17th century Southend shipwreck to give up its secrets with new English Heritage excavation

Reconstruction – how the London would have looked

Preparing to dive – Steve Ellis

First published in News by

A 17TH century shipwreck will give up its secrets over the next two years, with Southend Museum displaying whatever treasure is found.

The London sank just off Southend Pier, in March 1665, after an explosion on board during a journey from Chatham to the Hope, Kent.

After exploratory dives, a twoyear period of excavation costing £70,000 has been commissioned by English Heritage.

Cotswold Archaeology, a charitable trust, will salvage the ship’s artefacts before they are lost forever in the rapidly deteriorating vessel.

English Heritage’s marine archaeologist Mark Dunkley said: “We are hoping to recover some rare and well-preserved items which will provide a great insight into the English Navy during an unsettled time when Britain was emerging as a global power.

“The recovery and display of vulnerable artefacts will aid our understanding of life on board ship in the late 17th century and enable us to remove the wreck from our heritage at risk register.”

Excavations have already begun this week, with two more dives planned for the coming months, which will guide the rest of the project, with any finds going on display in Southend Museum, in Victoria Avenue.

The museums service has secured a grant from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation to develop a community project recording the finds, a permanent display and publication about the wreck.

The cost of the excavations will be covered by English Heritage’s heritage at risk budget.

The ship was discovered in 2005 by contractors surveying the estuary for the Port of London Authority during preparation works for the London Gateway Port in Thurrock.

The ship was immediately placed on English Heritage’s at risk register as its fragile archaeological remains were being exposed by silt movement on the seabed.

Local people may get the chance to help record the artefacts from the London.

Clare Hunt, curatorial manager at Southend Council’s Museums Service, said: “This hidden wreck lies just off Southend Pier, which is visited by thousands each year, yet the wreck remains largely unknown.

“It’s part of our local, as well as our national history, and we’re inviting local people to get involved in recording these ship finds.”

Westcliff fishmonger and experienced diver Steve Ellis was part of a team who won the right to dive on the wreck in 2011 and will work closely with the charitable trust Cotswold Archaeology throughout the digs.

Their exploratory dives suggest artefacts such as cooking utensils, ship fixtures, an anchor cable and ordnance, including cannon balls – although he admitted diving conditions may be tough.

Mr Ellis said: “Although the underwater dive conditions are difficult with limited visibility, we are looking forward to bringing up some exciting finds.”

MYSTERY OF THE SINKING

  • HMS London, a 64-gun, second-rate ship of the English Navy, was built in 1656
  • The London is the only remaining vessel of three second-rate large ships built between 1642 and 1660
  • She gained fame as one of the ships which escorted Charles II home from Holland during the English Restoration
  • Three hundred people died when she sank on March 7, 1665, after a sailor is believed to have taken a candle below deck, sparking an explosion in the ship’s gunpowder stockpile
  • After its rediscovery in 2005, the Port of London Authority was forced to change the route of the Thames shipping lane to protect her
  • In October 2008, she was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973)
  • The wreck is about a mile from Southend Pier and lies between eight to 12 metres deep, depending on the tides, but the exact location cannot be revealed to guard against illegal salvage operations.

Comments (7)

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9:19am Tue 20 May 14

the citizen says...

" The ship was discovered in 2005 by contractors surveying the estuary for the Port of London Authority during preparation works for the London Gateway Port in Thurrock.. The ship was immediately placed on English Heritage’s at risk register as its fragile archaeological remains were being exposed by silt movement on the seabed. "
Discovered 2005....work starts 2014.....no rush then... after being placed immediately on the "at risk" register.
But...nice to see more local history at the Museum.
" The ship was discovered in 2005 by contractors surveying the estuary for the Port of London Authority during preparation works for the London Gateway Port in Thurrock.. The ship was immediately placed on English Heritage’s at risk register as its fragile archaeological remains were being exposed by silt movement on the seabed. " Discovered 2005....work starts 2014.....no rush then... after being placed immediately on the "at risk" register. But...nice to see more local history at the Museum. the citizen
  • Score: 12

10:07am Tue 20 May 14

VeteranOfMany says...

the citizen wrote:
" The ship was discovered in 2005 by contractors surveying the estuary for the Port of London Authority during preparation works for the London Gateway Port in Thurrock.. The ship was immediately placed on English Heritage’s at risk register as its fragile archaeological remains were being exposed by silt movement on the seabed. "
Discovered 2005....work starts 2014.....no rush then... after being placed immediately on the "at risk" register.
But...nice to see more local history at the Museum.
Its been down in the silt for over 340 years, please dont rubbish the exemplary efforts of those people, wishing to preserve its past.
[quote][p][bold]the citizen[/bold] wrote: " The ship was discovered in 2005 by contractors surveying the estuary for the Port of London Authority during preparation works for the London Gateway Port in Thurrock.. The ship was immediately placed on English Heritage’s at risk register as its fragile archaeological remains were being exposed by silt movement on the seabed. " Discovered 2005....work starts 2014.....no rush then... after being placed immediately on the "at risk" register. But...nice to see more local history at the Museum.[/p][/quote]Its been down in the silt for over 340 years, please dont rubbish the exemplary efforts of those people, wishing to preserve its past. VeteranOfMany
  • Score: 19

4:15pm Tue 20 May 14

The King of Southend says...

While they are at it could English heritage take a look at the speedboat on my neighbours drive that hasn't moved for fifteen years because I believe it could be one of the best preserved examples of a star prize from Bullseye in the UK today.
While they are at it could English heritage take a look at the speedboat on my neighbours drive that hasn't moved for fifteen years because I believe it could be one of the best preserved examples of a star prize from Bullseye in the UK today. The King of Southend
  • Score: 14

4:26pm Tue 20 May 14

the citizen says...

VeteranOfMany wrote:
the citizen wrote:
" The ship was discovered in 2005 by contractors surveying the estuary for the Port of London Authority during preparation works for the London Gateway Port in Thurrock.. The ship was immediately placed on English Heritage’s at risk register as its fragile archaeological remains were being exposed by silt movement on the seabed. "
Discovered 2005....work starts 2014.....no rush then... after being placed immediately on the "at risk" register.
But...nice to see more local history at the Museum.
Its been down in the silt for over 340 years, please dont rubbish the exemplary efforts of those people, wishing to preserve its past.
Oooh.. a bit touchy. Not actually rubbishing anyone's efforts. I think it's great that we have more local history being recovered. I am very sure that the effort now being applied is exemplary.
All I was saying was...it's taken 9 years to start. 9 years is not synonymous with the use of "immediately" and "at risk"...because of fragility of the remains. It's like saying..." I've just discovered my house is failing....I'll do something about it in 9 years". Just saying.
[quote][p][bold]VeteranOfMany[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]the citizen[/bold] wrote: " The ship was discovered in 2005 by contractors surveying the estuary for the Port of London Authority during preparation works for the London Gateway Port in Thurrock.. The ship was immediately placed on English Heritage’s at risk register as its fragile archaeological remains were being exposed by silt movement on the seabed. " Discovered 2005....work starts 2014.....no rush then... after being placed immediately on the "at risk" register. But...nice to see more local history at the Museum.[/p][/quote]Its been down in the silt for over 340 years, please dont rubbish the exemplary efforts of those people, wishing to preserve its past.[/p][/quote]Oooh.. a bit touchy. Not actually rubbishing anyone's efforts. I think it's great that we have more local history being recovered. I am very sure that the effort now being applied is exemplary. All I was saying was...it's taken 9 years to start. 9 years is not synonymous with the use of "immediately" and "at risk"...because of fragility of the remains. It's like saying..." I've just discovered my house is failing....I'll do something about it in 9 years". Just saying. the citizen
  • Score: 2

7:38pm Tue 20 May 14

Joe Clark says...

Well if people say (demand) that the Saxon Kings must be displayed as close to the site as possible then the same rule needs to be applied here, the end of the pier is too small so next best thing is to create a whole new facility.

Perhaps to keep the link to the artefacts and the site they should build a new museum in the Cliffs to showcase not just the London but the Thames Estuary as a whole, include a section on the local fishing fleet, war time estuary and the ecology of the river.

or is it one rule for one thing and another rule for another.
Well if people say (demand) that the Saxon Kings must be displayed as close to the site as possible then the same rule needs to be applied here, the end of the pier is too small so next best thing is to create a whole new facility. Perhaps to keep the link to the artefacts and the site they should build a new museum in the Cliffs to showcase not just the London but the Thames Estuary as a whole, include a section on the local fishing fleet, war time estuary and the ecology of the river. or is it one rule for one thing and another rule for another. Joe Clark
  • Score: 6

10:39pm Tue 20 May 14

jayman says...

Joe Clark wrote:
Well if people say (demand) that the Saxon Kings must be displayed as close to the site as possible then the same rule needs to be applied here, the end of the pier is too small so next best thing is to create a whole new facility.

Perhaps to keep the link to the artefacts and the site they should build a new museum in the Cliffs to showcase not just the London but the Thames Estuary as a whole, include a section on the local fishing fleet, war time estuary and the ecology of the river.

or is it one rule for one thing and another rule for another.
your logic is so unbelievably flawed.

1) Saxon king.. discovered on land between a railway line and a road.
2) HMS London.. approximately one mile from Southend pier under considerable amounts of water.
3) the cliffs museum (business centre)... vanity/enrichment project of the local, self-interested circles of the Tory network. A frivolous waste of taxpayers money.
[quote][p][bold]Joe Clark[/bold] wrote: Well if people say (demand) that the Saxon Kings must be displayed as close to the site as possible then the same rule needs to be applied here, the end of the pier is too small so next best thing is to create a whole new facility. Perhaps to keep the link to the artefacts and the site they should build a new museum in the Cliffs to showcase not just the London but the Thames Estuary as a whole, include a section on the local fishing fleet, war time estuary and the ecology of the river. or is it one rule for one thing and another rule for another.[/p][/quote]your logic is so unbelievably flawed. 1) Saxon king.. discovered on land between a railway line and a road. 2) HMS London.. approximately one mile from Southend pier under considerable amounts of water. 3) the cliffs museum (business centre)... vanity/enrichment project of the local, self-interested circles of the Tory network. A frivolous waste of taxpayers money. jayman
  • Score: -2

12:19pm Wed 21 May 14

Letmetryagain says...

".....The ship was discovered in 2005 by contractors surveying the estuary for the Port of London Authority during preparation works for the London Gateway Port in Thurrock...."

Apparently that's not all they have been finding. I'm told that German aircraft
parts from WWII have also been recovered.
".....The ship was discovered in 2005 by contractors surveying the estuary for the Port of London Authority during preparation works for the London Gateway Port in Thurrock...." Apparently that's not all they have been finding. I'm told that German aircraft parts from WWII have also been recovered. Letmetryagain
  • Score: 0

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