The SS Benmohr

and the cement barrels

The Benmohr

The SS Benmohr was built in 1893 by A Stephen & Sons of Glasgow. Launched on the 24 October and finished in November.

The ship seems to have had a chequered career, in 1901 the second mate Richard W Jonson was stabbed whilst the ship was moored at Tanjon Parga Wharf, Singapore. The headlines in the local paper stated:- THE MURDER ON THE S.S. “BENMOHR.” The skipper Captain Wallace was called to give evidence at the inquest. The ship was on a voyage to China.

In January/February of 1902 when she was leaving the Thames bound for India she was in collision with S.S. Banffshire a steam refrigerated cargo ship which sailed from England to Brisbane. In 1902 it was due to sail from London, it eventually sailed to Brisbane in May of that year.

SS Bannffshire c1915

The two ships collided in the Thames in thick fog off the coast of Canvey. The Benmohr subsequently sank just off Thorney Bay where she lay until June and then towed to the Tyne for repairs.

Frederick Hester was building his ‘Canvey-on-Sea’ at that time and when he found the ship was carrying barrels of cement he immediately bought the cargo. The barrels of cement had solidified in the water making barrel shaped lumps of concrete. He used them for the foundations of his pier and also Beach House. They can be seen round the island in many of our photographs and are believed to be the foundations of many of the bungalows that were built at the time.

Tom Merry’s drawing of the wreck

This is how Augustus Daly described the event in his book  ‘The History of Canvey Island’ in 1902.

  • On the right hand, we have Hole Haven and Shell Bay; and here we discover the partially submerged SS. “Benmohr” lying a dismal wreck on the beach. The “Benmohr” is a fine steamer of 5,000 tons burden. Its wreck on Canvey Island, at this psychological moment, is a pronounced illustration of the old proverb, “It’s an ill wind that blows no one good.” She was bound for India with a general cargo, and in a dense fog collided with the SS. ” Bamfshire,” while nearing the mouth of the Thames, on the 6th February, 1902, and Captain Wallace, of the “Benmohr,” recognising that his vessel was in danger of sinking fast, with that great presence of mind characteristic of the British sailor, put her head to the shore and ordered full speed ahead! Although rendered a complete wreck, she was firmly beached on Canvey Island, and all hands, including two ladies and a baby, were thus happily saved. Amongst her miscellaneous cargo, she had about fifteen hundred tons of Portland cement in barrels. When the “Benmohr” settled down into deep water, the cement, by a natural action, was immediately convened into solid blocks of stone. This was salvaged and subsequently purchased by the Developer of Canvey Island, and utilised by him for forming the necessary solid foundation for the pier, which is being rapidly built; and which, when completed, will run out fully half-a-mile in close proximity to the Chapman Lighthouse

The Benmor was sold to Okazaki Kisen K.K., Japan in 1911 and renamed Nippo Maru. In 1919 she was again sold this time to Nanyo Boyeki K.K. with no name change. Her end came on the 16th of January 1927 when she was wrecked at Shiriya Saki, Aomori Province, Japan.

You can read more about the cement barrels plus Hester’s Columns here

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