Norman’s Woe From Hammond Castle

Location, History, and Legends

The rock and reef of Norman’s Woe are a short distance from the westernmost point of Gloucester’s outer harbor. Norman’s Woe can best be seen from Hammond Castle on Hesperus Ave., off route 127 in Gloucester.

There is no clear record of how Norman’s Woe got its name. Tradition tells that a man named Norman was shipwrecked and lost there, and it is for him the rock and reef are named. John J. Babson’s history of Gloucester notes that Goodman Norman and his son settled the headland near the islet.

The history of uninhabited Norman’s Woe is the history of its many shipwrecks. One noted shipwreck was of the “Rebecca Ann” in March, 1823. In a snowstorm, all ten crewmembers were swept out to sea, and one survived by holding on to a rock in the water. Perhaps the most famous shipwreck at Norman’s Woe was of the schooner “Favorite” out of Wiscasset, Maine, in December 1839. Twenty bodies washed ashore, among them that of an older woman lashed to a piece of the ship. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow took that story and named the ship “Hesperus” after a wreck near Boston in creating the legend of “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” the most famous “shipwreck” associated with Norman’s Woe.

Text by North Shore Community College.


  • thank you marty- first of all for the photo, and also for the location information and the history. a fine post! beautiful.


  • Thanks for another picture related to Hammond’s Castle, Capt. Well do I remember! When I ran the ‘Irene’ for John H.Hammond, his company were often some of the “wheels” of RCA and the Atomic Energy Com. Werner VonBron, Fermi and others were enertained by the Hammonds both summers I ran the boat. Mrs. Hammond would seldom go out with us except when it was stormy!
    She loved to stand on the engine box dressed in full oilskins and get soaked. I knew that when it blew and was rough to expect her to call for the boat. If it was real bad would get to the harbor entrance. If it wasn’t too bad, we would to to Manchester or Marblehead along the shore. She always wanted me to take the boat “inside” – between Norman’s Woe and the castle. John usually countermanded her orders over that.


  • Thanks for the personal history.
    Do you happen to have any photos from your time with the Hammonds?


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