Chesil Beach Protected Wrecks Community Archaeology Project

In 2019 the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) and the Maritime Archaeology Trust (MAT) ran training activities and series of public events based around the Chesil Beach protected wrecks off the coast of Weymouth.  Activities were held in conjunction with the local licensee(s), to create a team of local wreck custodians.  By upskilling local community members, including divers, the wrecks will be respected and further investigated.

Two of the cannons from the Chesil Beach Protected Wreck - NAS 2018


The Chesil Beach Protected Wreck lies on the seaward side of Chesil Beach in Dorset. It was discovered in 2010 and comprises two distinct areas of wreck. An inshore site comprises eight heavily concreted cast iron cannon identified as English 24-32 pounders cast between 1650 and 1725. Lying 220m south of the cannon assemblage, the offshore site consists of seven very heavily concreted cast iron English cannon, one of which is probably a six pounder, cast in the second half of the seventeenth century.  Depth 12-15m. 

For more information visit the Historic England listing entry here.

Chesil Beach Site 1 photogrammetry and site plan - Copyright Wessex Archaeology 2016



It is not that often that we are able to offer access to free training and project opportunities, but thanks to funding from Historic England and our project partners at Maritime Archaeology Trust that is exactly what we did. We advertised for divers in Dorset and surrounding UK counties who were interested in becoming an active member of a protected wreck licenced dive team to register their interest for this training.

NAS and MAT put together a great project targeted at the Chesil Beach Protected Wreck (12-15m) that included education, training, outreach events, a 3D Dive Tour as well as fieldwork on this protected wreck that lies off Chesil Beach.

To participate as a diver we offered participants FREE* introductory knowledge and skills through online and face to face training, as well as non-diving courses in gun recording and photogrammetry techniques. Details of what took place are below. In order to qualify for FREE training all divers were expected to commit to at least 2 days volunteering on site between the 21-27 September 2019.

Underwater Archaeology Combined theory - FREE Online eLearning course. Costs £45.00, but refunded if completed by 13/9/19.

14 or 15 Sept 2019. FREE Underwater Skills Days (1 day) - Osprey Sports Centre, Portland (Pool Diving).

17 or 31 August 2019 (not the 30th as was posted in some media). FREE Gun Recording (1 day) - Osprey Sports Centre, Portland (Non-Divi

18 August or 1 September 2019. FREE Photogrammetry (1 day)-  Osprey Sports Centre, Portland (Non Diving). With Martin Davies from InDepth Photography and Brandon Mason from the Maritime Archaeology Trust.

21-22 September 2019, FREE Fieldwork weekend. Diving from Wey Chieftian IV

23-27 September 2019, FREE Fieldwork week. Diving from Wey Chieftian IV


NAS members working on the Chesil Beach Wrecks in 2018


To register or to ask any questions contact the project team on [email protected] or call us on +44 (0)2392 818419

Pre-requisites: NAS Intro & Part 1 or Underwater Archaeology eLearning and Skills Day, Gun Recording and Photogrammetry course. BSAC Sports Diver or equivalent, minimum of 10 cold water/poor viz dives and trained in use of a DSMB.

Participants are expected to contribute to their own accommodation costs if needed.

* In order to qualify for FREE training all divers are expected to commit to at least 2 days volunteering on site between the 21-27 September 2019. **Online course costs £45.00 and will be refunded if completed by the 13 September 2019 

Due to terrible weather at the end of summer 2019, it was not possible to complete the training and diving on the protected wrecks. However we still managed to achieve the required training to certify our participants. 


When we finally finish the fieldwork in 2020 (weather permitting), an additional project outcome will be the creation of a digital 3D annotated tour (Dive Trail) of the site created by the Maritime Archaeology Trust to enable non-diver appreciation of the heritage asset. These activities and products will help ensure the site’s future protection and provide added knowledge about the wrecks to the local community and contribute new information to the historic environment record.


NAS 2018 divers with Wey Chieftain Skipper, Richard Bright-Paul