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SS Huddersfield came to grief on rocks like these
                SS Huddersfield came to grief on rocks like these

© Richard J. Brine


From the North Devon Journal 30 January 1908:

In a dense fog during Sunday night, the steamship Huddersfield of Cardiff went ashore near Hartland Point.

It appears that the Huddersfield left Barry Roads for South America with coals early on Sunday morning, and made Bull Point, beyond Ilfracombe quite safely just before eight in the evening. From this point, thick weather, with the wind blowing strongly from the W.S.W developed into a dense and impenetrable fog. The progress of the ill-fated steamer across Barnstaple Bay could have been no other than cautious, for it was not until 12.20 am on Monday morning that she fell foul of the terrible rocks on the Clovelly side of Hartland. Flares were burnt continuously, but as the Huddersfield was directly under the cliffs, and as the fog had even rendered the Hartland light invisible the signals of distress were unobserved.


Nine men out of a crew of twenty-one hands launched one of the ship's boats with considerable difficulty, and made off, at a moment when the fog lifted a trifle up-Channel, in search of help. The other boat was smashed in the perilous attempt at launching it, leaving the remainder of the crew with only a small jolly-boat*. Captain Owen decided to stop on board with a portion of his men, whilst the other, in the boat, proceeded to endeavour to find out their whereabouts and seek assistance when the fog should lift.


Eventually, about four o'clock on Monday morning, they found themselves off Clovelly, landed, made known their trouble and the dangerous plight in which they had left their fellows in Hartland

* a small boat rowed by just 2 people.

Clovelly Harbour
No roads take you down to the harbour at Clovelly - just a very steep, cobbled  long pathway. Donkeys wait patiently to drag down wooden sledges loaded with coal and groceries/


The story from this point may well be taken up by the Coxwain of the Clovelly lifeboat (Mr. Pengelly) who, in an interview, explained that the quaint little fishing hamlet - so beloved of tourists when the storms of winter have given way - was thrown into a state at an early hour of Monday morning when the shouts of strange men were heard.


Captain Pengelly continued: "I was informed that there was a steamer ashore, and on rushing down to the pier, learnt that twelve men were still aboard and in dire peril. We had the lifeboat Elinor Roget out by half past four, but  unfortunately the heavy boulders thrown up by the high seas damaged her a little in the course of launching. However, we soon got away and proceeded to the steamer which we found on the rocks by Fatacott, just a hundred yards from the spot where the Spanish ship Avril was lost in February 1906.  Heavy seas were breaking over the Huddersfield and the Captain and those left of his crew had assembled on the bridge, as far out of reach of the waves as possible. We took off eleven men, which it was thought completed the crew, but I thought it advisable to lay by for a moment or two. The Captain thought he was the last to leave, but presently an awful and despairing shouting was heard.  At first, we thought it was coming from the shore but we soon found that one poor fellow - they were all wet through and chilled with the exposure - had been left behind. He was taken off and it appeared that he had suddenly gone below to endeavour to secure some of his belongings. We then proceeded homewards where the men were taken care of by Captain W. Jewell of the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society.


The lifeboat had a very heavy pull on the outward journey, against fog, a strong tide and a boisterous wind. The boat's crew, when very near the ship, the fog having again lifted a little, showed some bright lights and were encouraged by the sight of answering flares from the men on the Huddersfield. This was the Elinor Roget's first taste of active service and right nobly did she and her crew acquit themselves under trying circumstance. The lifeboat was placed at Clovelly only last May.


The Captain was quite unable to account for the disaster except that it was owing to the fog. He appeared to feel the loss of the vessel keenly and is remaining at Clovelly with some of the crew to visit the ship again to see if anything can be saved.


In an interview, the secind mate (R.W. Jones) gave his story of the wreck. The Huddersfield, bound for the River Plate with a cargo of coal, left Barry Roads at 1.0-pm on Sunday. It was a dirty thick evening with fog and a wet westerly wind and she steamed at half speed. As night came on no lights were visible.

Later in the day, Mr Eli Braund drove into Bideford with fifteen of the crew, and saw them safely booked, most of them to Cardiff. The poor fellowd had lsot all, save what they stood up upright in, and some of them carried all their wordly belongings on board ship. Fortunately they were all got off the vessel without serious injury, but one man had a sprained shoulder, and the steward damaged a finger in getting off in the ship's boat.

Owing to the gale, telephonic communication between the coastguard station at Westward HQ and Clovelly was rendered impossible, the wires being down.

Yesterday the seas were terrific and the wrecked steamer was fast breaking up, The seas have washed away the the upper deck, most of which has come shore at Clovelly. The beach at Westward Ho is strewn with wreckage.

SS Huddersfield on the rocks

The Captain on Tuesday visited the scene of the wreck and abandoned all hope of being able to save anything. A strong gale was blowing and terrific seas were breaking over the wrecked steamer.

During the day,  the after and forwardbulwarks disappeared from the steamer and the wreckage was considerable by the evening. The Huddersfield lies broadside on to land and apparently bumps at high water.




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