The little-known Somerset shipwreck still visible after disastrous journey 126 years ago

A shipwreck has inspired a woman to produce a play based on the dramatic story of its disastrous final journey 126 years ago.

The SV Nornen set out for the USA in March 1897, but a huge storm saw its sails ripped and crew needing rescuing. With conditions described as gale force and even snow falling, the men on board tried to guide the vessel as best they could until it beached between Burnham-on-Sea and Berrow.

Local people managed to rescue of all crew members, even a dog. Now the story has led to a play being produced called All Hands! It will be performed at Marine Cove Gardens from 3-6 August 2023.

Producer Corrinne Curtis said: "It’s an epic story and, quite often, when you have a shipwreck you assume absolute disaster, but, in this instance, it wasn’t. It was, in that there is a shipwreck, but everyone was rescued and it’s a whole community coming together to help people, no questions asked and they gave them all refuge as well.

"It’s a brilliant, brilliant local story and something to be proud of and celebrate and a lot of people don’t know. So I’m really excited to be bringing it to life for my community."

The Nornen anchored at Fowey, Cornwall Credit: Brevik Historical Society

John Strickland is a local historian who has done considerable research on the Nornen and the aftermath of the storm.

He said: "This wreck is the only feature now in this area that was here during my childhood. So she means an awful lot to me. She’s actually part now of living history. The people who actually helped on the day - the relatives of those people, they’re still here and, fortunately, they wrote down what happened with the recovery so it’s a really fascinating story."

John says whilst the sand and mud has probably helped to aid in the preservation of the wreck over the years, it is possible that it won't always be visible in the future.

He said: "The sand is shifting all the time and I personally think now she’s actually sinking back into the sands. I know over the past two years she’s actually not showing as much above the sand as she was then."