Alston, Edward Daniel - I2015

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Script error Captain Edward Daniel Alston (Master 1876 - 1887) was the last master of the City of Adelaide during its service in the London to Adelaide trade. A man of totally opposite character to that of the first master, Captain David Bruce, Captain Alston was born on 8 April 1842 into a well-to-do family of landed gentry at Great Bromley Hall (today the Seven Rivers Cheshire Home), in north-east Essex, England. He was the fourth child of ten born to Edward John Alston and his wife Mary (nee Heningale,1818-1857). Great Bromley Hall was a typical country squire's estate which employed 19 men and a 'harness boy' on its 350 acres of grounds and farmland, with a governess and four domestic servants to tend the house and family. Edward Alston Sr. went on to become a partner in the Stour Brewery at Manningtree.

Edward D. Alston's training as a seaman began when he was four months shy of his fourteenth birthday. On 28 July 1856 he joined the company of the ship Bombay, 1280 tons, built in 1809 at the city after which the ship was named. A year later he moved to Duncan Dunbar's 914 ton Octavia, launched at Shields in 1853. He completed his three years of training in this ship on the 11th July 1859, and became one of its officers, serving for two years as 4th mate and one year as 3rd.

Edward was granted his 2nd mate's certificate on 19th August 1862. He then moved to the Ramillies, owned at the time by Gellatly and Co., where he served as 2nd mate from December 1863 until January 1864. During this time, his experience grew, and on the 4th February 1864 gained his 1st mate's certificate. His first berth as Chief Mate was aboard the 433 ton barque Teviot owned by Tindall & Co. of Scarborough. He made only one voyage in this ship, to New York and Ceylon.

He gained his masters' ticket (Master Certificate of Competency No. C26521) on 11th August 1865, but would make several voyages in different ships for various owners before he came into a command of his own. The following lists the ships on which he served prior to attaining his own command:

  • 1865-66 - TEVIOT, Official Number: 27374 - 713 tons, Harrison, two voyages to India as Chief Mate
  • 1866-67 - PEVERIL OF THE PEAK, ON: 15029 - East Indies
  • 1868-72 - CHAA SZE, ON: 28388 - 566 ton tea clipper, Baring Brothers, Chief Mate - several voyages to India and Australia
  • 1872-73 - ST. VINCENT, ON: 35770 - as Chief Mate to Australia

On the 4th February 1873, at the age of 30, he became master of the Devitt & Moore part-owned Dunbar Castle. He made one voyage to Sydney in this ship, and then moved to another of their part-owned ships, the 697 ton barque Gateside. Again, he made only one voyage in this ship as master.

His next command was in the City of Adelaide which commenced in May of 1876 commencing a long association with the ship. He continued to sail as master until the City was sold by Devitt & Moore in 1887. During his time aboard the City of Adelaide, Edward Alston married, and his wife Grace, could often be found amongst the passenger lists of his voyages.

After the sale of the City of Adelaide, Edward Alston moved to the Roman Empire. This was to be his last command. The ship several voyages to the west of South America, and in February 1888 made a voyage from the Thames to Melbourne, and a year after that visited several Chilean ports.

Loss of the Roman Empire

On 29th July 1890, the Roman Empire left Liverpool, bound for Mollendo in Peru with a load of coal. No more was heard of the ship until the 29th December, when a report was received by Lloyd's List from an Auckland freighter, the Hermione, who had spoken with the Roman Empire 14 days out from Liverpool (i.e. August 12th). Telegraphs were sent to the Lloyd's agent in Mollendo asking if the ship had arrived, to which a negative reply was received in return. On that same day, the master of the British Empire wrote to say that "the barque Santa, of Bristol, was in company with the Roman Empire on Aug 27 in Lat 5°N Long 18°30'W." He further stated that the Santa arrived at Iquique [Chile] about 3 weeks before the writing of the letter, and that on the 17th and 18th of September, a vessel which was taken to be the Roman Empire was in company with the British Empire, but was too far away to be positively identified. He reported that position as 42°S 54°W. However, Lloyd's List didn't publish this information until the 3rd Feb 1891.

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Possible positions of the Roman Empire in 1890.
27 Aug
17-18 Sep
Possible positions of the Roman Empire in 1890.

The following was published for insurance and Board of Trade purposes on 11th March 1891:


Roman Empire, Alston, of London, official number 54638, sailed from Liverpool for Mollendo on July 29 1890, with a cargo of coal, was spoken on Aug 27 in 5N 18W, and has not been since heard of.

It is believed that Captain Edward Daniel Alston, late of the ships Bombay, Octavia, Ramillies, Teviot, Peveril of the Peak, Chaa-Sze, St. Vincent, Dunbar Castle, Gateside, and City of Adelaide and his wife Grace Charlotte Alston died on or about 6 September 1890, although their memorial at St George's church, Great Bromley gives the date of the loss of the Roman Empire 'with all hands' as August 27th 1890 - the date of the last confirmed communication with the ship. The Alstons' son Roland Athel Edward Alston (b.1877) had died at sea aged 7 in 1884.


Information on this page has been kindly supplied by Dr. Alan Platt, historian, and expert on the history of the 'City of Adelaide'; and also by Howard Murphy and Gilbert Provost, Canada and Steve Butler of St Osyth, Essex



Ship Commands
Preceded by
Master of the Dunbar Castle
1873 - 1874
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Master of the Gateside
1875 - 1876
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Alexander Bruce
Master of the City of Adelaide
1876 - 1887
Succeeded by
Patrick Crengle
Preceded by
Master of the Roman Empire
1880 - 1890
Succeeded by
Lost at Sea about 6-Sep-1890

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