Charlotte Elphinstone

Whereas Charlotte Chapel helped their aunt Martha Elphinstone to face death, it provided the family of little John and Charlotte a way to mourn their tragic loss. They were drowned in a shipwreck on their way from India to meet their families in Edinburgh for the first time. Whereas the monument on the site of their shipwreck is an eloquent example of public mourning, their epitaph in St Cuthbert's Churchyard is a moving expression of heartfelt personal grief.

1810 - 1815
John Elphinston, Esq. Member of Council, Bombay
Maria Prudence Robertson, daughter of James Robertson of Abingdon Street, London
The funeral register entry says: Lost on board the Alexander East Indiaman which was wrecked near Weymouth in Dorsetshire on 28 March 1815. Buried in the Church Yard of Wyke Regis, whence the remains were removed to Scotland, and interred in the Burial Place belonging to Mr Elphinston in the Church Yard of St Cuthbert's Parish in July 1816.' The 'Alexander' had left Bombay under Captain Auldjo. The newspapers of the day reported a "hard gale of wind" from the SSW for all of Sunday 26th March 1815 and the following night. The 'Alexander' lost her battle to avoid the notorious lee shore of Chesil Beach and was thrown on the bank of pebbles in an area known locally as Deadman's Cove in the pitch blackness several hours before dawn, and quickly broke up. Only four Malays and one Persian made it to land alive. Weymouth's leading architect James Hamilton made a fine memorial stone to record the tragedy in the graveyard of All Saints Church, Wyke Regis, erected by Charles Forbes MP and recording all the names of those lost, and an epitaph was written:
'Lamented shades! 'twas yours, alas to drain,
Misfortune's bitter chalice: - whilst in vain
Fond hope and joy regardless of control
Prompted each movement of the willing soul.
Sudden destruction reared his giant form
Black with the horrors of the midnight storm:
And all convulsed with elementary strife,
Dissolved the throbbing nerves of Hope and Life.
Death's triumphs past, may angels guide your way
To the blest regions of eternal day!
Where no rude blasts provoke the billowing roar,
Where Virtue's kindred meet to part no more. (4)
Charlotte and John were brought home to lie amongst their family, and given their own heartfelt memorial:
This tablet is erected to the memory of Charlotte Elphinston, aged 6 years, and of John Elphinston, aged 5 years... who, to the inexpressible sorrow of their affectionate parents, were drowned in the wreck of the "Alexander" ... By their father's direction, their remains were here deposited with the ashes of their kindred, by friends who once hoped to be delighted with their innocence and cheerfulness, and to assist in the pleasing task of cherishing and improving their opening virtues and talents. But the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (5)
Chapel connection
funeral (1815)
Martha Elphinstone was their aunt.

Wreck of the Alexander


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Peter Beauclerk Dewar, Burke's Landed Gentry of Great Britain: The Kingdom in Scotland 19th edition (Burke's Peerage and Gentry, London 2001)
  4. Weymouth Lunar Society Shipwreck Projects, website, accessed 2 January 2010
  5. John Smith, Monumental inscriptions in St Cuthbert's Churchyard, Edinburgh (older portion) (Scottish Record Society, Edinburgh 1915)

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