Norman's Bay Protected Wreck Site

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Diver on boat with guide in hand

Dive the Norman's Bay wreck site with the NAS

The NAS will be offering chances to dive the Norman's Bay wreck site (15m maximum) along with the Holland 5 Submarine (35m maximum) on the 8th May, 23rd - 24th June and 4th September 2015, please visit the Calendar page for a full list of dates.

Diving in 2015 will be from "Dive125" out of Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne.

Cost £70 for two dives - Holland 5 submarine in the morning and the Norman's Bay Wreck in the afternoon.

Dive the Norman’s Bay Wreck Diver Trail

If you are interested in diving the Norman's Bay Wreck Diver Trail please click on the calendar on the right to see which dates are currently free. To avoid too many divers on the site at the same time we are trying to give each diving group their own day or their own slack tide on the wreck. To see the dates already booked please look at the Calendar.

To book a date please contact Mark Beattie-Edwards, NAS Programme Director at the NAS Office.

Frequently asked questions about diving the trail are at the bottom of the page.


The site was discovered by local divers Martin Wiltshire, Steve Pace and Paul Stratford whilst trying to free a lobster pot in Norman’s Bay. It is known to be a large warship of the period 1600-1800. Judging from the length of the visible remains the vessel would have been approximately 40m (131 feet) long, with an approximate breadth of 12m (39 feet). The number and size of the armaments and the anchor suggested this was a third rate warship of 800 to 1000 tons. Recent research generously funded by English Heritage has led to a possible identity for the wreck being proposed.

Could it be from the Battle of Beachy Head, 1690 ?

The wreck lies at Latitude 50° 48.1767’ N, Longitude 00° 24.6380’ E, WGS 84 (as provided by Wessex Archaeology 2007 report). This is in Norman’s Bay in East Sussex, just south of Pevensey, near Eastbourne. The depth of water over the site varies from 7m to 15m. Many people believed the Norman’s Bay wreckage is the wreck of HMS Resolution, but there are at least three other recorded losses in the bay which makes identifying the wreck difficult. HMS Resolution was a 70-gun third rate that sank during the great storm of 1703. Other recorded losses include a Dutch man of war lost in 1690 at the battle of Beachy Head when an allied English and Dutch force was heavily defeated by the French. Historical research suggests that ten Dutch ships were lost in the battle.


Build date (if known)


No. of guns




Commander Abraham van Brakel


Sunk in action





Burned in action

Maagd van Enkhuizen


Commander Muijsevanger


Beached at White Rock, near Hastings. Abandoned and later burned

Friesland (or Vriesland)


Capt. Philips van der Goes


Dismasted, captured, burnt c.18 nm SSW of Beachy head

Noord Holland(orNoorderkwartier)


Rear-Admiral Jan Dick


Dismasted, under tow by English, later scuttled c.12-15 nm SE of Beachy Head

Gekroonde Burg


Vice-Admiral Karel van de Putte


Dismasted, under tow by English, later burned and scuttled c.12-15 nm SE of Beachy Head

Wapen van Utrecht (orStad Utrecht)


Capt. Pieter Claassen Decker


Sank along the English coast



Capt. Adriaan Noortheij


Disabled, taken under tow by English. Run ashore in Hastings.  Abandoned and burned to prevent capture



Capt. Cornelis Calis


Disabled near Hastings, probably under tow, run ashore at White Rock. Abandoned and later burned

Maagd van Enkhuizen


Capt. Jan van der Poel


Beached at Hastings.  Abandoned and burned to prevent capture

From the list of ten Dutch losses it is possible to exclude the three smaller vessels, the Suikermolen, the Kroonvogel and the Maagd van Enkhuizen fireships as being the Norman’s Bay Wreck as simply not having enough guns.  Three of the other vessels, the Elswout, Tholen and the 72-gun Maagd van Enkhuizen were described as being beached, abandoned and burned near the town of Hastings, six nautical miles to the north-east of the Norman’s Bay Wreck.  These events can be corroborated by travel passes being issued by the English government to the captains and officers of the three ships.  Three of the larger warships, the Friesland (or Vriesland), Noord Holland (or Noorderkwartier) and Gekroonde Burg were described as having been burnt or scuttled offshore of Beachy Head.  Using the approximate positions of these losses they are all more than 15 nautical miles south of the position of the Norman’s Bay Wreck.

 Richard Endsor paintingWapen van Utrechk drawing

 Above left a painiting by Richard Endsor and above right a drawing of the Wapen van Utrechk.

The remaining Dutch loss, the 64-gun Wapen van Utrecht (or Stad Utrecht) commanded by Captain Pieter Claassen Decker was reported by Gillis Schey, the Dutch rear admiral on the Prinses Maria as sinking ‘along the English coast’  (Europische Mercurius, July 1690: 47).  The Prinses Maria had stayed with the damaged Wapen van Utrecht as she retreated inshore, eventually taking the crew of the Wapen van Utrecht aboard, before it sank during the night of the 2nd or early morning of the 3rd July 1690.  Whilst the Dutch account is vague in its description of the location of the loss of the Wapen van Utrecht, another source from the 30th August 1960 is rather more exact.  After the battle, Queen Mary promulgated a warrant which read ‘Whereas 3 Ships of Warr belonging to the States Generall of the United Provinces (another name for the Dutch Republic of 1581–1795, now the Netherlands) were burnt neare Hastings, & a 4th was sunk neare the Haven of Pemsey (Pevensey) after the late engagement of ye French Fleet’.  The warrant went on to instruct her subjects “to assist in every way the persons appointed by the Dutch ambassador to ‘fish up’ the guns and equipment from these ships.  Historical research into the possible fishing up (underwater salvage) of the guns and equipment from the Dutch ships engaged in the Battle of Beachy Head is ongoing.

Preliminary dendrochronological research by Wessex Archaeology suggests it is more likely one of the Dutch ships from the Battle of Beachy Head as the wood of the hull section appears to have originated in Germany or the Low Countries in the middle of the 17th century, although it is still possible that it was a Royal Navy vessel built from imported continental timber.

More discussion on the fate of the Dutch ships lost at the Battle of Beachy Head can be found here:

Site Map

Click here for an image of the site plan.

Today the wreck site contains a cluster of at least forty-nine iron guns, timber hull structure and various other artefacts including a large anchor on top of a ballast mound.  As the government archaeological diving contractor Wessex Archaeology has carried out three investigations into the wreck and even though it hasn’t been conclusively identified it is protected wreck under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) for its historical significance.  The NAS was invited to be involved on the site in 2009, by the then licencee and finder, Paul Stratford.

The Guns

As already stated, the assemblage of guns on the site is now at 49, with three other features possibly also being guns.  It is likely that more guns will be found during ongoing investigations.   As the site plan illustrates the guns are scattered across the entire site, over 40 m, with all except two being within the area defined by the ballast and hull timbers.  All the guns found to date appear to be cast iron muzzle loading weapons.  The survey of the guns began in 2006 during the Wessex Archaeology pre-designation visit and indicated that there are two main sizes of guns present on the wreck – those larger than 3 m long with a bore diameter of between 0.15 m and 0.16 m, and shorter guns approximately 2.5 m long with a bore of 0.12 m to 0.13 m (Wessex Archaeology 2006a).  A word of caution has to be noted in these and all the quoted gun dimensions as none of the guns have had their concretions removed to aid either recording or identification.

 Guns from the siteGuns from the siteGuns from the siteGuns from the siteGuns from the site

Of the 49 guns found to date whose overall length can and have been measured, 18 of them are the larger sizes, most likely 24- and 18-pounder guns, and ten of them are the smaller sizes, most likely 12-, 8- and 6-pounder guns.  Twenty-one of the guns cannot either be measured or have yet to be measured.  Most of the guns lie flat on either the seabed or on top of the ballast mound, one metre off the seabed level, but a number of them stand-up embedded in the ballast mound, either pointing up at c.45 degrees or down at c.45 degrees. 

 The 12 and 24 pound guns


The anchorThe Anchor

In the centre of the assemblage, lying at an angle is a large iron anchor.  In times of poor underwater visibility the anchor orientation serves to aid visiting divers and archaeologists with their in-water navigation.  It is angled in both north-south and east-west axis.  The crown of the anchor, to the north points upwards at c.20 degrees, with the result that some of the length of the shank is now buried.  It is not therefore possible to see any stock, stock key or ring that might still be in place at the top of the anchor shank. 

The anchor is also angled on an east-west axis at c.30 degrees with the anchor fluke to the west being mostly buried and the fluke to the east being raised up about one metre off the seabed.  This upper fluke was photographed, measured and drawn as part of the survey undertaken by NAS divers in 2011. The visible length of the shank is three metres with the fluke tip to tip measurement being estimated at 2.45 m (this can only be estimated as the very tip of one fluke is partly buried). The palm of upper fluke appears to have been damaged at some point with one of the palms nearly completely missing.

Photograph of cauldron

The actual shape of the Norman’s Bay Wreck anchor fluke appears to be unlike any 16th, 17th or 18th century English anchor yet seen.  It is certainly very different from the 16th century Mary Rose anchors whose flukes are all triangular in shape and is different the anchor recovered from the Spanish Trinidad Valencera site wrecked in Kinnargoe Bay, Ireland after the 1588 Armada.  The same triangular shaped fluke was evident on the large bower anchor recovered from the British 90-gun Association which wrecked off the Scilly Isles in 1707. The anchors from the British 90-gun Coronation, wrecked off Penlee Point, Cornwall in 1691 also have triangular flukes as did the bower anchor from the British 70-gun Lenox. Similarly the anchor from the Dutch VOC ship, Avondster, wreck off Sri Lanka in 1659 also has a triangular fluke. Further research needs to be undertaken to identify any other anchors that exhibit the same shaped fluke as that found on the Norman’s Bay Wreck.

Other finds

Cauldron drawing

A copper alloy cauldron (Museum ID HASSH 676) was recovered by an anonymous local diver and is now on display in The Shipwreck Museum in Hastings, East Sussex with a label stating it was recovered in 1999 from the Norman’s Bay Wreck.  The cauldron measures 48.5 cm in diameter at the rim and 37 cm in diameter at its base and is 23 cm tall.  The rim is turned over with two handles present on opposite sides.   A number of other small items including a wrought iron bolt, a concretion and a cast iron shot (45 mm diameter) were also recovered by divers and anonymously handed in during 2006. Other material recovered from the Norman’s Bay Wreck include a sheet of copper; a musket ball found by a visiting diver in 2011; a piece of felt, described as light grey on the outside with black fibres or hair in the middle; a piece of tile described as slightly curved with a residue of pitch on the inside, both recovered by Wessex Archaeology in 2006.

To date no pottery has been found on the wreck to aid with the identification of the wreck.  Five areas of red galley bricks were observed during diving operations by Wessex Archaeology in 2005 and 2006.  The areas of brick varied in their shape and density but were all located in the northern area of the wreck.  The largest concentration of bricks was recorded by Wessex Archaeology in 2006 and comprised nine to 12 whole and partial bricks mortared together in a simple flat overlapping pattern measuring approximately 0.5 by 0.5 metres. The individual bricks measure 19 cm in length, 9 cm wide and 3.6 cm deep. 

 Galley brick

Page from the trail guide

Diver Trail

Norman’s Bay Wreck Diver Trail Project

The aim of the English Heritage supported project was to develop and install a diver trail around the designated wreck site known as the Norman’s Bay wreck.  The dive trail was created in 2010 and launched in spring 2011.  An underwater information booklet to guide divers around the site was designed that aids navigation and assist visitors in recognising features on the wreck. This information booklet also explains the background of the exposed remains and the problems of identifying the wreck. 

The Diver Trail Project received financial support from English Heritage under the National Heritage Protection Commissions Programme (formally known as the Historic Environment Enabling Programme)

To download diver trail guide click here.


Norman’s Bay Wreck Diver Trail FAQ’s

Q. Can I dive the site whenever I want to?

A. No. The wreck is protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 so you must be issued with a visitors licence to visit the site or have your name added to an existing licence held by another party. No survey, recovery or excavation work may be undertaken without additional licences.


Q. What is the easiest way for me or my group to dive the wreck?

A.  Mark Beattie-Edwards of the NAS has a licence to dive the site and you can have the names of your divers added to his licence. Contact Mark or call the NAS Office.


Q. Can I apply for my own licence to visit the wreck?

A. Yes. See the English Heritage website for guidance on applying for your own licence to visit the wreck. If you are granted your own licence to visit the wreck, English Heritage will automatically contact Mark Beattie-Edwards as the licensee to ensure that two groups are not diving the site at the same time.


Q. How do I book a date to dive the trail?

A. Please look at the Calendar to see dates already booked and contact at Mark Beattie-Edwards with suggestions of a date or dates suitable to your group.


Q. What diving qualification do I need?

A. The wreck is 10m-15m of water so it is suitable for all qualified divers.


Q. Do I need an NAS qualification to dive the site?

A. No. In order to visit the wreck you do not need any archaeological qualification. If you would like to help survey the site with the NAS you would need the minimum of an NAS Part 1 Certificate in Foreshore and Underwater Archaeology


Q. Where would we be diving from?

A. Eastbourne’s  Sovereign Harbour run by Premier Marinas is only 3.5Nm away from the wreck. There are a number of charter boats that operate out of Sovereign Harbour.  There is no RIB launching slipway the marina but they do offer a crane in and crane out service at the weekends. Contact the marina for information and rates.


Q. How can we find the wreck?

A. Use the GPS co-ordinates  500 48.1767” N, 000 24.6380” E (WGS84).  There is no buoy on the wreck so you will have to drop your own shot weight.  


Q. How do we obtain underwater trail guides?

A. Once you have a date booked to dive the site you will be contacted to arrange delivery and return of the guides for your diving group. These guides are available for a £5.00 deposit per guide which will be refunded when the guides are returned to the NAS. If you are diving with Dive125 they hold a supply of dive booklets.


Q. Can I add my photographs to the project archive?

A. Yes. Please either send photographs to the NAS office or please join the project Flickr group and add your photos with a description and a date the photograph was taken.


Q. Can I take video of the wreck?

A. Yes. Please feel free to take video of the wreck . To help us build a better understanding of the site please supply a copy of the video to the NAS. There are a number of short videos hosted on the NAS YouTube Channel.


Q. Can I record the marine life for Seasearch?

A. Yes. The site is a wonderful reef for marine life. Please feel free to complete a Seasearch Recorder or Surveyor Form and send to Seasearch. The NAS would appreciate a copy of the form so we can see how many people are recording the marine life and what they are finding on the wreck.


Q. Can we help survey the site?

A.  Yes. If you have already undertaken NAS training and would like to help improve the survey of the wreck please contact Mark at the NAS office and a suitable task can be offered to you.


Q. Will I be required to report our dive details to anyone?

A. Yes. If you have your own visitors licence from English Heritage you will be required to report your activities to them.  If you dive the site on the NAS licence you will be asked to complete a short feedback form and asked to supply diving statistics to allow us to monitor the success of the trail.


Q. What if I still have questions?

A. Please contact Mark at the NAS office.