We carried on diving but before you know it someone’s been there. Bits have been ripped off or damaged. Charter boats must have dropped shotting cables like grappling irons as they fished around and dived. We found tools down there.

They started advertising, ‘New wreck Come and dive it.’

We used to put out a shot line into the wreck and while we were down there looking at it we used to untie cable whereas the charter boys with their high-powered winches would just winch the thing in and whatever pulled off or broke off the side of the wreck, then so be it.

People were being quite aggressive in breaking open bits of wooden decking to get into the body of the engine room. We carried on diving for a whole summer but by the end there was basically nothing left to see, so we drifted away.

The wreck of the Totnes Castle lies five or so miles south of where the the river Erme meets the sea; a fitting place for Compton to eventually rest beside her sister. Unlikely, but you never know. After all she has done some extraordinary things in her life. Why not one more.

Steve Worth’s story

First we contacted the scrapyard because we were trying to establish ownership. From a diver's point we didn't want to go and get into trouble, but because it was deemed as scrap it was, "Help-yourself time, do what you want. We've got the insurance for it. Do whatever!"

We came to discover the wreck in the the first place through a friend who was involved in the Royal Navy and surveying. He had been surveying in the Plymouth Sound and surrounding area for years.

He'd always had in the back of his mind a fantastic ‘little trace’ he’d saved for a rainy day. But it was in relatively deep water for normal sport diving. It was at 44-45 metres, right on the limit of what's acceptable. So it had never been attempted.

One day in June 1994 we got up the courage to go out and do it. We traced it on our echo sounder and lo and behold there was this untouched wreck at the bottom of the seabed like every diver's dream.

So obviously we became more interested in trying to identify it. It was quite clear on the seabed that it was a paddle steamer. The paddle wheels were still stuck to the side of the deck. We came to the conclusion it must have been the Totnes Castle.

Totnes Castle had been tied up in Dartmouth on a riverbank rotting away. Prior to that it was supposed to have been a sailing school with accommodation like at floating jetty. It never quite worked out. As it rotted away the owners decided to sell it for scrap.

Demelweek was a scrap yard owner in Plymouth. He used to work in Sutton Harbour where the Vosper marine shop was. Now there’s the China House pub there but it once used to be a big marine scrap yard. He did a lot of the salvage work on Totnes Castle in Dartmouth prior to towing her back. The story goes that Demelweek bought her for only £100 and sold the steering wheel and brass fittings to an American collector for £250. Then he contacted a tug company that worked out of Devonport dock and that's where Antony the tug comes in. They put a cable on it and proceeded to tow it back to Plymouth. She was towed around Start Point and Bolt Head and Bolt Tail and into Bigbury Bay. A bit of a swell got up and the story goes that the tug driver was going too fast, late for his lunch or something. He towed it into the swell bow on and the bows started piercing the waves. Water was going up over the top of the hull and starting to make it flounder. Basically it took on so much water all they could do was cut the cable and let it go. Because it was a worthless piece of junk they weren't too upset about it. They cut the cables, said good bye and that was that. Never to be seen again. Until we came across it.

I think a few old fisherman knew about it. It was a good point to fish around. Once we started diving on it we never told anyone. We wanted to keep it a secret. Even though it was a wreck at the time it sunk it still had 20 odd portholes down the side,and the boiler was intact with brass valves. The paddle wheels, although the wood was gone, were still in their metal frames. It was quite pretty to dive and hover around. But within a few months of diving and taking photos word gets out through the diving fraternity.