Laslett family history

Samuel and Susannah Laslett of Dover

Samuel Laslett was born at Ash on 29 September 1832 and baptised there on 4 November 1832. He was the second son Robert Laslett of Ash and his wife Mary Ann Laslett née Knight (page 74).

He married Susannah Metters on 23 November 1855, and was lost at sea in the Violet on the Goodwin Sands on 5 January 1857. There was perhaps one child, probably born after Samuel's death, but we have no name.

The Dover Telegraph of 10 January 1857 reported under the headline:

Wreck of the mail packet Violet
and loss of all on board, night of 5/6th Jan. 1857

"The terrific gale that swept the Channel on Monday night was the precursor of a watery grave to many a brave and hardy sailor. Not only have other towns in our immediate vicinity to deplore the fearfully disastrous effects of that gale, but in the loss of the Violet and the lamentations of the widows and fatherless, its appalling reality (so happily averted from us) is now felt in our very midst. In narrating the few known particulars of the sad catastrophe, we are somewhat relieved in the painful task by a consciousness of the universal sympathy which prevails towards the surviving partners and families of the shipwrecked dead, who by this unexpected and overwhelming stroke are, in many instances, suddenly plunged into utter destitution.

"The ill-fated Violet, built for the Admiralty, and subsequently the property of the Dover Royal Mail Packet Company, was a vessel of 300 tons, and 128 horse-power, and engaged by the Company in the conveyance of the continental mails. She was one of the best on the station, commanded by a most experienced officer, the deeply regretted Captain E. Lyne and was manned by a crew equal to any on the station in experience and efficiency. The Violet left Dover for Ostend on Saturday night; and her return was due at Dover at midnight on Monday. Her departure from Ostend took place about 8 o'clock on Monday evening.

"Her non-arrival at the appointed time excited no particular attention, the alarmingly stormy character of the night suggesting the probability of her remaining in port. This conjecture was strengthened as Tuesday passed on and no Violet appeared; but in the afternoon of that day, intelligence reached Dover of three bodies being washed ashore at Ramsgate, supposed to be from a wreck on the Goodwin Sands, and fears were at once aroused that the Violet had started on her voyage to Dover, and that the treacherous sands, fatal to thousands of every nation, had engulfed both vessel and crew. As if still further to augment the awful suspense now created, and add poignancy to the grief already started into existence, it was found, on hastening to communicate with Ostend by telegraph, that the electric cables were deranged, and all hope of information by that medium was cut off. Even the hour of the Violet's departure did not reach Dover until Wednesday morning, when other circumstances - the picking up of portions of cabin doors, her chain box and other articles - confirmed what had been apprehended, that she was wrecked, and that all on board had perished.

Perils of the Night

"The sensation excited as the melancholy truth unfolded, without a ray of hope that any had escaped to comfort the mourners, or tell of the perils of that terrific night, cannot be portrayed. "Who were on board?" was the anxious exclamation of every enquirer; and though many a home missed in awful certainty an absent one, yet the public even at this moment are not in possession of the names of all whose lives have been sacrificed.

"As to the causes of this distressing calamity, they are, of course, at present, but matters of mere conjecture. In a contemporary report, it has been observed, that it is impossible to assign other than the blinding and paralysing influence of the drifting snow as the reason of the disaster; and we know of no more satisfactory suggestion.

"The details of the wreck are equally in very prescribed limits, and the following is the substance of anything like information that has appeared, from Tuesday, to the time of our going to press:

"At daybreak on morning, a fisherman saw the wrecked vessel on the outer edge of southern spit of the Goodwins, but inconsequence of the fearful sea that raged around it, he could not approach near enough to ascertain more clearly character and size of the unfortunate vessel. Her foremast was still standing, and it was evident that she had struck on the sand during the night.

"(Letter from) Capt. Smithett (Commodore) to Mr Churchward (Owner: Churchward & Jenkins), Dover January 7th.

"The Belgian vessel came in about midnight; and the captain states that the Violet left Ostend in a fearful storm of wind from the north-east and snow, about 8:30pm on Monday evening. According to your directions, I shall start as soon as the packet arrives, no vessel having come in up to this time, 8am.

"I expect the Empress about 8:30, and shall take her directly to Ramsgate and the Goodwin, and hope to bring back some intelligence this afternoon.
Yours faithfully,
L. Smithett

"(Letter) From the same source:
" This is sad news, the loss of the Violet, for there cannot, I fear, be any doubt as to its being her. Three bodies were picked up lashed to a life-buoy not far from the wreck, which lies on the sand southward of the beacon.
" From the position of the vessel's head, I am of the opinion that, having as they thought, run their distance, and catching sight of the Gull Light through the terrific snowstorm, the two lights were mistaken for the South Foreland. I find this mistake is frequently occurring.
" The vessel sits upright on the sand, funnel gone; decks, bulkhead, cabin doors &c to be seen floating away. Some luggers, either from this place or Deal, were seen out near her at low water.

Dover, Wednesday afternoon
" The Empress has returned with the bodies of three of the stokers of the Violet. The mail bags have been recovered, and have been landed at Folkstone.
" The wreck of the Violet is on the outer part of the Goodwin, all buried in the sand; nothing visible except the tops of the wheels and steam chest at low water.

"We give below a list of the officers and crew on board when the calamity occurred. With respect to passengers, there is some uncertainty as to whether there were three or four. We understand that there were two foreign soldiers (supposed to be coming to England to be admitted into the British army) and a Dutch pilot. From the circumstances of a black trunk being picked up, with "Arthur Majendie, Esq" painted on the lid, and a small black parcel, it is feared that there was a fourth passenger; but of this we are not able to speak confidently. (The latter subsequently shown not to have travelled, and two of the other three).

List of the Crew of the Violet
Rank Name Children
Captain LYNE Edmund Wife -
Chief Officer PAUL James do 1
Second Officer PULLMAN Henry do 2
Engineer DILKS George do 7
Carpenter SMART Alexander do 2
Boatswain FREEMAN George do 7
Seaman FOX Henry do 3
do WHITE James do 1
do LASLETT Samuel do -
do HARBER James do 1
Leading stoker HARMER Nath. do 2
do SHARP Samuel do -
do SHILLATOE John do 2
do PATRICK William do 2
Steward PENNY Stephen do 2
Cabin boy PENNY - - -
Ship's boy CROFTS William - -
Mail Officer MORTLEMAN - do 10

Officers and crew lost 18, 16 widows and 42 children.

"We have said that three bodies were washed ashore at Ramsgate; and that the Empress steamer, Capt. Smithett, proceeded thither on Wednesday, and visited the scene of the wreck, on her return. One of the objects of the voyage to Ramsgate was to identify the bodies picked up. The inquest was held there on the day named, before R. Jones Esq., and the deceased were found lashed to one life-buoy, from which it is presumed that their deaths must have resulted from cold, and not from drowning - a supposition which is supported by the appearance of the corpses, which looked more like living than dead men, the colour on the cheek being so fresh. Two of them were identified by William Kay, second mate of the Empress, as Nathaniel Harmer and Samuel Sharp; although the witness did not know the name of the other (which we have since ascertained to be William Patrick) yet he was able to state that all three were stokers on board the Violet. James Hogbin, master of the Ramsgate lifeboat, which went to the wreck, proved the finding of the three bodies lashed to the buoy. Captain Smithett deposed that the Violet was commanded by Captain Lyne, who was a very efficient officer, and that the crew consisted of 17 men. He did not know how many passengers were on board, but had heard that three out of four declined to come by her from Ostend in consequence of the bad weather. The jury returned a verdict of "Found drowned."

"Since the enquiry at Ramsgate no other bodies have been picked up, nor has any additional information transpired.

Collection for the Bereaved

"It now remains for us to appeal to the sympathies of the public on behalf of the widows and fatherless children of the departed ones - lists lie at the Banks, Libraries &c, and we believe that on Sunday week, in every edifice for public worship in the borough, an opportunity will be afforded for a collective effort towards the noble object of this appeal; and that the Mayor and Corporate authorities will organise a general movement for the same purpose. It is only gratifying to witness the anxiety so generally evinced in this respect; the rational inference is, that if words are in this instance followed by deeds, none will be found contributing with a niggardly hand."

As far as I have been able to ascertain Samuel Laslett's body was never found.