The story behind the remains of the Berrow wreck, a beached ship
near Burnham-On-Sea called the SS Nornen
the tide goes out at Berrow, near Burnham-On-Sea, the bones of
a long dead ship stick out of the sands as a stark reminder of
a savage gale and a gallant rescue at the end of the last century.
all started during the first days of March 1897 when a howling
south westerly gale swept up the Bristol Channel, bringing with
it high seas, driving snow and sleet.
ships soon found themselves in distress, among them the Norwegian
barque SS Nornen which had tried out to ride out the storm in
the lee of the Lundy Roads but had found her anchors dragging.
She was being driven towards Berrow mud flats. The crew desperately
tied to save her, but were fighting a losing cause.
heroic rescue of the ship's crew
the mists cleared on the morning of March 3, the crippled ship
was spotted just off Gore Sands, her sails blown to rags by the
gale. Down the ramp to her aid went the Burnham
lifeboat, the John Godfrey Morris (pictured right), which
had been on station at the town for the last ten years.
down the rails on the jetty, the lifeboat with its crew of ten
oarsmen battled through high seas and winds to the SS Nornen.
Despite the gale, the lifeboat managed to get alongside the helpless
ship, just as she was being driven onto the sands.
ship's crew of ten, together with their dog, were taken off by
the lifeboat and landed safely at Burnham at three o'clock in
the afternoon. The rescue is recorded on the honours
board of rescues made by the three lifeboats at Burnham during
the period from 1867 to 1930 and which today stands in the entrance
to the Burnham RNLI Station.
remains there today
After the rescue, the sea pounded and smashed the ship and although
attempts were made to lighten and refloat her, she was finally
sold as a wreck. Today, when the tide goes out, children play
amid the timbers of the ship wreck, which lies just north of St
Mary's Parish Church at Berrow, just south of Brean. But when
the wind blows and the big seas start to roll in, it doesn't take
much imagination to see again that gallant rescue of not so long
Other Burnham buildings
The Burnham Lifeboat
St Andrew's Church
Important Dates in Burnham's history