SS Cragside

Follow Us

Thursday, July 1, 2004

In 2004 and 2005 the Nautical Archaeology Society as part of our "WreckMap Portland Project" dived on a wreck in Portland Harbour, known then as the "Unknown barge" from its name in the "Dive Dorset" book (John & Vicki Hinchcliff 1999).

Dive Dorset described it: "This unidentified wreck lies about 70m north of the wreck of the Enecuri. The vessel is sitting on the sloping breakwater wall almost at its base. She is a whole vessel complete with propeller. Depth to the deck is 11m. It is possible to enter her holds". However after diving the site it became clear that the vessel was a substantial sea-going ship. After discussion with a local dive shop operator the site became known as the unknown coaster. The dive shop operator was also sure that the site was damaged at the same time as the Enecuri, when the Russian oil-rig broke its moorings in 1996. Before this the wreck was virtually intact. The wreck is in three parts - the bow lies up against the breakwater, pointing to the surface, whilst the midships lies along the length of the breakwater lying on its starboard side. It is in poor condition with much of the structure missing, except the very bottom of the ship. Some ribs do stand up mainly on the port side. Finally the stern is in quite good condition by comparison. The stern also lies over on its starboard side with the rudder and single screw propeller still visible.

Dives made in 2004 confirmed the presence of the propeller. The propeller is iron and consists of four blades. Each blade is just over a metre in length (measured at 1.06m) and 72cm across. Both the propeller and the rudder are partially buried in the seabed. Drawings at the stern also revealed a possible name on the transom of the ship. Due to the extent of marine biological growth on the hull the NAS project divers investigating the stern were barely able to discern the lettering, but despite this it was believed that the lettering read "NEWCASTLE" and would represent either the name of the vessel, or the port in which the vessel would have been registered.

Subsequent to these dives in 2004, the lettering was confirmed in 2005 and research by Gordon LePard, (at the time from Dorset County Council) identified the wreck as most likely being that of the "Cragside", a steel built steamer,registered in Newcastle in 1892 and lost in Portland Harbour on the 22nd February 1923.

The NAS visits the wreck every year as a course wreck for the "BSAC Wreck Appreciation" course and as a venue for NAS ELearning fieldschools. If you have any images of the wreck that you would be willing to donate to our research they would of course be most welcomed.
The first listing for the Cragside is in the 1893-94 issue of the Lloyd’s Register of British and Foreign Shipping, where her details are given as:

Type of Vessel: Steel, Screw, Steamer, Schooner
Official Number: 101813
International Code Signal Letters:(none stated)
Master: J. H. Weatherall   
Tonnage Gross: 513 tons
Under Deck: 357 tons
Net: 227 tons
Dimensions Length: 160.3 feet (49m)
Breadth: 25.6 feet
Depth: 11.9 feet
Raised Quarter Deck or Break: 81 feet long
Bridge Deck: 14 feet long
Forecastle: 21 feet long
Other Construction Details: 1 Deck (Iron),Well Deck, Flat Keel, 4 Cemented Bulk Heads
Water Ballast: Double Bottom aft: 31 feet long; 28 tons capacity, Fore Peak Tank: 17 tons capacity, After Peak Tank: 7 tons capacity                                                                                           
Built by: Wood, Skinner and Company, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
Completed:December 1892. According to the Miramar Ship Index website (accessed 23/11/2010), she was launched on 5 November 1892.
Engines    Triple Expansion:  60 Horse Power,3 Cylinders ~ diameters: 13 inches, 21½ inches, and 34 inches; stroke: 27 inches                                   
Working Pressure of Boiler : 160 pounds per square inch. Shell, stays, end plates, furnaces and combustion chamber of boiler made of steel
Engines built by: North-Eastern Marine Engineering Company Limited, Sunderland
Owner: L.S. Carr and Company
Port of Registry: Newcastle-on-Tyne
Flag: British
Survey: Surveyed at Newcastle-on-Tyne, December 1892

Although Cragside was wrecked in February 1923, she is still listed in this issue of Lloyd’s Register, which covers the period from 1 July 1923 to 30 June 1924. According to the Register of Merchant Ships completed in 1892 by Tony Starke (1987), she was wrecked on Portland breakwater on 22 February 1923, while on a voyage from Southampton to Swansea, in ballast. According to a couple of postings on The ShipWreckProject website (accessed 23/11/2010) which include a sonar image of the wreck, her Master at the time was Captain Thomas Green.  The crew of eleven all reached the breakwater safely, and were eventually taken off by the Weymouth lifeboat.

Graham Farr's 1971 book "Wreck and Rescue on the Dorset Coast" describes the loss of the Cragside - "The difficulty of taking people from the detached portions of Portland Breakwater was demonstrated during the night of February 22-23rd 1923, when the small steamer "Craigside" and the ketch "Phoenix" were both blown ashore on to the pell-mell blocks of granite in a whole north-westerly gale. The crews scrambled on to the breakwater but heavy seas were breaking right over and cascading down the inner side making it extremely uncomfortable and dangerous to remain there. In the prevailing conditions the lifeboat and several other craft found they could not reach the men. However, at four in the morning the weather moderated somewhat and twelve men were brought ashore. Unfortunately the skipper of the Phoenix had been drowned when she became holed and sank."

In the March 2010 edition of Diver magazine, John Lilliard described the wreck of the Cragside "The Cragside had plenty of company when it was driven onto the breakwater in a blizzard on the night of 22 February, 1923. On the same night, the 456-ton tanker Scandinavia and ketch Phoenix (not to be confused with the Mulberry Phoenix units) came to a similar end. The Phoenix was completely broken up and the Scandinavia salvaged. The Cragside's engine was also salvaged, but the relatively intact hull remains capsized, with the keel towards the breakwater. As on the Enecuri, (a wreck lying close to the Cragside) the bow still has railings and bollards in place, with anchor-chain dangling from the hawse pipes. There is also a big tangle of steel cable by the keel, perhaps dropped during salvage work, or possibly unconnected to the Cragside. There is so much general harbour junk about that it's difficult to dive anywhere in Portland Harbour without coming across something. Amidships, a few scraps of boiler-plating rest inside the hull. At the stern are more bollards and railings, with an intact rudder and iron propeller below. On the deck above the rudder, the steering mechanism is based on a simple tiller arm. Also worth seeing is a spare blade for the propeller, standing upright on the deck".