Wreck and Mayhem on the Dorset Coast

Map Weymouth 2Sometime before noon on Saturday 11th December 1641, a Dutch vessel called the Golden Grape was driven ashore in foul weather and cast away on Chesil Beach near the village of Wyke. Seven crew members were drowned. The inhabitants of the coast where the ship was wrecked had a long history of wresting their living from ships and the sea, sometimes within the law, often outside it. Merchants, privateers, out-and-out pirates, not to mention smugglers, had flourished there for centuries, sometimes with the connivance of the highest in the land.

The Golden Grape was carrying a rich cargo on her voyage from Cadiz to Le Havre, including raisins, wine, oil, wool and silk. She also carried a quantity of silver plate and gold and silver coinage whose origins and destination were mysterious. These goods now lay at the mercy of the wind and sea and of the local population. As the surviving crew struggled ashore, cold, wet and shaken, what reception could they expect for themselves and their stricken ship?

Selwyn WilliamsDiscover the fate of the vessel and the background of piracy, smuggling and other lawless activities along the Dorset coast, at a talk by Selwyn Williams, local historian, diver and author of The Treasure of the Golden Grape. The talk is at Poole Museum (5th floor) on Wednesday next 18th November at 7.30 pm as part of the Museum Society programme, and visitors are welcome.

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