HISTORY & DESCRIPTION:
1860-1876 Edward Woodville Ricketts commissioned the building of Mermaid by Alfred Payne, when he lived at Twyford House, St. John’s Park, Ryde, on the Isle of Wight. He was the fifth son of George William Ricketts (1760-1842) of New Canaan, Jamaica, and Twyford House, Twyford, Hampshire. Edward’s great-grandfather had moved from Hampshire to Jamaica in the seventeenth century. His mother, Letitia Mildmay (1768-1839), was from Twyford and Edward was born on 26th May 1808 at Twyford, near Winchester. He was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, and matriculated on 8th March 1826 at the age of 17. Edward made his career in the Civil Service and became principal clerk to H. M. Treasury. He spent some time in Italy and three of his children were born in Naples between 1837 and 1840. His wife was Isabella Gibson and they were married on 7th January 1836 in Kilmuir, Easter-Ross, Scotland. One of their children, Charles Robert Ricketts, became an artist and painted marine subjects. Edward appears to have retired around the age of fifty, shortly before he had Mermaid built.
He was a member of The Royal Southern Yacht Club and The Royal Thames Yacht Club.
Edward Ricketts was a member of RTYC 1845-1890 and shown as the owner of MERMAID up to 1875 (possibly 1877). He lived at Twyford House, Ryde, IOW, as did his brother – Lt C R Ricketts RM, who was an RTYC member himself 1857 – 1876/7.
After his wife died in 1883 he moved to Barmouth, Merionethshire, where he died, 20th April 1895. He is buried on Hayling Island, Hampshire.
Mermaid is recorded as having sails by Charles Scovell, 82 High Street, Southampton and flying a sea-green distinguishing flag for racing. A crew list for Mermaid is deposited in the Southampton City archives and dates from 1864. It records Edward Ricketts as managing owner and master of the vessel. The crew consisted of James Spraggs of Hayling Island, fisherman, aged 35; James Henry Goldring of Milton, fisherman, aged 14; and George Jessop of Southampton, fisherman, aged 19. It was common at this time for fishermen to crew yachts in the summer as they were practised at getting a good speed out of their boats. The list states that Mermaid was used for pleasure and sailed between Selsey Bill and The Needles. In 1866 Hunt’s Universal Yacht List gives E. Ricketts as owner and J. Spraggs as captain of Mermaid.
The RNLI record that James Spraggs was awarded a silver medal for gallantry in 1862 in what is termed a shore-boat case – i.e. no lifeboat was involved. On the 17th October 186, when the Portsmouth sloop Cygnet sank near the Hampshire coast on the Woolsiner Bank, off Hayling Island, her crew of three men was seen clinging to her rigging with the sea washing over them. The sloop had become unmanageable after encountering a heavy gale, struck a shoal, was overwhelmed by heavy seas and began to break up. Captain Goldring made an unsuccessful effort to reach the casualty in his smack; he then launched her small 13 foot long skiff and with two of his crew rescued the three men who had been marooned for over five hours. The three men from the smack Ferret (William Goldring, Master; David Farmer and James Spraggs) were all awarded the RNLI Silver Medal on 6th November 1862.
In 1877 Mr Ricketts sold Mermaid to Captain George Staunton Lynch Staunton, late of His Majesty’s 14th Hussars. He was born in Florence, Italy, as a British Subject, in 1840. He was the son of Henry Cormick Lynch (Captain in the East India Company), of Galway, Ireland, and Charlotte Margretta Lynch, of Crickhowell, Wales. All his siblings were born in Italy between 1840 and 1850, except for Amy Georgina Lynch, who was born at 2 Hougue a la Poire, St. Peter Port, Guernsey. At this time he was known as George Staunton Lynch, but by 1861, at the age of 21, he had added the extra Staunton to his name and was described as a landed proprietor, but was still living in the family home, at Leigh House, Havant, Hampshire.
George married Margaret Hasler Kirkpatrick in September 1870 and they went to live at the Royal Hotel, South Hayling, Hampshire, and he is described as a landowner. Later he lived for at least three decades at Purbrook House, Purbrook, Cosham, in Hampshire. He was a County Magistrate and a substantial landowner in South Hayling. In the 1881 census he is recorded as living with his wife Margaret, a daughter and five sons. His domestic staff consisted of a governess, a cook, a parlourmaid, a nurse, an under nurse and a housemaid. Subsequent censuses show a constantly changing household staff.
Capt. Lynch-Staunton was a member of The Royal Yacht Squadron from May, 1869, and a number of his vessels are on the Squadron’s yacht list: Sibyl, a schooner of 120 tons, registered in Cowes in 1869; Gertrude, a schooner, 68 tons, registered in Cork in 1871; and Sorceress, a cutter, 34 tons, registered in Southampton from 1878 to 1882. Mermaid does not appear on the list. Capt. Lynch-Staunton was also a member of the The Royal Southern Yacht Club. He had Mermaid’s sails made by Lapthorn and flew a white flag with a red cross when racing.
In 1877 Mermaid was sold to Lt. Frederick George Innes-Lillingston of Coillimore House, Lochalsh, Ross, Scotland.
He became a member of The Royal Yacht Squadron in May, 1873, and, like Capt. Lynch-Staunton, had a number of yachts on the Squadron’s list: (Capt. Lynch-Staunton’s) schooner Sibyl from 1873 to 1876; SS Iolair, 65 tons, registered in Greenock, from 1877to1878; the yawl Lavrock, 60 tons, Southampton, in 1878; the cutter Alerte, 56 tons, Cowes in 1885; and the yawl Kirmew, 71 tons, London, from 1891 to 1895. It is noted that he had “rendered yeoman’s service on the Sailing Committee” of the R.Y.S. He was also a member of the Royal Southern, the Dorset, and the Portsmouth Corinthian yacht clubs. He flew a blue flag with a white St Andrew’s cross when racing Mermaid.
Lt. Innes-Lillingston owned Mermaid at the same time as he owned the steam yacht Iolair. Mermaid does not appear on the R.Y.S. list, but we can see he had some racing success in her. In the Hamble River Regatta held on September 18th, 1878, Mermaid took the second prize of £5, being beaten by E. J. Sartoris’s yacht May.
“The course was from station-vessel off Hamble, up round a mark-boat moored near Holly Hill, thence down round the Calshot lightship, and the West India buoy above Netley, and back to station vessel, twice round, leaving all on the starboard hand, with the exception of the Hamble River buoy, which, in passing out, must be left on the starboard, and returning in on the port hand. They started at 11h. precisely, with after canvas set, and in a nice north-westerly sailing breeze. It was a reach up to the Holly Hill mark, and Mermaid took the lead, May being second, Hagarene third, and Rowena fourth. They were all of a heap at the mark, and Rowena overlapped the Hagarene in rounding, but the latter, probably fearing the mud, did not give way, and Rowena had to put her helm hard down to keep clear. The tiller of the latter broke off, and she went stem on to the Hagarene amidships. Her bowsprit got under the others boom, her bobstay broke, and snap went her bowsprit close off. The Hagarene then got on the mud; two of her men were so much alarmed by the collision, that they jumped overboard, and stayed for half-an-hour. Rowena, which but for this misfortune would have a good chance of a prize, having to compete with yachts on tolerably equal terms with herself, brought up off the Hard, where the other afterwards joined her, both being of course now out of the race. The Mermaid came down past the station-vessel first, leading by about ten seconds, but the other soon overhauled her, and kept the lead throughout. At the end of the first round, excluding time allowance, she led by 6m. 47s.; and to show at what an equal pace the vessels sailed, it may be mentioned that though May lost her topmast on the second round, she gained twelve seconds on the other.” (Report from Hunt’s Yachting Magazine.)
A more impressive success is recorded by the inscription on a clock in the possession of George Lillingston (grandson of the above) which reads: “Won by Cutter Yacht ‘Mermaid’ Lieut. Lillingston, R.N. at Hamble Sept. 19th 1878.
Two years later in the Southsea Regatta held on August 16th, 1880, Mermaid took the first prize in the race for yachts of 11 to 20 tons. For this race the entries were: Gadfly, 20 tons, Capt. E. Sutton; Fingal, 20 tons, Capts. Rasch and Kennedy; Constance, 15 tons, F. H. Arles, Esq.; Mermaid, 13 tons, F.G. Lillingston, Esq., RN.; Cynthia, 15 tons, F. Lapthorn, Esq.; Waveney, 17 tons, Capt. J. S. Smith; and Playmate, 12 tons, T. M’Cheane, Esq. (Report from Hunt’s Yachting Magazine.)
John Morant bought Mermaid in 1883 and kept her for 5 years. John Morant (1825-1894) lived at Brockenhurst Park, Lymington, Hampshire. Like the Ricketts family, the Morants had moved to Jamaica shortly after the British had seized the island in 1655. By 1754 a John Morant owned 4,631 acres in Clarendon and 3,582 acres in Vere, the sugar plantations being called The Bog, Ballards River, Chateau and Penders River. It is recorded that in 1824 John Morant (the father of Mermaid’s owner) owned 487 slaves on his Jamaica plantations. The family bought the Brockenhurst House estate in 1770 and it became known as Brockenhurst Park in the later nineteenth century.
In 1888 Mermaid was sold to John Weston Foakes M.D. of 45 South Street, Grosvenor Square, London. He died in September 1888 at the age of 65 and Mermaid passed to his widow.
Mrs Bessie Sarns Foakes, who kept the yacht for a number of years.
In 1896 Charles Smith of Park Lodge, Truro Road, Woodgreen, London bought Mermaid and kept her for 10 years. Charles Smith had been a bank clerk, as had been his father,Robert, but when he owned Mermaid he was a self-employed insurance broker. Up till 1896 Mermaid’s home port is given as Southampton, but, in that year, Charles Smith had her registered in London under part 1 registry, with the official number 105,779. He entered Mermaid in a race held by the Royal Burnham Yacht Club in June 1896. Mermaid was first across the line, but spent five minutes aground on Foulness Island and was unplaced. Charles Smith belonged to the Royal Burnham Yacht Club and the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club.
From 1907-1908 Mermaid was owned by George Pardy of 2 Blomfield Villas, Uxbridge Road, Middlesex. He was a member of the Royal Burnham Yacht Club and the Royal Temple Yacht Club.
There is no record that we have found yet as to what happened to her during the First World War and immediately after. By 1922 Mermaid is recorded as belonging to A. Boyes of Stanley Park, Brightlingsea, Colne. He was a member of the Colne Yacht Club, the Royal Temple YC, and the Walton and Frinton YC.
In 1924 Arthur Leslie Jasper of Wenlocks, Blackmore, Chelmsford was the sole owner of Mermaid, but jointly owned by1927 by A. Leslie Jasper and S. I. Veale. They were members of Colne Yacht Club.
Arthur’s grandson, James, has provided the following information. “Yes, my Grandfather owned the Mermaid and then jointly owned it with Stafford Veale. Stafford was an artist and I have a picture of the Mermaid drawn in pencil.
The Mermaid is sailing and at sea however it is obviously in black and white.
The anecdotal evidence is that Alfred (my Grandfather) and Stafford used the Mermaid to do petty smuggling (as well as to enjoy sailing).
I believe they sailed the river blackwater. My father was kept on the boat as a young baby (in a drawer) and when his mother and father went ashore to a party in Mersea his mother mentioned that she had a baby on board and didn’t know what to do with it (she came from a wealthy family and had servants) so some people in Mersea offered to look after the baby and he was raised on and off by them in Mersea while his mum and dad lived a carefree existance.”
Whilst working on Mermaid Chris found an empty bottle which had held baby food. The bottle has these moulded letters on it “MELLINS INFANTS FOOD LONDON”.
In 1934 Mermaid is advertised for sale on 2nd November by Capt. Martin, House Boat, Dell Quay, Chichester as follows:
AUXILARY CUTTER – Mermaid, 40ft. by 10½ ft., 9 tons reg., 24 h.p. engine, recently overhauled professionally and in perfect mechanical order, starter, two petrol tanks (30 gallons), self-reefing gear, sleeps five in comfort, 6 ft. headroom, electric light, four vi-spring mattresses, large-size stove, copper water tanks, flush w.c., wash-hand basin, very complete inventory in excellent condition throughout, including paintwork, £300.
Mermaid was owned in 1936 for 3 years by Mr W. H. Johnson, Bewdley, Newham, Weybridge, Surrey. It was Harold Johnson who converted her from gaff rig to Bermudan in 1937. (Lloyd’s Register for 1937 describes her as an auxiliary Bermudan cutter with Ratsey sails, No.4401.) In September 1943 Yachting World and Power Craft published 1860 – 1943 “MERMAID the OLDEST YACHT in SERVICE?” by W. Harold Johnson. In it he relates how he chartered her out in his first year of ownership and nearly lost her. It later transpired that the charterer had planned to steal the boat and sail her to Africa, but was held up by the French authorities at L’Aberwrach. Harold Johnson had to go down and bail them out, and sail the charterer, his wife, their Alsatian dog and Siamese cat back to England. At the end of it he was left holding a worthless I.O.U., but at least he still had his boat.
There is no record of what happened to Mermaid during the Second World War and presumably she was in storage somewhere ashore.
For the years 1946-50 Richard Hopkins of The Oaks, Lacock, Chippenham, Wilts was the owner. He was a member of the Parkstone Yacht Club, at Poole.
For the next six years, 1950-56, Mermaid was owned by Richard James Ross of 60 Waldegrave Park, Twickenham, Middlesex. Mermaid was berthed at Moody’s Yard, Bursledon, Hampshire. Mr. Ross worked at Thornycroft’s and appears to have spent much time repairing Mermaid. Many years later in 1997 his niece, Mrs Patsy Pope wrote a letter to the Classic Boat Magazine describing Mermaid’s current condition and that she was in danger of being destroyed.
In 1957 Mermaid was bought for £400 by Daphne Bradley, who married Frederick Clive Goodley (a police officer) of 78 Whitworth Crescent, Bitterne Park, Southampton, where Mermaid was berthed in the yard. Sue Fitt, nee Goodley, e mailed that her “”very earliest memory is being shut below decks while the sails were furled away…. For a brief period she was home to myself and my two older brothers as well as mum and dad.” Mermaid is recorded as belonging to Mr Goodley from 1958 until 1959. He is said to have added the dog-house described as ‘like a bus shelter’.
He wrote concerning Mermaid in a letter to Julian Tregonning dated July 24th 1989. “She carried me in comfort to the Mediterranean and Southern Atlantic and once to New York. Picking the weather of course.” “I sold it, not because it was on its last legs, but because the children grew up and lost interest and so I lost my crew and so changed to a motor cruiser and now business commands all my time. I retired from the R.N. sixteen years ago.”
At this time Mermaid was struck by another vessel in the English Channel and holed on the port side. Repairs were carried out in Guernsey, but they were of rather poor quality. A sizeable area of 1¼ inch thick pitch pine planking amidships was replaced with ½ inch plywood and the tops of the frames were repaired with softwood and not properly tied in. One of these frames had to carry one of the chain plates for the shrouds. The whole of the exterior in the region of the repair was covered over with glass cloth and the patch is clearly visible in old photographs.
1968-69? R. W. Taylor of 24 Laleham Avenue, Mill Hill, London NW7.
1978?-83 Capt. Christopher Rodskjer of 9 River Walk, Bitterne Park, Southampton, bought Mermaid for £100. He laid her up for two years at Camper and Nicholson until he retired and then sailed her to France and in the Solent. He is believed to have covered the decks with plywood and canvas, rebuilt the dog-house, removed the engine, and rigged her as a ketch for single-handed sailing.
1983-88 Saul Thomas owned Mermaid. He worked at Weir Quay Boatyard, Bere Alston, Devon and lived on the boat there. He fitted a Yanmar diesel engine with a new sternchute through the port quarter. Saul is working again at WQB as a shipwright.
1988-89 Michael Plumtree of 8 Devon Consols, Wheal Josiah, Gullworthy, Devon. He bought Mermaid and entered her into Sotheby’s Marine Sale with an estimate of £4,500-£6,000. This was the first and only time Sotheby’s had attempted to sell classic yachts. Mermaid sold for £3,500.
1989-96 Julian G. Tregoning of Redwood House, West Lavington, Midhurst, West Sussex owned her and began researching her history, hence the correspondence with Cdr. Colbourn. This Mr Tregoning very kindly sent on to us when he heard of our project.
1996-97 Tim Lawrence of 1 Stopford Place, Stoke, Plymouth, Devon, bought Mermaid for £1 as Julian Tregoning was not able to progress with her restoration. Mr. Lawrence then accrued debts to Weir Quay Boatyard where Mermaid was moored and was forced to sell her.
1997 Christopher and Victoria Gottschald, members of the R.T.Y.C. and The Old Gaffers Association, but living in Derbyshire, bought Mermaid for £1,000. A condition of the sale was that she was removed from the boatyard, whose owners had threatened to burn her if a buyer could not be found. She was towed down the Tamar to Plymouth, where she was craned out of the water and then transported by road to Mickleover, Derby, where she arrived on the morning of 3rd June. Work began immediately on restoring her. By 2008 the work had reached the stage where she needed a mast and spars building and an engine fitting.
The yacht was sent to The Ocean Yacht Company in Cornwall.
150 years later Mermaid is once more a smart racing yacht. The hull is finished in jet black gloss to topsides with cappings in oak and finished in UV varnish. The cabin top is pine and varnished, the decks are sanded pine. The engine is a Beta 95 hp through a hydraulic pump motor into 2 x Hercules 2.1/1 reduction drive motors, 1/1/4 shafts with flexi couplings and deep sea seals. Conventional stern tube arrangements in bronze/oak construction, outer cutlass bearings, driven by 2 x 18″ Fully Folding Max Props, (twin screw) developing apx 40 hp per shaft. The anticipated hull speed should be between 8 and 9 knots. The rudder is traditionally hung with no aperture.
Up rated alternator, additional fuel lift pump, stainless steel fuel tank under bunk, dedicated engine battery, deck fitted hydraulic oil tank approximately 100 litres, all controls lead on deck and are situated under the deck locker in the centre of the aft deck. All fittings are discrete. There is a Tack Tick instrument system fitted with twin transducers for maximum accuracy controlled by the Wind Vane. The displays are to starboard of the companion way. Garmin 40/10 gps/map provides Chart plotter information with card, interface to Garmin DSC VHF. The water system is via on demand taps with hot and cold outlets to galley and heads. All deck gear, which is considerable and fitted for ease of handling, is by Harken. The rigging is by All Spars of Plymouth, formed around the unique Pettersen swage forged shackle principal,. There are 8 varnished spars in a mix of Douglas Fir and Spruce: main mast, top mast, boom, gaff, bow sprit, spinaker pole. The detailed fixings are in oak for reefing and halyard usage. All fittings are bespoke in stainless steel.
Below decks there is a double berth cabin forward with dead light with gold leaf surround, forward hatch to port, heads to starboard, saloon with four berths, galley area, sink, gas hob, fridge, chart table. Large opening sky light in the saloon. Access to the engine is behind companion way steps and through the deck locker. All upholstery is navy blue.
The sale of Mermaid offers purchasers an almost unique opportunity to own a slice of English yachting history. Built as a private yacht and not a working boat conversion in the mid 19th century Mermaid is a remarkable survivor of a bygone era. Thanks to the enterprise and financial resources of the current owner, coupled with skilled Cornish craftsmen Mermaid is now ready to sail in to the next century, discreet modern additions making this yacht a practical and useable vessel. Offered for sale at a fraction of her restoration cost. Early inspection recommended.
Contact us for more information or to arrange an appointment to view.
Guide: £150,000 / Offers Considered
Viewing: Through the agents, CLASSIC YACHT BROKERAGE:
Tel. 01905-356482 / 07949-095075 / info@classic yacht brokerage.co.uk