As explained in the previous post, Harriet‘s mother married a sea captain, John Hopkins, who my parents discovered was lost at sea on the Jane Goodyear in 1880, travelling to North America. Here’s his story in brief and then my parents summary of their visit to Liverpool to discover more details.
Captain John Hopkins Born in London in 1841
All of what we know about Captain John Hopkins was uncovered by my parents through a substantial amount of research on Alderney, in Southampton, London and in Liverpool. Here is a summary of their findings:
Account of “LIVERPOOL VISIT IN JUNE 2011” by Pat and Arthur Jackson
“Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Liverpool was a very busy port, which served ships plying the Atlantic to America. The port comprised a number of interconnected, square shaped areas of water, fed from and accessed from, the River Mersey. These are the Liverpool Docks, which are called Princess, Queens, Albert, Dukes, Canning, Salthouse and Wapping. Ships would berth along the four sides of each dock and if necessary, some would anchor in the middle. Paintings of the period in the Liverpool Maritime Museum, show the docks filled to capacity with ships. The docks were surrounded by large, brick built, warehouses, which handled the cargoes carried by the ships. The warehouses still exist and have been adapted for use as housing, offices and shops.
With the coming of steam engines, ships became too large to pass through the dock entrance and the docks were too small for the ships to berth in. The old Liverpool Docks are still used for small craft and for pleasure activities and the dock area is now a tourist attraction.
From about 1855 to 1866 John Hopkins served in ships sailing from the port of London to the Channel Islands and to the Channel Ports. He first served as a junior deck hand or ‘Nipper` on the Heresa and as he gained experience, he was promoted to deck hand. He studied hard and became Mate after he had passed the examination. In 1865 he passed the Captain’s examination and became Captain of the Heresa.
The next year the owners replaced the Heresa with a newer and larger ship called the Spirit of the Day and John was again given the captaincy.
In August 1865, John married Jane Renier in Alderney and his new wife sailed with him on most of his later voyages.*
With his career established, in 1866 John felt he needed experience of foreign travel and to do this he and Jane moved to Liverpool, he to command ships sailing from that port and where possible, for Jane to sail with him. Tragedy struck in January 1880 when their ship, the Jane Goodyear, was lost off the coast of Canada, near St Johns, Newfoundland. None of the crew survived.
John Hopkins spent his last fourteen years living in Liverpool and serving on ships out of Liverpool, yet we know so little of this period of his life. We hoped that our visit to Liverpool would fill in some of the gaps and we were not disappointed. At Liverpool Maritime Museum we spent two hours with the Assistant Curator, John Winrow, who showed us original records, micro film and other documents in answer to the questions that we raised. The following notes summarize what we learnt:
Question 1-Could John Hopkins have been involved in the Slave Trade?
Answer-No, since slavery was abolished long before John started sailing from Liverpool
Question 2-were the voyages from Liverpool to the USA?
Answer-After the American War of Independence ended there was very little trade with the USA. Most ships traded with Canada.
Question3-Could piracy have been involved in the loss of the Jane Goodyear?
Answer-No. Piracy happened mainly in the West Indies and had almost stopped as a result of the efforts of the British Navy.
Question 4-What is known about the final voyage of the Jane Goodyear?
Answer-The ship left Liverpool in December 1879, bound for Canada and would have had to cross the north Atlantic in winter. It arrived at the small port of Queenstown, Canada early in January 1880. It left Queenstown on January 13, bound for St Johns, Newfoundland and was in contact with another ship on January 16 and was not heard of after that date. Lloyd`s List for June3 1880, column31 reported that the Jane Goodyear was presumed lost and a loss report was submitted by the owner Richard Goodyear.
Question5-What sort of ship was the Jane Goodyear?
Answer-She was built in1866 and was a single deck wooden ship with a scroll at the bows and two masts. It was103 feet long and 24 feet wide and had a carrying capacity of 211 tons. The ship probably had a crew of between 10 and 20.and would not normally carry passengers since the accommodation was very basic
Question6-What sort of cargo would have been carried on the ships John sailed in?
Answer-the ships would carry goods which had been ordered by customers at the port of destination and would bring back goods ordered in England. The only qualification was that the goods could be safely carried in the ship`s hold.
Question7-Sometimes there was a gap of many days or weeks between arriving back at Liverpool and starting the next voyage, where would the crew live for this period?
Answer-The Captains were often very wealthy men and would own or rent a house in or near Liverpool, where they and their family lived. During the period July20,1878 and May27,1879 when John was not sailing in the Jane Goodyear, he lived across the Mersey at 6 Holt Road,Tranmere. The house has now been demolished as part of the Liverpool redevelopment.
When there was only a few days between arriving and departing the captain would often remain on board to supervise the unloading and loading of the cargo.
The crew were often local men with families in Liverpool.”
Pat and Arthur Jackson
The Jane Goodyear is missing ~ presumed lost at sea
- Of course, it is now uncertain as to whether John Hopkins married Jane or Rachel. (See previous posts but I’ll add more if I discover the truth)