The Stella Memorial was erected at the Western Esplanade in 1901 in memory of Mary Anne Rogers. She was a senior stewardess who selflessly gave her life in the sinking of the passenger steamship “Stella” on Maundy Thursday, 30th March 1899. The Memorial, known as the Stella Memorial, is built from Portland stone and was paid for by public subscription.
The Stella was owned by London & South West Railway, the train company that ran a service from London Waterloo to the Channel Islands via Southampton.
They were in competition with the Great Western Railway, which ran a service from Paddington to the Channel Islands via Weymouth. The Channel Islands’ ports, St Peter Port and St Helier, were only large enough to berth one ship at a time, so that the rival companies often raced to get into harbour first. On Maundy Thursday 1899, both companies advertised a special steamer service arriving in Guernsey at 5:30pm. Thus, the race was on!
The Stella left Southampton (10 minutes late) in clear weather with 147 passengers and 43 crew but ran into heavy fog about two hours later. As he did not want to arrive second, Captain Reeks maintained full speed. Shortly before 16:00, the fog signal from the Casquets Lighthouse was heard and the rocks came into view directly ahead. Although the captain ordered the engines full astern and attempted to turn away from the rocks, Stella scraped along two rocks, and then her bottom was ripped open by a submerged granite reef.
The Stella sank within 8 minutes. 86 passengers died, along with 19 crew.
Mary Anne Rogers was the senior stewardess aboard. She distributed lifebelts to the women and children and guided them into the boats. She even gave up her own lifebelt to a young girl who had lost her mother in the confusion. She refused to get into one of the overcrowded lifeboats, because she feared it might capsize and stayed on board. As the ship went down, her reported last words were, ‘Lord, have me.’ Her body was never found.
Following the disaster the two steamship companies finally agreed to run services on alternate days so that there would be no more racing.
In 1973 the wreck of Stella was discovered by two Channel Islands divers south of the Casquets.