The Fate of the “Ceres” – 24th November 1936

The following was sent to me several years ago by Walter Ford’s son. I regret to say I have lost his address. I hope he will forgive me reproducing the article here:


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

Fate of the “Ceres”

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.

Ceres 1811-1936

Ketch “Ceres” 1811-1936, offloading in Bude












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 (Appledore) Bar for the night as it was too 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 on board 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 owned by a Bude firm of coal merchants, and was built in Salcombe.

~ ~ ~

Built in Salcombe, Devon, in 1811, she carried stores as a revitalling ship at the blockade of Brest during the Napoleonic Wars. Was the oldest vessel afloat until she sank in Croyde Bay one November evening in 1936.

Mr Walter’s son adds: My late father Walter Ford always maintained that she sank because the vessel had recently has 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 earlier posts on the Ceres: On the “Ceres” 1811-1936




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