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Charles Larkins Selth

156 Middle Street
Balaclava Road, Bermondsey
4 Beach Street
52 Middle Street
15 Coppin Street
38, 54 & 127 Middle Street

Occupation: Mariner, Channel & North Sea Pilot

Merchant Seaman

Charles Larkins Selth was the eighth, of nine the children born to baker Zachariah Thompson Selth and his wife Mary Kemp. Charles didn’t follow his father into the bakery but decided to make his living from the sea. In November 1851 he was ticketed  or registered as a Merchant Seaman. This record says that he first went to sea in 1851 however, this was only the official register and being sixteen at the time and coming from Deal we are sure he was already spent time with and gained plenty of experience from the local Boatmen. By 1861, when the census was taken, the twenty-five year old Charles was Master of the vessel ‘Edward Fairbrass’, he and his eight crew and one passenger were off Cromer at the time. 

The Edward Fairbrass may have been broken up the following year. Now how long Charles was Master on her or what vessel he sailed on next is not known. We do know that in 1867 he was living in Bermondsey as it is here that he married Caroline Mary Mowle the daughter of a Deal Pilot. On the marriage register they both gave their address as Balaclava Road, Bermondsey.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 stated that no Foreign-going or Home Trade Passenger Ship could obtain clearance to legally proceed to sea, from any UK port, unless the leading crew had valid Certificates of Competency or Service. Before his marriage Charles had gained such Certificates of Competency for Only Mate then First Mate Having these qualifications and living in Bermondsey, which was within walking distance of London’s Docks and Wharves, may have meant that Charles was thinking of what today we would call a career in the Merchant Shipping Service.


Maybe London life or being away from Deal didn’t suit the couple as by 1871 they had returned to their home-town and were living in 33 Beach Street where they settled into their new lives; Charles qualified as a North Sea and Channel Pilot; they took in the first of the several lodgers that they were destined to have throughout their married lives; in December 1871 Charles was initiated into the ‘Lord Wardens’ Masonic Lodge in Deal. Then in 1873 Rose, their only child, was born in their Beach Street home. By 1876 they had moved into 15 Coppin Street where they took in two new lodgers, a Mrs Martha Naish and her granddaughter Emma Scott. Had it not been for an unexpected tragedy we would never have known about these two particular lodgers.


Martha Naish, also named Emma, married confectioner James Scott in Dover in 1862 they soon had a daughter, who they also named Emma, however, sadly, the marriage broke up and Martha took in and cared for her granddaughter. First living in Bridge then, at the recommendation of her friend Clara Rye, they took up lodgings with Charles and Caroline Selth. This was in April 1876.

On the morning of Friday, 11th December 1876 Caroline was “…feeling uneasy…” Little did she know then or even suspect that both Martha and fourteen years old Emma were lying dead and covered in blood in the rented room!

The Inquest held at Deal Guildhall, was reported in the newspapers and goes into some detail. It tells us that Martha was renting the small back bedroom in the home of Charles and Caroline Selth, this she had furnished herself and shared with Emma. Here she cooked their meals which were “…principally stews…” according to Caroline’s testimony. Caroline went on to say that neither Martha nor Emma were employed but the rent of 1s 6d a week was paid regularly, that was until the week before their deaths. On the morning of Wednesday the 9th, Martha had visited Caroline in her bedroom. She remarked that she was ‘cold’ and displayed strange behaviour, pacing up and down the room before returning to her own. The next morning Caroline remarked to Charles that she hadn’t seen anything of either Martha or Emma since then. A little later that day, she told the inquest, she and Charles “…heard a strange noise like someone being suffocated…” Not thinking much of this, they ignored it.

Kentish Gazette – Tuesday 12 December 1876

The day continued and still they neither saw nor heard anything from Martha or Emma. By Friday morning Caroline was feeling very uneasy about this, so she went to the room. The door was open with the key still in the lock so she popped her head around the door but couldn’t open it enough to enter. She did, however, see what she thought was blood on a blanket. When Charles came home for lunch, she asked him to go up to the room as she felt something was seriously wrong. Following his wife’s instructions he managed to open the door and on entering he saw that Martha was lying covered in blood and almost naked on the floor and fourteen years old Emma was lying face down on the mat in the middle of the room. After taking in the horrifying scene before him, he went downstairs to his wife asking where their daughter was. He then told Caroline to take the child and go to her mothers. He then went to the Police Station.

Clara Rye described her friend as a loner who was devoted to her granddaughter. She told the inquest that she had little money and had been a widow for twenty years and apart from the occasional assistance from Emma’s father she had always supported her grandchild herself.

In the week leading up to the tragedy Clara met Martha several times who she thought was very troubled. She had said “…suppose my daughter was to come…” which made Clara think that she was worried that Emma would be taken from her. Martha also remarked to her that she felt she was “…going out of her mind…” and seemed particularly worried about Emma. On Thursday evening as Martha left Clara’s  she was heard to say to Emma, who was with her “What about tomorrow morning?” Clara also informed the inquest that her friend had “…a severe attack of illness in her head, and has always complained of it since …”

Dr. Thomas Mason had been called to Coppin Street by the police and on examining the bodies he had concluded that both had had their throats cut with a razor. He told the inquest that in his opinion Martha had first slit her granddaughter’s throat then her own. After a short deliberation the Inquest’s Jury returned a verdict of “Wilful Murder against the grandmothermother, and that she had first killed the child, and afterwards destroyed herself being at the time of unsound mind”

Charles appears in the Poll books twice in 1877. The first states that he had moved from 54 Middle street to 15 Coppin Street the next from Coppin Street to 52 then 38 Middle Street. This suggests that they had not long moved into Coppin  Street when they took in Martha and Emma as lodgers.  It also suggests that they moved out soon afterwards.  Well wouldn’t you want to?

Pride of the Sea

Pride of the Sea             Deal Museum- P/MOSS/1/7

In around 1876 John Moss and his younger brother William Moss took out a loan and bought the lugger Pride of the Sea. In the Archives of Deal, there is a typed transcript of the vessel’s earnings from that year until 1887. Charles was, in 1887 a member of that vessel’s crew along with the owners, their nephew Charles Moss, Henry Kirkaldy and Thomas Adams.

How long he or the other members of the crew had been sailing with the Moss brothers is unknown and had it not been for another tragedy we may never have not known that Charles or the others were out ‘cruising’ the channel on Pride of the Sea in 1887.

We know that the Pilot Lugger Pride of the Sea, with its crew of six, left Walmer on the morning of 14 October 1887 their purpose was to cruise down the Channel looking for ships requiring Pilots. Thomas Adams on Thursday, 27th was shipped on board ‘Knight Companion’ which was bound for Dunkirk. On the morning of Sunday 30th, after being caught in a severe South Easterly Gale, Pride of the Sea was driven ashore and wrecked at Shanklin Cove on the Isle of Wight. 

Wreck of Pride of the Sea

The following morning John Moss’s body was the first to be found, washed ashore between Shanklin Cove and Sandown. A Coroner’s Inquest, with a jury, was held later that afternoon to examine the circumstances of his death. In his summing up the Coroner said he “…did not suppose that anyone had the slightest doubt that the man met with his death accidentally through the storm.” The jury returned a verdict of “Death by Drowning”.

At the inquest Henry Way, a local fisherman described how, on the morning of Wednesday 26th; he had been out in his own boat. Recognising Pride of the Sea he rowed over to talk to the crew who he knew by sight. He stated there were four or five men onboard at that time and had chatted to them for about a quarter hour. One of those must have been our Charles. Sadly this was the last time the men were to be seen alive.


Later on that Monday Charles Moss’ body was the second to be found and taken to the Chine Inn. On the morning of Wednesday November 2nd two further bodies were recovered from the shore. One was William Moss who was washed up on Shanklin Cove the other was Charles Selth who was found in Littlestairs. The newspaper report of their being found says that they were easily identifiable no further inquest were required.

The funerals of these four men took place at Shanklin on the afternoon of Thursday 4th and started with a procession from the Chine Inn to St. Saviour’s Church, Shanklin at a quarter past two. The first two coffins were carried by Isle of Wight fishermen from Sandown and Shanklin the third was carried by Shanklin’s Coastguards and the last by Deal Pilots who, along with relatives and friends of the men, had travelled to Shanklin to pay their last respects. Caroline may well have been amongst them, but we have no evidence of that.

The loss of a bread winner at this time could lead to poverty and the workhouse. So to give the families some immediate relief, collections were taken in Shanklin, Deal & Walmer. Just over £363 was collected and equally divided between the families. 

Chine Inn

Another funeral was to take place the following week after the body of Henry Kirkaldy was found washed up on Sunday 6th at Whitecliffe Bay. Until then there was still a vague hope that he would be found alive. He was interred with his crew mates in Shanklin Cemetery. Thomas Adams, the sole survivor, was chief mourner at his funeral. 

A fund was set up in December 1887 to purchase a Memorial Stone for the men that was approved by the Shanklin Burial Board in late May 1888 when it was described as a marble cross on boulders, with an anchor and an inscription. The memorial over the decades suffered badly from weathering so eventually it became illegible. In 2002 descendants of the Moss family paid to have the Memorial restored.

Caroline and Rose

In 1891 Caroline married Alphonso James Redman the landlord of the New Inn on High Street. Rose, now a Dressmaker, stayed with her mother. It may just be coincidence but James Munday Redman, Alphonso’s father, moved into the former Coppin Street home of Caroline and Charles, almost as soon as they left. Perhaps this was how Alphonso and Caroline met. Though he may well have been a family friend if not an acquaintance; Deal was after all a small town.

Sadly Caroline was widowed for a second time when Alphonso died in 1894. She then moved to Essex where she died in 1912. Rose married William Watson in Essex in 1897 ending her days in Wales where she died in 1965.

Name Born Baptised Married Died Buried
Charles Larkins Selth July 25 1835
Middle Street
March 23 1836
St. George’s
Caroline Mary Mowle
September 8 1867 St. James’, BermondseyBorn 1842, Deal
Died 1912 Orsett, Essex
October 30 1887
Shanklin, Isle of Wight
November 4 1887
Shanklin Cemetery
Isle of Wight

The Children of Charles Larkins Selth & Caroline Mary Mowle

Name Born Baptised Married Died Buried
Rose Caroline August 22 1873
4 Beach Street
September  11 1873
St. George’s
William Watson
December 1 1897Chadwell St Mary, St Mary The Virgin, Essex,
Bridgend, Glamorganshire


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1841 Middle Street Zachariah Selth Head Baker
Mary Wife
Catherine Daughter
Zachariah Son
Mary Daughter
Henry  Son
George  Son
Susannah Daughter
Richard  Son
Charles  Son
Christopher  Son


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1851 156 Middle Street Zachariah Thompson Selth Head Baker
Mary Wife Baker’s Wife
Zachariah Thompson Son Journeyman Baker
Richard Son Baker’s Son
Charles Larkins Son


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1861 Off Shore Vessels- Edward Fairbrass
Off Cromer
Charles Larkins Selth Master
George Price London Mate
Bernard Joseph Madden Cook & Seaman
Alfred Boorman Able Seaman Able Seaman
Joshua Sands Able Seaman Able Seaman
Thomas Ashby Able Seaman Able Seaman
George Allen Ordinary Seaman
William Weedon
Albert Smeed
Cabin Boy
Miriam Silby London Passenger


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1871 33 Beach Street Charles L Selth Head North Sea Pilot
Caroline M Wife
George H  Canney Lodger Mariner


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1881 Charles L Selth Head North Sea Pilot
Caroline M Wife
Rose C Daughter Scholar
Mary Johnstone Lodger Independent Lady

Trade and Street Directory

Directory and Year Trade or Occupation Address
Post Office Directory 1887 127 Middle Steet, Lodging House

Poll Books (selected)

 Year Profession Qualifying Residence
1872 Walmer, 54 Middle Street then 33 Beach Street
1875 7 Griffin Street, then 4 Beach Street
1877 54 Middle Street then 15 Coppin Street then 52 then Middle Street then 38 Middle Street
1885 to 1887 127 Middle Street
Sources and further reading:
Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved.
With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (
Deal Museum-