The "Fairfax" was an iron screw steamship belonging to the Port of London, of 929 tons gross, and 708 tons net register, and was fitted with engines of 90. horse power. She was built at Govan, in the County of Lanark, in the year 1865, and at the time of her loss was the property of the General Iron Screw Collier Company, Limited, Mr. William Balcombe, of No. 17, Gracechurch Street, London, being the managing owner.
She left Havre at 7 p.m. on the 9th of February last in ballast bound to
the Tyne, and having on board a crew of 17 hands all told. At 7.40 p.m.
Cape La HÃ¨ve bore E. by S. distant 3 miles, upon which the vessel was
laid upon a N.N.E. course, and they proceeded at full speed, making 7
knots, or a little more, the wind being light and the weather hazy with
rain. At 8.30 p.m. the wind veered round to W.N.W. and began to freshen,
upon which the mizen main trysail and main staysail were set to keep
the vessel's head to the wind and to prevent her from making too much
leeway. At 10 o'clock it was blowing very hard; and the master,
supposing that she would be making about two points of leeway, altered
the course to north, and shortly afterwards he went into the chart room,
leaving the deck in charge of the mate. At midnight the master came on
deck again and remained in charge until 4 a.m., when the patent log was
hauled in, and showed them that from Cape La HÃ¨ve, where it had been
set, they had run about 60 miles. The vessel was still continued on a
north course until about 4.30 a.m., when the master, believing her to be
then about 10 miles S.S.W. of Beachy Head, altered the course to E.N.E.
by the compass, which, we are told, was equivalent to E. by N. 1/2 N.
magnetic, the compass having on that course half a point of easterly
deviation. At 4.45 a.m. the master went into the chart room, leaving the
vessel in charge of the mate, who was then on deck, and telling him
that he would probably see the Royal Sovereign light-ship, and that if
so he was to be called, but if not he was to call him at 7 a.m. At a
quarter to six a light, we are told, was seen by the look-out man some 3
or 4 points on the starboard side, and was by him duly reported; the
vessel, however, continued her course, and in about ten minutes the
light disappeared. Five minutes afterwards the loom of the land was
observed ahead and a little on the port bow, upon which the mate
immediately ordered the engines to be reversed full speed, but before
the speed could be taken off the vessel she struck. The engines were
kept at work till 7.30 a.m., but without being able to move her, so
firmly was she fixed; and at 8.30 a.m. water was reported in the engine
room. At 9 o'clock, the crew, with the assistance of the coastguard,
succeeded in reaching the shore, and at 11 to half-past the master and
mate also left her, it being then low water and the vessel high and dry
forward. The place where the vessel grounded was, we are told, about one
third of a mile to the westward of Crowlink Coastguard Station, which
is about a mile and a half to the westward of Beachy Head Lighthouse.
The vessel ultimately became a total wreck, and has been lost with
everything on board.
Wreck itself is scattered amongst the rocky bottom with the boiler the highest part, see the video on the wreck report page. Most of the wreck has been salvaged but there are chains and hull plating amongst other bits of scrap .