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Wreck of the Pelican in 1793
The ship was a small brig craft fitted with a number of cannon designed to capture French merchant shipping for a profit under a letter of marquee from the British government. She was crewed and outfitted in the Mersey, and on 20 March 1793 was taking her owners and their families and friends on a pleasure and working up cruise in the mouth of the river. On board were 94 sailors and approximately 40 civilians, including several women. Disaster Struck and the weather took a sudden turn for the worse and the ship began to rock violently, causing many of those aboard to go below decks, worsening the impending tragedy.
The vessel breached on to the rocks situated near where the New Brighton Floral Pavilion is today, Local Smugglers took it upon themselves to plunder the ship. Laws at the time stated that if no persons were aboard the ship at the time the cargo/booty could be plundered by anybody. The sad fact is that any of the people who would have still been alive would have been killed. The smugglers then transported their bodies into tunnels situated where these tunnels we are standing in today, leaving the ship in an abandoned state, they were now free to plunder the ship.
Upon the building of the Palace Theatre in the 1870s, parts of these tunnels were breached and an awful stench was apparent. It was on further inspection that the bones of the souls of the Pelican were found and it took a hell of a lot of industrial cleaning before the stench was finally removed. The Palace Theatre Building Caught Fire in 1916 and no longer exists being replaced by Granada Bowl in the 20th Century. Riverside Bowling Alley and Quazar is now located on the site and is the number one tourist attraction on the promenade. I wonder if they know what lies beneath? Smugglers Tunnels Still remain around New Brighton and we will tell you all about them on our exclusive historic tours.