Woodcock,Crew,M,47,Seaman,Tresco Scilly

( 66 Ton Screw Steamer. Master: F.B. Tregarthen )

Robert Jenkin,Crew,M,43,Seaman,Tresco Scilly

Richard Copenhoun,Crew,M,36,Engineer,Glasgow Scotland,

Richard Frances,Crew,M,26,Stoker,Newlyn Paul Cornwall


1871 Census Isles of Scilly
Little Western - Screw Steamer Passenger : 66ton No. 19050
Francis T Hicks,Master (Ashore), Scilly
Benjamin Bryant,M,35,Engineer,Rotherhithe Surrey
Richard Francis,M,35,Stoker,Newlyn West Cornwall
Alfred Williams,M,30,Steward,Tregony Cornwall
Daniel Richards,M,36,A B Seaman,Mousehole Cornwall
John Edwards,M,28,A B Seaman,Penzance Cornwall
The Little Western was the Isles of Scilly’s 
First Steam Packet boat and made about three voyages 
from Scilly to Penzance and back each week; 
each voyage took four hours.




1871 – 1872  EARL OF ARRAN Steamship; Relief vessel.

Former Clyde excursion vessel.

Builders: Blackwood & Gordon, Paisley, Scotland 1860

Propulsion type: Paddle, double steeple 2 cyl engines

Owners: 1860 Ardrossan Steamboat Co,

Owners: 1871 West Cornwall Steamship Co

Service dates: 1871 - 1872

Tonnage: Gross 144 tons; Net 77 tons

143 ft 5 ins long, 18 ft 5ins wide; 8ft 5 ins depth

This little steamer was built for use between Brodick and Lamlash.

In 1871 she was sold for use between Penzance and St Mary's in the Scilly Isles but had only a short career.

Wrecked 16th July 1872. One of the passengers on the trip, a Mr Stephen Woodcock, advised the Captain that he was a sailor on one of the pilot boats and could show the Captain a short cut. Unfortunately this short cut between St Martin's Island and the Eastern Rocks was unsuccessful and the ship foundered on Nornour Rock. Whilst there was no loss of life or cargo the ship was proclaimed a total loss.



List mainly compiled from one made

by my great grandfather Archibald Thompson

and continued ( up to the first Scillonian )

by my grandfather Francis Orlando Thompson

of St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly


My Thanks for

The kind help of the Captain and Crew of the ship, Mariners-L;

Thanks too for material and help from

Chris Marrow ( of the Syllingar )

and Mike Tedstone

for his kind permission to use his article

“The Ship with Five Lives”

as well as The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company,

Roger Banfield and the Isles of Scilly Museum

Other material from

West Country Passenger Steamers by Grahame Farr


Raymond Forward