I’ve always been intrigued by shipwrecks and Cefn Sidan beach, just over the county border in Carmarthenshire, has more than its fair share. Over the years there have been 182 recorded wrecks along its seven mile stretch of flat sand and even now discoveries are still being made. Another five previously unknown vessels emerged from their sandy graves after this winters storms removed vast quantities of material, though it didn’t take long for the beach to reclaim the majority. Clearly this was an aspect of our local history that I couldn’t ignore any longer so a couple of weeks ago we went to explore this ship graveyard for ourselves.

P1070014 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan

Walking west from the main entrance it’s hard to miss a huge skeletal framework on the horizon as shown above. Partly submerged at high tide this collection of timbers and steelwork take on a whole new aura when fully exposed as its entire length is laid bare for all to see. I spent a good long while closely examining the methods used in its construction but the sad thing is that her name, as with almost every other wreck here, is unknown. As a result we can only imagine where in the world her home port may have been, who served upon her and perhaps most importantly what became of them.

P1070017 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan
P1070024 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan
P1070026 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan

A short distance away sits another slightly smaller wreck though one perhaps in even better condition than the first. Sitting slightly higher up the beach its timbers are better preserved suggesting a younger age but in these conditions such things are hard to judge. Again her name is unknown but the large steel bracing that presumably once supported a deck may be characteristic.

P1070038 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan
P1070037 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan
P1070039 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan

Further west again and a curving line of vertical posts marks the third of our wrecks. Although still sizeable its thinner timbers suggest a vessel of lighter construction though once more age, origin and purpose are purely speculative. The only identifying feature is a small plaque screwed to two uprights which reads “Tony Bone – Rest in Peace”. Clearly a more modern addition my internet research has so far failed to find any further information. Another mystery wrapped in the enigma that is Cefn Sidan.

P1070042 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan
P1070044 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan

By this point we were several miles from where we’d set off and as a storm rolled in from across the water we were served a timely reminder that this can still be a dangerous place. Retracing our steps there was just time to check out one of the newly exposed wrecks that sits parallel to the sand dunes. At present only its upper deck is visible along with several large pieces of ironwork that seem to be attracting discarded fishing nets from far and wide. I don’t expect this one to be visible for much longer as the dunes are already starting to reform following their winter retreat.

P1070046 - Shipwreck, Cefn Sidan

It’s not just shipwrecks that have been turning up along this beach of late with a huge one tonne anchor having also been exposed. Even human skulls have appeared on occasion though as with the ships above their identities remain a mystery. It makes you wonder what else is down there just waiting to be discovered.


Unknown · October 31, 2018 at 2:48 am

Tony Bone was a net fisherman from pwll, always riding a Honda 90 with his nets in tow, used to sell flatfish door to door.died roughly 1999ish. Knew him well. Character.

Unknown · September 15, 2019 at 9:49 pm

possible name of first wreck is the Vittoria, as ballast is visible when sand is washed out The second wreck possibly Old Dan There is a large wreck close to the MOD range tower with a schooner stern and many features can be seen when it is uncovered

Tom Bennett · December 11, 2019 at 11:33 am

I am interested that you say it could be Vittoria (wrecked 14 Jan 1872). She went ashore on the eastern part of Cefn Sidan and was one of the largest there. Dimensions are similar to the Brothers (Dec 1833) The one with iron knees could be the Cyrus (May 1878)as this was built in Prince Edward Isle it would be pine soft wood hull timbers. If I knew the dimensions and timbers of each wreck, I would have a better idea.

    Unknown · June 13, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Tom I work on pembrey country park if you need any dimensions of these vessels for identification I could do this for you as it would be great t id them we used to have a book giving the names dates destination and cargo

    Capt TOM · June 24, 2020 at 6:52 am

    I have spent some time trying to identify the three wooden sailing ships to be seen intertidally along the beach. Although Vittoria was a large ship, I think she was taken off the beach. Others that got engulfed in sand were the Cyrus (1878) Brothers (1833) and Bois Rouge a large French Ship in December 1862. The largest wreck is 166 ft long and I am convinced is either the Brothers or the Bois Rouge. Contact me if you want more info.

Anonymous · August 10, 2020 at 1:47 pm

Are you the same Tom Bennett that wrote the Welsh Shipwrecks books?
If so I have read volume 3 so many times since I was young. It ignited quite an interest for me in Carmarthen Bay wrecks. I found a painting of the Craigwhinnie in a museum in Antwerp. They sent me a photograph. I think I still have it somewhere.

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