VALFREYIA

Postcard dated January 1904

VALFREYIA

 

Launched by Fairfield Govan, Yard No 333, on 2/4/1888 as the Auxiliary Steam Yacht Lady Torfrida for Sir William Pearce.
576 tons
157ft x 27ft x 17ft
Single screw, T3cy, 700hp giving 11.75 knots
1889 sold to M Bayard Brown, an American millionaire recluse, who renamed her ‘VALFREYIA’ and lived on board, moored on the River Colne, Essex, off Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe, until his death in 1927 
1928 sold to the Maharaja of Nawanagar (better known as the cricketer ‘Ranji’), renamed the ‘STAR OF INDIA’ and fitted out for cruising in Eastern waters. 

July 1940 requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted into an antisubmarine yacht.
April 1941 purchased by the Admiralty.
September 1942 transferred to the Examination Service.
March 1943 she became an accommodation ship.
May 1946 placed on the Sales List. 
'STAR OF INDIA' was sold in 1946 to John Livanos, placed under ownership of Zarati S.S. Co. and was renamed 'RODOS'. She sailed between Piraeus-Limassol-Port Said as well to the Dodecanese. 
She was scrapped in 1951.

World Wide Magazine - 1907
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NOTTINGHAM EVENING POST – Saturday 10 April 1926 – “WEALTHY YACHT HERMIT’S SECRET -  BURNT PHOTOGRAPH OF WOMAN WHO JILTED HIM. The last act of Bayard Brown, the eccentric American millionaire, whose body is being embalmed on the steam yacht Valfreyia at Wivenhoe, Essex, in which he lived for 36 years as a hermit, was to burn the long-treasured photograph of the girl who broke his heart in his youth.

Burnt fragments of the photograph were found on the floor of his luxurious cabin after his death. According to a friend he must have destroyed this link with the past a few days ago, after a sudden stroke had warned him that the end was near.

All through his years of exile he strove to hide his secret, but now the people who knew him are piecing together the hints he let fall in unguarded moments.

“The son of one of New York’s insurance kings, he enjoyed life to the full when he was young,” added the friend. “Then he fell in love, but his sweetheart jilted him. The burned photograph must have been of her.

“He began to imagine that his family and two of his greatest friends were conspiring against him. He feared they would have him taken away to an asylum; so he fled from America, bought a steam yacht, and cruised in the Mediterranean in his steam yacht the Juno before he bought the Valfreyia, brought her to the Essex coast and made her his home.”

Re the photograph…. Brown’s steward Jim Munson told a local newspaper the story was “all bunkum” and that no such charred remains were ever found.

CHELMSFORD CHRONICLE – Friday 23 April 1926 – “LATE MR. BAYARD BROWN. MEMORIAL SERVICE. There were remarkable scenes at Wivenhoe on Friday, when the body of Mr. Bayard Brown, the American millionaire, was removed from his yacht in the Blackwater (sic) to the local church, where a memorial service was held. The coffin was later conveyed by road to London, en route for Southampton, whence it will be embarked to-morrow (Saturday) for America. The interment will be in the grave of Mr. Brown’s father at Sing Sing. Despite the pouring rain, crowds collected near the church, the whole village being in mourning, while, at the service, Colchester Corporation were represented by the Deputy-Mayor, Dame Catherine Hunt, the Portreeve, Alderman Marriage, and the Town Clerk, Mr. H.C. Wanklyn. The Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe Urban Councils were also represented. The temporary coffin of mahogany was of oblong shape, with curved sides, and the shell of copper, was lined with satin and silk, with a plate-glass front. The bier was covered by the Stars and Stripes.

The mourners were: Major Sturdee, cousin of the late Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee, and Mr. Brown’s secretary; Mr. J.I. Rutland, of Messrs. Rutland and Crawford, Chancery Lane (his solicitors); Mr. J.A. Willmott (of the same firm), Mr. F. Gordon Pratt, Mr. W.H. Fieldgate (son of Capt. Fieldgate, for 33½ years skipper to the late Mr. Brown), Dr. E.H. Heaton (his medical adviser), and the following members of the crew:- Skipper S. Wade, G.H. Johnson (chief engineer), J. Munson and J. Lilley (stewards), E. Fieldgate (cook), W. Seeley and W. Cole (firemen), and Harry Cole, Fred Brown, Chas. Sainty, O. Goodwin, and A. Lilley, with F. Wilkins, an old servant.

At the entrance to the church the cortege was met by the churchwardens of Wivenhoe, Mr. W.H. Warburton (churchwarden at Brightlingsea), and the Revds. R. Fermor Rendell, R.D. (vicar of Brightlingsea) and the Rev. G.C.M. Hall (rector of Southery, Norfolk, a former curate at Brightlingsea, and a son of a former rector of Mile End, Colchester). Mr. A.G. Buck represented the Colchester Hospital, to which Institution the deceased gentleman had been a generous benefactor.

The service was simple and impressive. Master Jack Glozier was at the organ, and rendered Mendelssohn’s “O rest in the Lord.” The hymns were “Jesus calls us” and “On the Resurrection Morning,” and the service was conducted by the Vicar of Brightlingsea and the Rev. G.C.M. Hall. At the close the organist played the Dead March in “Saul,” followed by Handel’s Largo.

From the church the coffin was borne to London in a motor hearse, and on arrival at Earl’s Court the body was placed in its permanent coffin, for removal to Southampton.

Among the floral tributes were those from Mr. Philip I. Rutland, Mr. J.A. Willmott, Mr. and Mrs. F. Gordon Pratt (Copford Place), Mr. W.H. Fieldgate, and Dr. Heaton.

Friday was the first occasion during the forty years which the late Mr. Bayard Brown had spent on the Colneside that his yacht Valfreyia had been left with no one aboard. To allow of the attendance of all the crew at the memorial service, the yacht was left under the charge of the shipyard watchman.

There remains upon the deceased’s left hand a plain gold ring, which he always referred to as his “pudding ring,” it being one which his mother placed amongst other valuables in a Christmas pudding when he was a child.”

In The Jekyll Island Cottage Colony by June Hall McCash there are some extra details about Mr. Brown….  McEvers Bayard Brown was born on July 5, 1852.  An only child, little is known about his early years but by the age of thirty he was a successful businessman, having inherited a large fortune from his father. In a New York Times article about Brown in 1911 he was described as having been a leader in the most fashionable set. He joined the exclusive Jekyll Island Club, Georgia, had a house constructed, but never moved in. In the summer of 1888 Brown left the United States for a two-year cruise on his yacht Lady Torfrida. The book states that he bought the Lady Torfrida for $200,000 from Sir William Pearce and sold her in 1889 to a brother of the Russian Czar in order to purchase in 1890 a larger yacht, also from Pearce and also originally named Lady Torfrida, which Brown renamed Valfreyia.

“As early as 1894 stories about Brown’s eccentric behaviour began to appear in the press. The New York Daily Tribune suggested in August that year that his antics had already “passed the border which separates eccentricity from insanity.”

The local Essex press feted Brown for his generosity to people and causes in the surrounding, but there was another, bizarre and cruel side to Brown’s character. Possibly his inability to mix with people and lack of social skills led to his strange behaviour. If any member of his crew displeased him he would wait until the unfortunate victim was in bed and then dash in and set about them with a stick before running out without saying a word. A newspaper article goes on to say that second engineers were his favourite targets, and he delighted in “arming himself with the cook’s poker and hunting the ‘second’ round the vessel.” Wise men, it was said, “locked and barricaded themselves in their cabins.” Other noted eccentricities such as dismissing the entire crew when in a rage or having the entire coal reserve thrown overboard because he feared dynamite had been hidden in the bunkers reveal a certain paranoia which led him to keep a team of watchmen on duty day and night against some unknown danger. Despite the peculiar nature of some of his actions he took simple childish pleasure in dousing his crew with water and playing other pranks on them when the mood suited him. Indeed those who approached the Valfreyia did so at their own risk. Excursionists hoping to receive money could find themselves receiving hot coals instead.

If he was an only child it would, perhaps, explain why the two “sisters” who visited him were not invited on board Valfreyia.

 

CHELMSFORD CHRONICLE – Friday 30 July 1926 – “Valfreyia Under Steam. The steam yacht Valfreyia, belonging to the late McEvers Bayard Brown, the millionaire recluse, after being seven years in dry dock at Wivenhoe, steamed down the Colne on Monday to take up a berth in the Sunk. It was the first time for over 30 years the vessel had sailed under her own steam. The yacht is to be sold at auction”

SHEFFIELD DAILY TELEGRAPH – Monday 27 September 1926 – “REPUTED MILLIONAIRE WHO LIVED IN DRY-DOCKED YACHT. Mr. McEvers Bayard Brown, of New York, and of the steam yacht Valfreyia, for many years living in this yacht in dry dock at Wivenhoe, Essex, a man of eccentric habits and generally reputed to have been a millionaire, and who died on April 8th last on the yacht, aged 73 years, domiciled in the United States, left property valued for the purposes of the English grant at £13,559 gross, with net personalty £1,037. The value of the American property is not stated definitely, but as “exceeding 20,000 dollars.” His will is dated February 15th, 1878, and as the surviving executor, his cousin Mr. Robert Fulton Cutting, is now resident in the United States, administration of his property has been granted to his said cousin’s attorney, Mr. John Alfred Willmott, manager, of 61, Chancery lane, E.C. The testator left all of his property equally between his cousins, William Bayard Cutting and Robert Fulton Cutting, or their respective issue.”

NOTTINGHAM JOURNAL – Saturday 11 December 1926 – “Waiting Orders in River Colne. Colchester, Friday. The yacht Valfreyia, formerly the home of the late Bayard Brown, the American recluse, is in the River Colne waiting orders from the new owner, Prince Ranjit sinhji.

The vessel will require reconditioning after the long stay in port.”

CHELMSFORD CHRONICLE – Friday 17 December 1926 – “The executors of the late Mr. Bayard Brown, the eccentric millionaire, who lived in a steam yacht off Wivenhoe, have made the following gifts: To Jas. Munson, the yacht steward, £1 a week for life; other members of the crew, suns ranging from £150 to £40; £100 to the Rev. W.A. Ferguson, rector of Wivenhoe; £500 each to the poor of Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea, this sum to be invested and the interest distributed by the rector and churchwardens yearly. The yacht, it is understood, has been sold to the Maharajah of Nawanagar, better known as Ranjitsinghi.”

Ranji (10 September 1872 – 2 April 1933) is widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen to ever play for the English cricket team.