Berth of the Abergavenny is devoted to the impressive model of the Earl of Abergavenny, East Indiaman, built by the renowned model ship builder Peter Coughlin of Darwen, England, and gifted to the College of the Holy Cross by Richard Matlak, Professor Emeritus, English. The 6’ x 6’ model (scale 1:40) is housed in the main reading room of the College’s Dinand Library.
The actual Earl of Abergavenny was a 1200 ton merchant vessel that sailed for the East India Company in its trade with India and China in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Abergavenny became a part of literary and British maritime history when she sank in February 1805 two miles off the coast of Portland in a tremendous night storm. Her captain was John Wordsworth, the younger brother of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth.
Being one of the worst catastrophes in British maritime history, the public was interested in the tragedy. Crew members and soldiers onboard attempted to bail water out of the hull, but after eleven hours, The Abergavenny sank in 65 feet of water. Written accounts of the sinking with sketches of imagined, lurid chaos sensationalized the tragedy. The tragedy also impacted the writings of the poet Wordsworth.
A more detailed description may be found at "Berth of the Abergavenny". For a scholarly account of the sinking of the Abergavenny see "Captain John Wordsworth’s Death at Sea" and for a fictional representation of the event in the form of a screenplay see "The Sinking."