Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

James Matthews (1841/07/22)

Cockburn Sound /Woodmans Point

The wreck was located in 1973 on
the north side of Woodman Point in
Cockburn Sound, by members of the
Underwater Explorers Club (UEC) who
were conducting an underwater line
search as part of their wreck research
Archival research revealed that
James Matthews was a snow-brig of 107
tons, registered at the Port of London.
The vessel was 80.2 ft in length, with a
breadth of 21 ft and a depth of 11.5 ft
(approximately 24.5 m x 6.5 m x 3.5 m). It had one deck, two masts, a square
stern, male bust figurehead and no galleries.
The James Matthews was a former slaver that operated under the name Don
Francisco, owned by Felis de Souza. The slave trade generally consisted of a
‘triangular run’, with ships travelling from Europe with trade goods, to West
Africa where slaves were purchased from local slave traders, to the Americas,
where the African slaves were sold. On 25 April 1837, Her Majesty’s Brigantine
Griffon seized one slave-ship, the brig Don Francisco, as a prize near the island
of Dominica. Once captured, the vessel was repaired and given the name James
The James Matthews left London for Fremantle on 28 March 1841 with a cargo
of 7 000 slates, farming implements, general cargo, 3 passengers and a crew
of 15. The vessel struck rocks after parting its anchor warp, and sank on 23
July 1841. One of the passengers, Henry de Burgh, left a comprehensive diary
covering the voyage to Australia and his later experiences on the land. Much of
the cargo belonged to de Burgh, who had been involved in the organization of
the enterprise in England and had an interest in the vessel.
Maritime archaeologists and volunteers under the archaeological direction of
the Department of Maritime Archaeology carried out four seasons of excavation
on the wreck site between 1974 and 1976. Preservation conditions were good on
the site and a significant amount of the hull and cargo remained. While research
into the ship’s rigging and cordage has been published, most of the research
and publication has concentrated on the hull, as an important representative of
the slave trade. Recently the wreck has been the subject of an in-situ preservation
study designed to ameliorate the effects of sand movement around the remains.
This work has been carried out with staff from the Department of Materials


Ship Built

Owner Frederick Leith

Master Roberts

Country Built France

Port Registered London

Ship Lost

Gouped Region Metro

Crew 15

Deaths 1

When Lost 1841/07/22

Where Lost Cockburn Sound /Woodmans Point

Latitude -32.13193

Longitude 115.743822

Position Information GPS 2004

Port From London

Port To Fremantle

Cargo Passengers and cargo

Minimum Depth of site 2.50

Ship Details

Engine N

Length 24.50

Beam 6.50

TONA 107.00

Draft 3.50

Museum Reference

Unique Number 1289

Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk

File Number 2009/0135/SG _MA-434/71

Chart Number AUS 117, 1058

Protected Protected Federal

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected 2004/06

Confidential NO