On the Ceres – 73 years ago today – not forgotten

Ceres 1811 – 1936

As I write, I can hear the wind hammering the trees in front of the house.

The inshore waters forecast for here gives southwesterly 6 to gale 8.

For the Bristol Channel it gives:

Lands End to St Davids Head including the Bristol Channel

The outlook for the 24 hours following 1200 Tuesday 24th November

Strong winds are forecast

Wind: Southwesterly 6 to gale 8, increasing severe gale 9 at times, perhaps storm 10 later in west

Sea state: Rough or very rough, occasionally high in west

Weather: Squally showers.

Visibility: Moderate or good, occasionally poor in west.

I mention this because 73 years ago today, off Baggy Point on the north coast of Devon at the western end of the Bristol Channel, on a quieter, fog-ridden day, the Ceres foundered.

The report in the Bideford Weekly Gazette on 1st December 1936 is recorded below.


The following year, my grandfather commissioned Pelham Jones to commemorate her on canvas (above). The painting is a wonderfully optimistic depiction of a coasting ketch, albeit with her competition lurking in the background. It is a painting for her owner to enjoy.

I find John Chancellor’s painting of the Ceres to be equally optimistic. I suspect he painted her purely because he enjoyed painting ships and boats. This is a painting for the artist himself to enjoy.

Taking Bude After a Blow, by John Chancellor


Taken from an article in the Bideford Weekly Gazette dated December 1st.1936.


The 125 years old “Ceres”, veteran of the merchant service, her course now run, lies at the bottom of Bideford Bay, somewhere off Baggy Point.

The “Ceres” sprang a leak on Tuesday night while on a voyage from South Wales to Bude, and foundered after her crew had put off in her boat and had been picked up by the Appledore lifeboat. The Captain is Mr Oswald Jeffery, a married man, whose home is in Richmond Road, Appledore, and the mate Mr Walter Ford, a married man of Irsha Street,, Appledore. They reached Appledore in the lifeboat at about 11 o’clock, and on arrival the Rev Muller offered a short prayer of thanksgiving for their safety.

Captain Jeffery said,” We left Swansea on Tuesday bound for Bude with a cargo of slag. Because of the weather we intended to go in over the Bar for the night as it was to rough to venture on to Bude. At 8 o’clock I went below to rest for an hour, leaving the mate in charge. An hour later he told me there was water in the engine room. We manned the pumps. We tried to get the ship over the Bar, but the water made her roll badly, and I gave the order for the ship’s rowing boat to be launched. I fired two rockets, and we abandoned the vessel. We lay in the shelter of the “Ceres” which was sinking, and were taken onboard the lifeboat.

Dr. Valentine stood by in case medical assistance was needed, but although wet through, neither the captain nor his mate appeared any the worse for this ordeal.

The “Ceres” was owed by a Bude firm of coal merchants, and was built in Salcombe.

Ketch Ceres 1811 – 1936.

Built in Salcombe, Devon in 1811.She carried stores as a revitaling ship at the blockade of Brest during the Napoleonic wars. Was the oldest sea-going vessel afloat until she sank in Croyde Bay one November evening in 1936. My late father Walter Ford always maintained that she sank because the vessel had recently had a new timber set in, and this had swollen and had displaced the much older timbers which surrounded it.

The night she sank was flat calm and the sky clear.”

For further posts on the Ceres here.

One thought on “On the Ceres – 73 years ago today – not forgotten

  1. My dad, also named Bill, was a friend of Pelham Jones who would produce a painting in exchange for a pint and a shilling. We have one painting given as an engagement present to my dad.

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