Built on Clydebank in 1890, she was owned by London & Southwestern Railway and had a successful number of years taking passengers across the Channel, her 43 crew tending to their every needs as the ship would plough the sometimes rough waters at a steady 19.5 knots.
On 30th March 1899 the Stella sailed from Southampton for her usual run to Guernsey carrying a total of 147 passengers making the most of the Easter holidays, although this was a considerably less number than what she could normally carry. As the ship proceeded at full speed she encountered fog, although her crew did not slow down and carried on towards her destination.
She must have been in a bad way for she was gone in just 8 minutes, in that time only four lifeboats were launched successfully. 86 passengers and 19 crew were killed.
The wreck of the Stella was found in 1973 in 161 feet of water. Further expeditions led to the documentary The Wreck of the Stella being broadcast in the 1990s showing footage of the lost ferry, since then several artefacts have been recovered including this plate now in Alderney museum.
The Stella today remains one of the worst passenger ships disasters off the UK coast, yet few people know her as well these days. Back in 1899 she had made the headlines much like the Herald of Free Enterprise did in the 1980s, the shock of such a major blunder caused by the people who were meant to have their safety as their number one priority causing just as much scandal then as it would now. Thankfully the memories of the heroes of that day will continue to live on.