HMS Gloucester: What you need to know about shipwreck

 <p>Julian and Lincoln Barnwell survey a cannon found on the wreck of HMS Gloucester (PA).</p> <p>” src=”” srcset=”https://www.nationalworld .com/jpim-static/image/2022/06/10/08/2.67361506.jpg?quality=65&smart&width=320 320w, 08/2.67361506.jpg?quality=65&smart&width=640 640w, 990w” data- hero=”” fetchpriority=”high”/></figure><figcaption class=

Julian and Lincoln Barnwell survey a cannon found on the wreck of HMS Gloucester (PA).

The wreck of a royal warship that sank 340 years ago while carrying future King James Stuart has been discovered off the Norfolk coast.

The discovery has been hailed as the most important maritime find since the Mary Rose.

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The marine expert Prof. Claire Jowitt spoke of “international importance”.

What happened to HMS Gloucester?

The ship ran aground about 28 miles off Great Yarmouth in 1682 after a dispute between James, then Duke of York, and the ship’s pilot James Ayres over navigating the treacherous sandbanks of Norfolk.

It sank within an hour at 5:30 am on May 6, killing around 130 to 250 crew and passengers.

James narrowly survived, having delayed abandoning ship until the last minute, needlessly costing the lives of many who, by protocol, could not disembark before the royal family.

He took no responsibility for the sinking, instead blaming the pilot and wishing for him to be hanged immediately, although Mr Ayres was in fact court-martialled and imprisoned.

James reigned as King James II of England and Ireland and James VII of Scotland from 1685 to 1688 when he was deposed by the Glorious Revolution.

Brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell with some artifacts from HMS Gloucester (University of East Anglia)

How was it found?

The wreck of HMS Gloucester was found by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell along with others after a four-year search of 5,000 nautical miles.

They found the site in 2007, but due to the time it took to confirm the ship’s identity and the need to protect a “vulnerable” site that lies in international waters, its discovery can only be released now.

It has been described by one historian as the most important maritime discovery since the Mary Rose, warship of King Henry VIII’s Tudor Navy.

The Mary Rose sank in a battle in the Solent in 1545 and was raised in 1982 for later display in Portsmouth.

what was said

Lincoln Barnwell said, “It was our fourth season of diving in search of Gloucester. We were beginning to think we wouldn’t find them, we had dived so much and only found sand.

“During my descent to the bottom of the sea, the first thing I saw was big guns lying on white sand, it was impressive and really beautiful. It immediately felt like a privilege to be there, it was so exciting.

“We were the only people in the world at the time who knew where the wreck was. That was something special and I will never forget it. Our next task was to identify the location as Gloucester.”

A bell from HMS Gloucester (University of East Anglia)

Prof Claire Jowitt of the University of East Anglia (UEA) said: “Due to the circumstances of its sinking, this can be described as the most significant historic marine discovery since the 1982 raising of the Mary Rose.

“The discovery promises to fundamentally change the understanding of 17th-century social, maritime and political history. It is an outstanding example of underwater cultural heritage of national and international importance.

“A tragedy of considerable proportions in terms of loss of life, both privileged and ordinary, the whole story of the Gloucester’s final voyage and the impact of its aftermath must be retold, including its cultural and political significance and legacy.

“We will also try to find out who else died and tell their stories, as the identities of a fraction of the victims are known at this time.”

The Gloucester represents an important “almost” moment in British political history: a royal shipwreck that caused the very near death of the Catholic heir to the Protestant throne at a time of great political and religious tension.

The History of HMS Gloucester

The ship was commissioned in 1652, built at Limehouse in London and launched in 1654. In 1682 it was chosen to take James to Edinburgh to collect his heavily pregnant wife and their households.

The aim was to return her to the court of King Charles II in London in time for the birth of a legitimate male heir.

The ship sailed from Portsmouth, with James and his entourage joining it off Margate in Kent, having arrived on a yacht from London, before running aground off the Norfolk coast.

Diarist and naval administrator Samuel Pepys, who witnessed the events from another ship in the fleet, wrote his own account – describing the harrowing experience for victims and survivors, some of whom were pulled from the water “half dead”.

In addition to James, HMS Gloucester carried a number of prominent English and Scottish courtiers, including John Churchill, later 1st Duke of Marlborough.

The Barnwell brothers found the wreck site in 2007 with their late father Michael and two friends including James Little, a former Royal Navy submariner and diver.

The ship was split at the keel and what was left of the hull was dug into the sand.

What was discovered?

The ship’s bell, made in 1681, was later recovered and used in 2012 by the wreck receiver and Ministry of Defense to positively identify the ship as HMS Gloucester.

In addition to the recipient of the wreck and the Ministry of Defense, the wreck has been declared Historic England.

The coat of arms of the Legge family, ancestors of George Washington, the first US President (PA)

Artifacts rescued and preserved from the wreck include clothing and shoes, navigational and other professional marine equipment, personal belongings and many bottles of wine.

One of the bottles bears a glass seal with the coat of arms of the Legge family – ancestors of George Washington, the first US President. The coat of arms was a precursor to the Stars and Stripes flag.

There were also some unopened bottles that still had wine in them – opportunities for future research.

An exhibition at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery is planned for Spring 2023 to display finds from the wreck and share ongoing historical, scientific and archaeological research.

Additional reporting by PA HMS Gloucester: What you need to know about shipwreck


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