25th November 2015: 2pm  ”’Those Sons of Plunder”:  The Wreckers of Kent’. Dr Cathryn Pearce:


  •  As we have seen in the previous sessions, the Thames acted—and still acts—as a gateway to the rest of the world. However, the risk of shipwreck was a constant worry, especially in the Age of Sail. Of particular danger to London shipping were shifting sands of the Thames Estuary and the Goodwins. Shipwreck meant loss of cargo, lives and profit. Even if a ship went aground and was safe from sinking, she might not be ‘safe’ from theft and plunder. Indeed, in 1707 Daniel Defoe wrote ‘Those Sons of Plunder are below my Pen; Because they are below the Names of Men; Who from the Shores presenting to their Eyes; the Fatal Goodwin, where the Wreck of Navies Lyes’. This session will use Defoe’s famous essay ‘The Storm’ as a window to view the world of the wreckers and salvagers of the Thames and Kent coast in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By using primary resources we will determine if Defoe’s charges of barbarity against the men of Kent were justified.


  • Dr Cathryn Pearce is a Visiting Lecturer in History at the University of Greenwich, which she joined after teaching history for the University of Alaska Anchorage for over fifteen years. She is the author of the acclaimed Cornish Wrecking, 1700-1865: Reality and Popular Myth (2010), and is currently writing another book which will incorporate the wreckers of Kent. She has also recently embarked on a large research project on lifesaving and coastal communities, with a focus on the role of the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Royal Benevolent Society.  Cathryn appeared in BBC2’s ‘Timewatch: The Wreckers’, on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Making History’, and in BBC 4’s ‘Timeshift: Shipwrecks’.



2pm The Cutty Sark Pub just five minutes east of the Naval College,

4-6 Ballast Quay
SE10 9PD



£10 for the lecture plus the cost of the light lunch / finger buffet before

Numbers are strictly limited so please book early


An american Ship in distress by John Wichelo

© NMM Collection

Readings and Links

From a background of Cornish Wreckers:

Neglectful or worse by Cathryn Pearce in 'Troze'

The Unlucky Wrecker by Cathryn Pearce in 'Troze'

About the Kent Wreckers

Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England by John Rule

is available from Amazon and I've just bought a copy for £4.60.

If you want to read the relevant chapters.....contact me!

The Maritime History of Cornwall is a wonderful book that I've had the good luck to glance at, but it will set you back about £61. There is a chapter written by Dr Pearce.