Latitude 50°16.937N
Longitude 004°15.529W
Depth 53m
Accuracy 10m (AM)
Location Description South of Rame Head
Reference NMR None, UKHO 17636
Craft type Fishing vessel / cargo ship
Date built 1895
Date of loss 8 April 1923
Manner of loss Foundered
Outcome Abandoned
Construction Iron
Propulsion Steam, Sail
Nationality United Kingdom
Hull length 27.7m
Hull beam 6.1m
Hull tons 134 tons
Armament None
Crew 8
Built Edwards Brothers, North Shields
Master Captain A. G. Bisson
Owners Hare Steamship Co. Ltd.

S.S. Unicorn

Known locally as the Tile Wreck

The Unicorn was launched on 11th February 1895 and completed in March of that year as Yard No. 498 and Registered number 104195. This iron hulled trawler was fitted with a single boiler and a triple expansion steam engine made by the North-Eastern Marine Engineering Co Ltd. in Sunderland. The ship was built by Edwards Brothers in North Shields, a company that amalgamated with the more famous Smiths Dock in 1899. The Unicorn was ketch rigged with two masts supporting a foresail, a mainsail and mizzen; she was built as a fishing vessel rigged for drift nets and lining.

The Unicorn operated from a number of ports over the years and had many owners:

- March 1895: J. R. MacKrill, operating from Grimsby as GY746
- January 1907: James Cambell, Lossiemouth, as INS249
- June 1915: Taken up by the Admiralty (No. 2196) for war service as a net layer and was fitted with a 3 pdr deck gun before being returned to her owners in 1919
- August 1920: Sarah Isabel Hancock, Hakin, operating from Milford as M139
- August 1920: Lagos & General Shipping Co., 28 Queen's Sq., Bristol as cargo ship
- October 1920: Francis T. Hare, Tavistock, as a cargo ship
- By 1922: Owned by Hare Steamship Co. Ltd., Plymouth

On 8th April 1923 the Unicorn foundered in heavy weather off Rame Head on a voyage from Bridgewater to Jersey with a cargo of bricks and tiles:

A converted steam trawler, the Unicorn, of Milford, has foundered in hazy weather off Rame Head, Plymouth, with, it is feared, the loss of three lives. A report brought by two watchers from the cliffs caused the Trinity pilots and the Plymouth lifeboat, the latter in tow of a tug, to make a thorough search. Wreckage was discovered, and subsequently a boat containing the mate and the cook, who stated that the skipper and two men were missing. The two survivors had got with difficulty into the boat, floating clear of the wreckage.A later Plymouth telegram says: Captain A. G. Bisson, of St. Helier, Jersey; Chief Engineer J. Prettyman, of Plymouth; and Second Engineer W. Herbert, of Plymouth, lost their lives in the foundering of the Unicorn. The mate, C. S. Bisson, of Jersey, brother of the captain, and the cook, L. G. Barnes, of Chatham, were saved.The Unicorn was bound from Bridgwater to Jersey, and shipped a lot of water during heavy weather in the Channel yesterday morning, foundering when making for Plymouth.

Visiting the Wreck

The Unicorn was found and first dived in 1971. The 28m long, 134 grt vessel lies on a sand and mud seabed in 53m depth, she lies on her starboard side and aligned north-east to south-west. The hull of the Unicorn was undamaged when first seen with the deck and superstructure missing, but now the bow has collapsed to the seabed.

The wreck is very broken, mostly 2m proud with the highest points being the tip of the bow and the boiler 3-4m high. Part of the bow has collapsed and lies flat on the seabed along with the anchor windlass and anchor. Further aft the cargo of red roof tiles form a mound in the middle of the wreck and behind this are the small boiler and the remains of the engine room complete with the steam engine and skylight. At the aft end the mizzen mast stands 4m high and behind this the 3m high stern is broken off with the propeller and rudder still present.

This ship is similar and size and shape to the more well known Elk wreck off Plymouth.


The Moulmein, sister ship to the Unicorn built by Edwards Brothers in 1895. The Unicorn would have looked very similar when she was built.


Pastscape: Unicorn

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