Today's Object of the Week is the wreck of a North East steamer which has recently revealed herself after being hidden for decades.

LADEN with 1,250 tonnes coal bound for London, the Steam Ship (SS) Commodore set off from the North East coast almost exactly 125 years ago.

The steamer, built on Tyneside in 1870, sailed from South Shields at 5.15am on Saturday, November 7, 1896. It was to be her last journey.

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By 11am, the vessel had reached Norfolk, three-quarters of a mile from Sheringham.

The seas were fairly calm although the weather was “dirty and thick” when she first ran aground. There was nothing to indicate any immediate danger and her engines were kept going to get her off, but to no avail.


Fishing boats went out to try to help the captain and crew off. The captain initially refused assistance, believing the ship would refloat.

But a storm blew up from the North East, so the fishing boats returned to shore.

The sea soon became rough and the captain sent up distress flares, deciding that now he wanted to get off the stricken steamship.

The town’s lifeboat, The Henry Ramey Upcher, launched to their assistance and by 2am, with a lifeboat crew of 33 they took the three fishermen and 14 crew off the Commodore, bringing them ashore where they were given dry clothes, hot drinks and food.

The Commodore, according to newspaper reports, was “a total wreck”.

The Northern Echo: A detail of the shipwreck taken below the waterline. Picture: CHRISTAYLORPHOTO.CO.UKA detail of the shipwreck taken below the waterline. Picture: CHRISTAYLORPHOTO.CO.UK

A Board of Trade inquiry in Newcastle into the stranding and loss of the vessel found the ship’s master – Captain Henry Adolphus Nedding – to be at fault and withheld his licence for three months. A first mate’s certificate was allowed for him in the meantime.

The wreck remained on the shore at Sheringham until 1903 when it was broken up by explosives as it was posing a hazard to local fishing boats.

Now, 125 years after she was lost, stunning new images of the wreck have emerged.


Photographer and filmmaker Chris Taylor was snorkelling on a chalk reef at Sheringham when some large pieces of wreckage loomed into view.

He filmed and photographed what he saw and showed them to staff at Sheringham Museum, who confirmed it was the wreck of the SS Commodore.

He said: “I was amazed at how much of the wreck was still present and swam what I thought was the length of the wreck.

“But a few days later, I put the drone up over the wreck at the next low spring tide and discovered that there was much more of it lying there than I had possibly imagined.

"Aerial shots the following week revealed the full outline of the shipwreck sat on the sea floor.”


Subsequent dives uncovered what he Mr Taylor believes is the tubeplate from the boiler..

He added: “This was lying approximately 20 metres from the rest of the wreckage which ties in with it being blown up. One article from the time described the explosion as ‘a huge column of water shot into the air followed by five or six more’.

“It was interesting seeing how the sealife now used the wreck as an artificial reef despite it being so close in to shore and well inside the surf zone meaning it would get battered in the storms.”

Mr Taylor added: “I do think these are the most revealing images that have been taken of it [the ship] for many decades since it has laid mostly buried under sand for a long time.


“It was just a lucky coincidence that I happened to stumble upon it that afternoon while the water was clear and the sand had been scoured away by recent tidal movements.

“I feel very lucky to have been able to find this wonderful old wreck, learn more about her history and share it with others.”

* To read Chris Taylor’s blog about the SS Commodore, visit

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