When a ship burned off Hastings for three days

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Fireship 8 SUS-160418-132617001

This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes a look at a dramatic incident when a steam ship caught fire off the coast of Hastings.

He writes: 110 years ago, on April 26 1906, the 6,700 ton steamship Lugano caught fire off Hastings and was towed, still on fire into the shallower waters near the harbour and continued to burn for three days.

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Fireship 7 SUS-160418-132605001

But the ship survived and was towed away on May 5.

The ship was owned by the Hamburg America line and was on passage from Baltimore to Hamburg with a cargo of cotton, timber and oil, the cotton auto-ignited while the Lugano was in the channel and she was towed to an anchorage five miles off Hastings. The flames eventually became visible from the shore. The Hastings Lifeboat, The Charles Arkoll II, was launched and went alongside but the fire was out of control so the Lugano was towed to three quarters of a mile off Hastings Castle.

She was later towed to the east of the harbour where she continued to burn for another two days and was watched by huge crowds enjoying the free spectacle. When the fires were finally extinguished she was towed to Tilbury.

The SS Lugano was built in 1900 and launched on 17th March by Furness, Withy & Co. Ltd, of Middleton, West Hartlepool and delivered as the Boliviana for to British Maritime Trust Ltd, also of West Hartlepool, in June of that year.

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Fireship 6 SUS-160418-132553001

The following year she was sold to Dampfschiffs-Rhederei Union of Hamburg, Germany and renamed LUGANO. By February 1906 she had been sold again, this time to Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt A.G. (HAPAG - Hamburg America Line) and, only two months into their ownership, on 26th April she caught fire. The wreck was towed to Tilbury and sold in November back to British Maritime Trust Ltd of West Hartlepool where she was repaired and returned to service under her original name Boliviana.

In 1909 Furness, Withy & Co. Ltd of West Hartlepool, her original owners, bought her and appear to have operated her for more than ten years until she was sold on, in 1920, to A/S Atlantis of Flekkefjord, Norway who renamed her Atlantis.

By April 1924 she had been sold to D/S A/S Union of Bergen and in underwent another change of name becoming Lotus in August of that year.

In February the following year she had changed hands again, this time to A/S Odderø, Kristiansand for the sum of 620.000 Norwegian Kronor and inevitably renamed, this time to Asmund. In 1926 two of the boilers were renewed in Fredrikstad at a cost of 80.000 Norwegian Kronor but by 1930 she is recorded as being laid up in Rotterdam from January to September.

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Fireship 5 SUS-160418-132542001

On 2nd December 1930, whilst on a voyage from Novorossisk in the USSR to Falmouth and Manchester, with a cargo of grain she ran ashore at Porthdafarch, near Holyhead, England and was salvaged four days later and towed to the port of Holyhead but sank during beaching operation. She was refloated in 1931 and beached again on 5th February at Penrhyn Point where she was condemned and sold as scrap with her insurance realising 650,000 Norwegian Kronor.

All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and he can make available copies of many of the historic images used in this series. There’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk


Lugano, Hamburg Burning off Hastings.

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Fireship 4 SUS-160418-132530001

Roseneath Series, unposted, no other info about the firm or photographer but note that the photograph has been taken from a boat because Hastings seafront is in the background.

SS Lugano on fire in Hastings Harbour

Dated 27-4-06 and posted May 23rd1906 with copyright naming H Scott, about whom little has come to light. A printed card so it’s probable that quite a large number must have been produced. Notice that shingle hasn’t yet built up against the harbour.

SS Lugano on fire off Hastings, April 26th 1906

This printed, non-photographic Judge’s postcard is unposted and was produced in large numbers. It’s probably the best-known image of the Lugano,

Marriott’s Multiview

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Fireship 3 SUS-160418-132518001

‘Photos by Marriott’s Photo Stores’ which would have been at 51b Robertson Street at that time. ‘Photographed 28th April’, unposted but comment on the back says “…stranded off Hastings much to the surprise and subsequent excitement of that ancient borough’s inhabitants” A good view of the onboard damage.

A M Breach Multiview,

Archibald Mark Breach of 37 WhiteRock, from about 1907 perhaps better known as a ‘beach photographer’ of posed groups on the beach, operated between 1896 and at least 1916 from addresses in White Rock, Cornwallis Street, Milward Road, Cambridge Gardens, Devonshire Terrace and Queens Road. The smoke has been enhanced with hand-applied colour to increase the dramatic effect and the card is unposted.

SS Lugano on FIRE off St.Leonards

A N Croyle, of Croyle’s Photographic Stores, 3 Norman Road St.Leonards, the photographer would not have had to travel far to take the picture! Posted 29th April while the boat was still warm!

Ship on Fire off Hastings

Posted April 29th 1906, ‘J O Forster’ series of Queens Road. Forsters were newsagents at 55 Queens Road and the photographer is unnamed. Notice the line from the tug towing the stricken vessel which was a magnet for the small craft full of sightseers.

SS Lugano April 26th Ship on fire off Hastings

Posted July 7th 1906. Another J O Forster card hand coloured for increased impact. Notice on the left the title has been written on the wrong side of the negative.

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Fireship 2 SUS-160418-132507001

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Fireship 1 SUS-160418-132441001