Norman's Bay Protected Wreck Site

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Monday, June 9, 2014

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, 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 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 seem to suggest this was a third rate warship of 800 to 1000 tons.
The Battle of Beachy Head
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. Seven Dutch ships were lost in the battle, at least three of these are supposed to have sunk in Norman’s Bay. The names of two of the seven Dutch Ships are unknown the other five were the Vriesland, Wapen Van Utrecht, Maagd Van Enkhuizen, Elswout/Elswoud and Tholen.

Preliminary dendrochronological research by Wessex Archaeology suggests it is more likely one of the Dutch ships 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. Wessex Archaeology has carried out three investigations into the wreck and even though it hasn’t been conclusively identified it has been a protected wreck under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) since 14th June 2006. The NAS was invited to be involved on the site in 2009, by the then licencee and finder, Paul Stratford.

Site Map

Site Plan of the Norman's Bay wreck site Today the wreck site contains a cluster of at least forty-two iron guns, timber hull structure and various other artefacts including a large anchor on top of a ballast mound.

The scattered cannons are made up of (what are assumed to be) three 24-pounder cannons, seven Demi-Culverin/12-pounder cannons, fifteen Saker/6-pounder cannons and two 3-pounder cannons along with several that are too deeply buried or concreted to be measured.  Alternatively taking into account an average 0.03m of concretion it is possible that there are ten 24-pound cannons, fifteen 12-pound cannons and two 6-pound cannons, which is more fitting with the armament of the warship HMS Resolution.

There are also several areas close together which had a layer of uniform red bricks scattered around, believed to be the galley area and in this area there was also found various pieces of thin copper sheeting which may represent fragments of the ships kettle. The site contains plenty of flora and fauna including a large number of Tompot Blennies (Parablennius gattorugine) there are also Common Starfish (Asterias Rubens) over the site during certain times of the year.

Information on work undertaken on the site from the discovery in 2005 to 2009 can be found at:
Diver Trail
Norman’s Bay Wreck Diver Trail Project
The aim of the 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 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 should be a small yellow buoy over the wreck which leads down to a clump weight. From here follow the line NE to the wreck. PLEASE DO NOT MOOR ON TO THE BUOY AND DO NOT DROP YOUR OWN SHOT ON TO THE WRECK.

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.

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.