Ill-fated expedition leader stayed locally before heading for Arctic

The Star and Garter Hotel, Broad Street, Old Portsmouth, demolished in 1954

The Star and Garter Hotel, Broad Street, Old Portsmouth, demolished in 1954

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There was a recent report in The News which said that the second of two British ships which vanished in the Arctic nearly 170 years ago, while trying to find the fabled Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic, had been found.

The icebound ships were, it is thought, abandoned while all of both ships’ companies died from starvation, hypothermia, lead poisoning and scurvy. What it did not mention is that the two ships, HMS Terror and the old bomb ship HMS Erebus, departed Greenhythe on the River Thames on May 19, 1845. However, W G Gates tells us in his History of Portsmouth that the expedition departed on May 20, 1845. I wondered if they called into Portsmouth en route?

History again tells us that the ships sailed north from Greenhythe to Scotland for stores. What contradicts this is that for a few nights before his departure, expedition leader Sir John Franklin and his second wife Lady Jane stayed at the Star and Garter Hotel in Broad Street, Old Portsmouth.

Every year for many years after her husband was given up for lost, Lady Jane Franklin would visit the Star and Garter and occupied the rooms which she had once shared with her ill-fated husband.

Surely, if the ships had left from London the Franklins would have taken rooms in the capital and not in Portsmouth.

Perhaps Lady Franklin returned to stay in Portsmouth in the hope her husband would return one day and perhaps, rather fancifully, they had made a pact to meet up once again in the Star and Garter?

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