Friday, 20 December 2013

The Ghost Ship of the Goodwins


One of the most famous ghosts of Kent is not, strictly speaking in Kent at all. It manifests itself out to sea among the treacherous waters of the Goodwin Sands off the coast near Deal.

On 13th February 1748 the popular local sea captain Simon Peel married one of Deal’s society beauties. To celebrate the event he invited 50 guests to join him and his wife on his ship the Lady Lovibund on a pleasure cruise out to sea. Unknown to Captain Peel, however, he had a rival in love in th shape of a Mr Rivers. And Mr Rivers had been driven mad with jealousy. Rivers muttered black oaths of revenge in the days leading up to the wedding, but nobody paid him any attention.

As the wedding party set sail, however, Rivers was seen to slip aboard the ship. Just hours later the ship was deliberately rammed at full speed on to the deadly Goodwin Sands. The ship broke up rapidly in the heavy swell which was running at the time and all on board were drowned. Had Rivers deliberately destroyed the craft? It seems likely and is widely held to have been the cause of the disaster.

To the amazement of the many who witnessed the event, the Lady Lovibund again set sail from Deal on the afternoon of 13th February 1798, exactly fifty years after the tragedy. As gathering crowds watched, the ship sailed out to sea, put about and again rammed the Goodwin Sands to break up and vanish. Several times since then the ship has been seen dashing through the sea and coming to grief on the Sands. She is usually seen on 13th February, but has sometimes appeared on other dates.

The Goodwin Sands take their name from the powerful Godwin family who held extensive lands and titles in England before the Norman Conquest. The sands were then dry land where the Godwins held manors and grazed livestock. Over the years the land was eroded away until now it emerges above the sea only at exceptionally low tides. The rest of the time the wide sandbank lurks dangerously beneath the waves. These waves are deep enough to prevent the sands from breaking the surface, but shallow enough to entrap in the banks the keel of any ship which tries to cross them. A lucky few ships can be refloated, but in heavy seas any craft which strikes the Goodwins are smashed to pieces by the waves, just as was the hapless Lady Lovibund. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of craft have ended their days on the deadly Goodwin Sands.

from "Haunted Places of Kent" by Rupert Matthews

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