top of page


THE HALF-PENNY NEWSMAN - 25 July 1874. “LOSS OF A DONYLAND FISHERMAN. George Brown, of Donyland, one of the crew of the steam yacht Sunbeam, belonging to Mr. T. Brassey, M.P., has been drowned off the coast of Norway while baling water from the dingey attached to the yacht. He leaves a widow and one child. He had insured his life.”


Between 6 July 1876 and 27 May 1877 the magnificent steam-assisted three-masted topsail-yard schooner Sunbeam, owned by Lord Thomas Brassey, made the first circumnavigation of the globe by a private yacht. Regular illustrated "blogs" from the voyage appeared in The Times, The Graphic and The Illustrated London News with Lady Brassey's full account of the eleven month trip, 'A Voyage in the Sunbeam',  becoming a best-seller.

And yes... the majority of the Sunbeam's crew hailed from Rowhedge.

Route: Madeira, Tenerife, Cape Verde Islands, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Tahiti, Sandwich Islands, Hawaii, Japan, China, Singapore Ceylon, Aden, Egypt, Home.

Isaiah POWELL, Sailing Master

Charles COOK, Signalman and Gunner

James ALLEN, Coxswain of the Gig

James WALFORD, Captain of the Hold

John FALE, Coxswain of the Cutter, left Sunbeam at Malacca

Henry PARKER, Second Coxswain of the Gig

William SEBBORN, A.B. (Able Bodied)

Turner ENNEW, A.B.

William MOULTON, A.B.

John GREEN, A.B.

Thomas TAYLOR, A.B.

Thomas POWELL, Forecastle Cook

William COLE, Boy

Joseph SOUTHGATE, Cook's Mate

John SEBBORN, arrived from U.S. Ashuelot at Hong Kong

Arthur TURNER, rescued crewman of Monkshaven, remained on board Sunbeam as an A.B.


'A Voyage in the Sunbeam' is free to read here >



Sunbeam was apparently named after a daughter of Lord and Lady Brassey - Constance Alberta - who was nicknamed Sunbeam and  died of scarlet fever aged four, on 24 January 1873. The golden figurehead of the yacht which depicts her is kept at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

Lord Brassey's wealth derived from the family business of building railways in the UK and around the world.  He went on to become Governor of  the Australian state of  Victoria and died in 1918 aged 82.

Annie Brassey's accounts of later voyages in the Sunbeam include "Sunshine and Storm in the East" (1880); "In the Trades, the Tropics, and the Roaring Forties" (1885); and "The Last Voyage" (1889, published posthumously).

Her last voyage on the Sunbeam was to India and Australia, undertaken in November 1886 to improve her health. On the way to Mauritius she died of malaria on 14 September 1887 and was buried at sea.

Her collections of ethnographic and natural history material were shown in a museum at her husband's London house until they were moved to Hastings Museum in 1919. There are also several photograph albums and other ephemera held at Hastings Library.


Sunbeam - Sydney Harbour                      1887

Annie and Thomas Brassey

Rowhedge men sail round the world



“SUMMARY OF THE VOYAGE OF THE YACHT SUNBEAM from England to Tangier, Gibraltar, Palermo, Messina, Piraeus, Constantinople, Moudania, Smyrna, Milo, Zante, Corfu, Naples, Nice, and Gravesend, September 4, 1874, to January 7, 1875.”


Isaiah POWELL, First Mate

William CHECK (Cheek?), Carpenter

Charles COOK, Signalman

Benjamin WALFORD, Coxswain of the “Gleam,” Cutter

John FALE, Coxswain of the “Glance,” Cutter

William PERCIVAL, Coxswain of the “Ray,” Light Gig

Joseph WADE, Coxswain of the “Mote,” Dinghy

John WALFORD, Store-room Man

James C. ALLEN, A.B.


Henry PARKER, A.B.

Samuel WADE, A.B.

William SIBBORN, A.B.

George CLARK, A.B.

James HARRIS, A.B.

Edgar JONES, A.B.

Thomas JAY, A.B.

Thomas HARRIS, Chief Steward

Ebenezer SOUTHGATE, Cabin Cook’s Boy

Thomas POWELL, Forecastle Cook

Wallace C. HOWLEN, Forecastle Cook’s Boy






Dartmouth, Malta, Gibraltar, Madeira, Trinidad, Venezuela, Jamaica, Bahamas, Bermuda, Ponta Delgada, Devonport.


John FALE, Coxswain, First Cutter

Ebenezer SOUTHGATE, Chief Cook

Alfred SOUTHGATE, Second Cook

A SAGA OF THE SUNBEAM  by Horace G. Hutchinson, published 1911


Outward voyage from 9 July to 13 August 1910 - Dover, via Wick, to Iceland; thence to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Montreal.

Return voyage from 19 August to 20 September 1910 - Montreal through Gut of Canso to St. John’s, Newfoundland; thence to Waterford and Dover.


Local crewmen -

Master - Jack Carter, Rowhedge. The King permitted Capt. Carter to act as Master of the Sunbeam for the voyage.

Second Cook - G. Coppin, Brightlingsea


“CAPTAIN CARTER - His father spent many years in the service of the late King, in charge of the Britannia, in her racing days winner of many brilliant victories.

Captain Carter is a fine navigator, a good seaman, keenly interested in making the voyages a success, tactful in dealing with an owner who takes the chief command, and considerate in his relations with the old sailing master, who for many years had been serving with no superior officer but the owner.”

The voyage is further described by Earl Brassey in “SUNBEAM R.Y.S. - Voyages and Experiences in Many Waters” published in 1917.

The penultimate chapter in the book concerns the travels of the Sunbeam in the Mediterranean when she was used as a hospital ship in WWI, her fortieth commission.

Her crew included Captain Jack Carter (now of Cowes), “.... of the yacht Britannia, graciously loaned to the Sunbeam while used as a hospital-ship.”

G. Coppin, Brightlingsea, 2nd Cook

H. Dines, Brightlingsea, Forecastle Cook

C. Wadley, Wivenhoe, A.B., Coxswain Launch

P. James, Rowhedge, A.B., Coxswain Gig


In 1916 Earl Brassey presented Sunbeam to the Government and people of India for the remainder of the war. Sunbeam logged over 500,000 miles and her voyages included -

Round the World - 1876-77

West Indies and United States - 1883 and again in 1892

Calcutta and Bombay - 1893-94

Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand - 1895-97 (Earl Brassey was Governor of Australia for five years).

Australia to England - 1900

Canada - 1903

West Indies and United States - 1905

Iceland and Canada - 1910

Bombay - 1913-14

Mediterranean (as Hospital Ship) - 1915

India, from Alexandria - 1916

In addition to these voyages Sunbeam sailed to the Mediterranean and back seven times, to Norway twice and to the Baltic.

Following the death of Earl Brassey in 1918 Sunbeam passed to Henry Brassey before becoming a training ship in 1920. She was sold to Sir Walter Runciman in 1922 and broken up a few years later.

The Brassey Collection at the Hastings Museum is apparently well worth a visit for anyone interested in the voyages of the Sunbeam.

bottom of page