Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Church's wreck memorial 'sinking'

Monument to the 1859 Royal Charter disaster
The monument has been roped after it began to lean

A 9ft (2.7m) memorial to hundreds of victims of a 19th Century shipwreck is in danger of toppling over.

People cutting grass noticed they were sinking in the soft earth around the monument to the Royal Charter at St Gallgo's Church, in Moelfre, Anglesey.

The memorial been roped off while the church raises an estimated 7,000 to have it removed and re-set.

The church has the graves of 150 of the 459 people who died when the steamship foundered on rocks off Moelfre in 1859.

The 2,700-ton (2,450-tonne) ship suffered one of the greatest losses of life of its type at the time as it was travelling arriving at Liverpool from Melbourne in Australia.

Many of its 500 passengers were gold miners who had struck it rich in Australia. The ship was also carrying about 400,000 in gold bullion.

Inscription on the monument to the 1859 Royal Charter disaster
Around 150 of those who drowned are buried in the churchyard

On 26 October 1859 it was hit by a storm. The captain tried to stabilise the ship by dropping the anchors but the anchor chains snapped and the vessel was driven on to rocks.

Just 41 passengers and crew survived and even these were lucky, according to church warden, Peter Day.

He said: "The survivors were saved as a a result of the bravery of 28 Moelfre men who linked hands to form a human chain and snatched from the sea anybody they saw in the water."

The disaster led the newly-formed Met Office to develop its gale warning system.

The memorial was erected by public subscription.

Maintenance

Mr Day added: "The rector at the time was the Reverend Stephen Reese Hughes who together with his wife and two sisters worked tirelessly in receiving bodies brought up from the shipwreck, noting the identification marks on the bodies and clothing.

"The rector himself wrote maybe 2,000 letters to relatives. People came from all over the world to identify their relatives."

He said the problem with the monument was spotted during routine maintenance.

"Over the last month, volunteers were cutting the grass when one of them sunk down in soft ground and another one down to their knees."

He added that engineers had come up with a solution to the problem but the church now had to raise the funds.

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