Norman's Bay Protected Wreck Site

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Every year the NAS offers chances for divers to dive the Norman's Bay wreck site (12m maximum) along with the Holland 5 Submarine (32m maximum) as part of our Protected Wreck days.

For more details of the Norman's Bay Diver Trail please click here.

NEW: Virtual Diver Trail

In 2017 the NAS, with funding support from Historic England, developed a virtual diver trail for the Norman's Bay Wreck to increase the public access to the wreck site. Simply click on the image below to "dive" the wreck, without the need to get wet. Depending on your internet speed it may take a little while to load.

Normans Bay Wreck Visualisation

The virtual trail allows you to navigate your way around the site and to experience what 51 iron cannon on the seabed look like. You can click on the camera and video icons to see images and videos of the wreck.  Using the tabs on the left had side you can find more infomation about what we believe the wreck to be as well as additonal images such as the 2016 multibeam sonar survey and the current site plan for the wreck. As the site is still being surveyed this site plan changes every year.

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NEW: Conservation Statemant and Management Plan

In 2016 the NAS were commissioned by Historic England to draft a Conservation Statemant and Management Plan for the wreck - the plan published in 2017 can be found here.

Executive Summary: The Norman’s Bay Wreck, off the Sussex coast, was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) in 2006 as an English or Dutch ship of unknown identity, dating between the 17th and 18th centuries AD.  It was initially speculated that the wreck maybe that of the English 70-gun ship, Resolution, lost in The Great Storm of 1703, however dendrochronology undertaken in 2007 suggests that the vessel was built in the middle of the 17th century AD with parent timbers coming from Germany or the Low Countries of Europe.  A plausible hypothesis from the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) is that the site represents the remains of the Wapen van Utrecht, a 64-gun Dutch ship lost during the Battle of Beachy Head which took place off the Sussex coast of England in 1690.

In 2010 the NAS were commissioned by English Heritage to create the Norman’s Bay Designated Wreck Diver Trail.  The aim of the project was to develop, install and test a diver visitor trail around the wreck site.  The diver trail was installed by the NAS during 2010 and launched in the spring of 2011.  Since it launched, the trail has been promoted and managed by the NAS as a mechanism to provide divers with an opportunity to both visit and help survey a protected wreck in shallow water.

The Conservation Statement and Management Plan has been produced to enable local and regional stakeholder involvement in the conservation management of the Norman’s Bay Wreck site,to balance both the site’s protection along with economic and social needs. The principle aim of the Conservation Management Plan is to identify a shared vision of how these values of the Norman’s Bay Wreck can be conserved, maintained and enhanced for future generations.

The following management policies have been formulated in accordance with achieving this principle aim:

Management Policy 1 - We will seek to enhance managed visitor access to the protected wreck site as a mechanism to enhance the value of the site.

Management Policy 2  - We will seek to improve interpretive materials for the site that accompanies some of the artefacts from the site now on display at the Shipwreck Museum in Hastings.

Management Policy 3 - Through web-based initiatives, we will seek to continue to develop a virtual dive trail for the site. This is particularly important as visibility on the site is often less than one metre.

Management Policy 4 - When projects are commissioned on the wreck we will seek to use the site as a training resource where this is appropriate.

Management Policy 5 - We will seek to encourage the investigation and continued survey of the site and the area around the known remains to establish the full extent of the site.

Management Policy 6 - We will seek to commission a programme of assessment and research to contribute towards a fuller understanding of the site in its entirety.

Management Policy 7 - We will seek to undertake historical research into the Battle of Beachy Head (1690) to explore the hypothesis of the wreck being the remains of the Dutch ship, the Wapen van Utrecht.

Management Policy 8 - We will seek to undertake a programme of monitoring with particular consideration being given to the impact of commercial fishing within the designation area.

Management Policy 9 - If identified as being of Dutch origin, we will seek mechanismsto consider shared ownership and partnership working with the Dutch authorities.

Management Policy 10 - We will seek to ensure that unnecessary disturbance of the seabed within the restricted area (by fishing and diving) be avoided wherever possible, in order to minimise the risk of damage to buried archaeological material.

Management Policy 11 - We will seek to ensure that this management plan will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis so that it continues to reflect the conditions and state of knowledge pertaining to the site.

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Background

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 Historic England 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.

Name

Build date (if known)

Captain

No. of guns

Fate

Suikermolen

Unknown

Commander Abraham van Brakel

4

Sunk in action

Kroonvogel

1666

CommanderThameszoon

6

Burned in action

Maagd van Enkhuizen

Unknown

Commander Muijsevanger

6

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

Friesland (or Vriesland)

1685

Capt. Philips van der Goes

68

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

Noord Holland(orNoorderkwartier)

1688

Rear-Admiral Jan Dick

72

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

Gekroonde Burg

1682

Vice-Admiral Karel van de Putte

62

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

Wapen van Utrecht (orStad Utrecht)

1665

Capt. Pieter Claassen Decker

64

Sank along the English coast

Elswout

1677

Capt. Adriaan Noortheij

50

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

Tholen

1688

Capt. Cornelis Calis

60

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

Maagd van Enkhuizen

1688

Capt. Jan van der Poel

72

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.

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: http://gentlemenandtarpaulins.com/2014/05/19/dutch-ships-at-the-battle-of-beachy-head-as-related-to-the-normans-bay-wreck/

Site Map

Click here for an image of the site plan.

Today the wreck site contains a cluster of at least fifty-one 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 51 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.

Of the 51 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 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.

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

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. 

Licensee Reports

  • Licensee report - November 2016
  • Licensee report - November 2015
  • Licensee report - November 2014
  • Licensee report - November 2013
International: 
No
Area: 
England