Maritime tragedy memories surface in charity shop

Barnstaple Rotarians fascinated by donation of pictures showing doomed vessel Stevenstone, whose loss claimed the lives of five Appledore men.

POIGNANT memories of a maritime tragedy which claimed the lives of 16 men, including five from Appledore, have resurfaced 90 years later in a North Devon charity shop.

Volunteers at Barnstaple Rotary Shop in Boutport Street were stunned when an anonymously donated box turned out to contain a dozen large photographs of the Cardiff coal steamer Stevenstone, whose disappearance remains a mystery to this day.

The Hansen Shipping Company vessel was built in Bideford and launched in July, 1921 – six months later she vanished without trace enroute to Denmark with a cargo of coal.

Following research by retired ships architect Audrey Hinks, volunteers realised the large black and white photographs showed her launch from what is thought to be Appledore.

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“The shop received a whole pile of items, including letters, school reports, a marriage certificate and about 12 mounted photos,” explained Rotarian Tony Freeman.

“We would like to donate them either to a museum or to relatives of those who died. It is a part of North Devon history and we don’t want it to be lost.”

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The marriage certificate recorded the 1928 union between William Baglow and Florence Burnard at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Bideford. Her father William James Finch Burnard was listed as a mariner and Mr Freeman said they wondered if there was a connection.

The fate of the small steamer and her crew of Welsh and Appledore men – including Captain FE Prout of 8, The Quay, Appledore - has never been discovered.

A report from the time said “she was fitted with two lifeboats, each capable of carrying 22 persons and also up-to-date life saving appliances.”

The other North Devonians also presumed to have perished at sea were: Boatswain FM Cox plus able seamen W Cropp, J Whitlock and J McCullan.

Anyone who has information about the mysterious donation of photographs or can suggest who they could be donated to is asked to contact Tony Freeman on 01271 850255 or 07876 457051, or Ann Turner on 07775 700946.

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