Over the centuries the coastline around Mortehoe has been the backcloth to many dramas where ships have run aground, been dashed to pieces or sunk due to storms, fog, collision and even a German Dive Bomber in the Second World War! Often there has been huge loss of life though at other times the sea has been robbed of its victims by either good fortune, rescue by Lifeboat or the Life Saving Rocket Apparatus Brigade.

There are far too many wrecks to write about but here is a small section of some of the most notable or significant wrecks:

H.M.S Weazle: A Brig Man-of-War based at Appledore. She was a Patrol/Escort ship in the waters between St Ives and Ilfracombe though previously she had served in North America, the North Sea and on the South Coast. In her career she had fought and captured well armed French Privateers during the French Revolutionary Wars. She sank off Baggy Point in a storm on the 12th February 1799 with the loss of all hands.

The Royal Charter Storm: The largest storm recorded in the Nineteenth Century where between the 25th October and the 9th November 1859 there were 325 shipwrecks along the West Coast of Great Britain with a loss of 748 lives. On the 26th October 1859 there were 8 separate shipwrecks on Morte Point with a huge loss of life. The ships were:

Picture by R.L. Knight

1. ‘Annie’, a Sailing Snow

2. ‘Clare’, a Sailing Schooner

3. ‘Hannah’, a Sailing Smack

4. ‘I’ll Try’

5. ‘Rose’, a Sailing Schooner

6. ‘Matthew Thompson’, a Sailing Schooner

7. ‘Thistle’, a Sailing Brigantine

8. ‘William Robertson’, a Sailing Brig (only identified by Lifeboat, no wreckage or crew found).

The Public Enquiry held after the Royal Charter Storm led to the use of the Electric Telegraph to send Storm Warnings to all Ports and Harbours and also led to the introduction of the Weather Forecast.

The S.S.Priestfield: Ran aground on Slipper Rock on 8th May 1912. She was successfully refloated by two Steam Tugs from Cardiff.

The S.S Collier: Ran aground at Rockham Bay on the 28th January 1914. All crew saved along with the ship’s dog, ship’s cat and pet goldfinch! Crew abandoned ship by ship’s dinghy and rescued by Ilfracombe Lifeboat. The ship was a total wreck.

The S.S. Newtown: Ran aground at Barricane Beach on 7th January 1915. Crew were rescued by Life Saving Rocket Apparatus. The ship was a total wreck.Find out more about these ships and others along with their stories by visiting our Museum