Lady Lovibond: Ghost Ship of Goodwin Sands


The ghostly apparition of the Lady Lovibond has been seen many times since it was shipwrecked off the Kent Coast in 1748, says LES HEWITT

Lady Lovibond: Ghost Ship of Goodwin Sands 1

The British Empire dominated much of the then known world from the 16th century through several centuries of colonial rule. Eager to maintain the stranglehold that it had across all of its territories, the nation spent considerable time and resources on improving and increasing the navy.

Among this number of new and improved ships was a triple-masted schooner named The Lady Lovibond. The ship was quite unremarkable as shipbuilding practices of the time dictated. However, it would later go on to become more than ’just another ship’ of the fleet.

Superstitions on the High Seas

Before, during and after the heyday of the British Empire, maritime traditions bordered on superstition. A great deal of these was treated as gospel. Perhaps one of the better known examples would be sailing a ship, any ship, with a woman aboard. Not all sailors of the time subscribed to this ideal though.

One of these was Captain Simon Reed. He was given the command of the Lady Lovibond by the Admiralty. One voyage in particular was going to be very special for the Captain. He planned to take his new bride, Annetta, on a trip to Portugal. If that didn’t sit well with his crew, the planning for this voyage took place on 13 February 1748. By all accounts this was a Friday. Merchant sailors of that time likely felt nervous at the very least.

Reed was to set sail along the Thames and hug the Kent coastline until reaching open waters. Then it was onto Portugal. The Lovibond’s First Mate, John River, was the sole member of the crew that had little to no interest in participating in the party atmosphere of the launch; instead, he had a scheme in mind.

Rivers was said to have been infatuated with the Captain’s beautiful young bride. This could be nothing more than idle speculation or shipboard gossip. No-one knows for certain. What is known about this voyage was how it came to an end. The ship headed towards the Deal coast and the infamous Goodwin Sands.

Shipwreck on the Goodwin Sands

Somehow the Lady Lovibond collided with this feature and was completely destroyed. A common consensus is that Rivers’ jealousy of the Captain impaired his better judgement and he assaulted the acting Bosun. Rivers then deliberately steered the ship towards the Sands. With the absence of official records, it is as good a cause of the disaster as any. 

Whatever happened or how, there were no survivors.

And this marked the conclusion of the voyage of the Lady Lovibond. Or did it? Five decades after, to the very day, James Westlake was the Captain of another ship called the Edenbridge. He noted in his log that his vessel almost collided with another. This other ship had a trio of masts and resembled a schooner. Westlake also recalled hearing something like a celebration. When the second ship disappeared from view, a rescue team was ordered to investigate. Nothing was found.

Ghostly Lady Lovibond Returns

Another five decades passed until a second sighting was recorded. This event was witnessed by locals with no concrete reports coming from another vessel. Apart from that, all details coincide with the previous sighting. Another sighting was made in 1898 and did not deviate in any way from those made previously.

In 1948, the latest sighting – and last one to date – added something not previously reported. Captain Bull Presswick described an identical sighting to all others made but this time; he described a green glow surrounding the ship. Presswick was convinced that he had witnessed a genuine ship.

Subscribers to the regular ghost ship appearance flocked to Goodwin Sands in 1998 but all left disappointed. The Lady Lovibond failed to materialise. This no show made people think about this legend. Was there really a genuine schooner that was involved in an incident on the notorious Goodwin Sands? Given its infamy, it is certainly possible.

Another curious question about this whole tale is: why 50 years? It does, perhaps, lend a little credence to an early urban legend style story. It may also explain the lack of a sighting the very last time it was due. 13 February 2048 will prove to be an interesting date in one’s calendar. 

Only another 26 years to wait.

Have you seen a ghost ship? Tell us in the comments section below!



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