Can our expert break through a bricklayer’s brick wall?
QMy ancestor William Pennock, a master mariner, died at Narva, Russia, but how did this news reach England? His memorial stone in East Yorkshire states that he died at Narva on 9 October 1859, but was interred in Yorkshire on 24 November 1859. The stone also records his son, John, who drowned in the Mediterranean in March 1860. The Whitby Gazette
of 15 October 1859 records William’s death “about 9th inst at Narva”.
How was William’s body preserved and brought back, I assume on the Lady Jocelyn,
on a 1,500-mile voyage, in about 42 days? Also, how did news of his death get from Narva on 9 October in time for publication in the Gazette
on 15 October? Would logbooks give details? Raymond Pennock
A When William Pennock died, it would not have been unexpected if he had been interred at Narva. However, if his son was on board, then the crew might have decided to bring his body home out of respect for his family. It was winter and the Baltic is cold, so a corpse would not decompose quickly, but it is probable that Captain Pennock’s body was sealed up in a barrel of spirits to preserve it.
The Lady Jocelyn was a small sailing vessel of 259 tons. It would have to wait for a favourable wind to depart, and was a slow ship. Yet this was the era of steamships, which didn’t need a favourable wind and were faster, so the news of his death was probably brought home by a British steamship bound for north-east England. It was usual practice for urgent news to be brought back home in this way. In 1859 you could cross the Atlantic by steam in under 10 days, so a steamship could easily have reached Whitby from Narva within a week.
It would be worth tracing the crew list to see if William’s son John was on board when he died. It was quite common for boys to be apprenticed to family members. If a logbook has survived it will be archived with the crew list, and these
‘The Baltic is cold, so a corpse would not decompose quickly’
documents may reveal the circumstances of William’s death. You’ll need the official number of the Lady Jocelyn to identify the crew list (via crewlist. org.uk/#Data) – the official number is 24687. The Lady Jocelyn’s crew list for 1859 should be at The National Archives in BT98/6086.
William Pennock’s son, also named William, with one of his 14 children by his wife Mary (née Peene), who is pictured above