Pictures of tragic Stevenstone presented to museum

Photographs discovered in a Barnstaple charity shop that brought back memories of a tragedy at sea are presented to Appledore museum.

NEWLY discovered pictures of a lost ship that prompted a flood of North Devon memories have been donated to Appledore Maritime Museum.

Through the Gazette, Barnstaple Rotary clubs had appealed for information after 90-year-old photographs of the coal steamer Stevenstone were anonymously donated to the Boutport Street shop.

A maritime tragedy that still has echoes today, the vessel vanished without trace enroute to Denmark in 1921 and claimed the lives of 16 men, five of whom were from Appledore.

After contacting the Gazette with the story, Rotarian Tony Freeman received numerous calls and emails from descendents of the lost seamen, many of whom had carried out their own research.

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It was decided by the two Rotary clubs in Barnstaple that run the charity shop that the original pictures should be donated to the North Devon Maritime Museum, in Appledore.

Prints of any photographs that are copyright free would be given to the relatives of those lost in the tragedy.

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On behalf of both clubs, Chris Haywood, president of Barnstaple Link Rotary, presented ship historian Peter Ferguson from the museum with the pictures for safe keeping.

“This is so exciting,” said a delighted Peter. “There are many pictures that we have not even seen before, including the Hubbastone and the Monkstone that were also built by Hansons in the same yard at Higher Cleave Bank End in Bideford.”

IT is clear the sad tale of the Stevenstone, commissioned by the Welsh Hansen Shipping Company and registered to Cardiff, is still deeply felt by surviving relatives almost a century later.

The Gazette was contacted by Val Wood, whose father Frederick Denys Cox – known as Denys – was just six months old when the steamer was lost and is thought to be the only direct descendent still alive.

“We have been collecting information about the Stevenstone for quite a while,” she said.

“As he never knew his father this has always been of great interest to him. It has been made a little easier to find some information with the advent of the internet, but much is still missing. I hope to take dad to see the photos soon, as he will like that.”

The grandfather she never knew, Frederick Nathaniel Cox, was born in 1894 and was listed as a seaman by age 17. He served as a Royal Naval Volunteer during World War I, on board ships transporting troops to the continent.

He became the bosun of the Stevenstone after its launch in July 1921 and came home on leave prior to its last fateful voyage. Poignantly, he left a Christmas card to his infant son:

“He had written ‘To dear little Denys, Happy Christmas from Daddy. Lots of kisses’. This is the only thing my dad has from his father and he treasures it,” said Val.

“It was a tragedy for several local families, including of course my grandmother Gladys. She was left a widow with no income, a six month baby and soon found out she was pregnant again with my aunt Nathalie. Gladys had a hard life, never remarrying.

“What a sad story it is, but often repeated in seafaring villages such as Appledore, as a look around the churchyard will confirm. Such a short married life and two fatherless children. Dad never knew him and I wish I had known him too.”

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