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.


NAS members working on the Chesil Beach Wrecks in 2018


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 finished the fieldwork in 2020, an additional project outcome in 2021 was the creation of a digital 3D annotated tour or 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.



The final part of the Historic England funded project was the creation of a Conservation Statement and Management Plan for the site. 

This Conservation Statement and Management Plan has been produced to enable local and regional stakeholder involvement in the conservation management of the Chesil Beach sites, to balance both the sites 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 Chesil Beach Wrecks can be conserved, maintained and enhanced for future generations.

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

Management Policy 1
We will seek to improve authorised visitor access to the protected wreck sites as a mechanism to enhance the value of the sites.

Management Policy 2
We will seek to increase the interpretive material related to the sites, the wider marine historic environment and related protected habitats and species, at appropriate locations and through liaison with English Heritage properties, local museums and local stakeholders.

Management Policy 3
We will maintain and develop the online virtual dive trail for the sites through updating content when new information becomes available.

Management Policy 4
When projects are commissioned on the wrecks, we will seek to use the sites as a training resource where this is appropriate.

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

Management Policy 6
We will seek to commission a programme of assessment and research to contribute towards a fuller understanding of the sites.

Management Policy 7
We will seek to undertake historical research to explore the hypothesis of wrecks being the remains of the Dutch ship De Hoop, the Squirrel or any of the other identified potential candidate sites.

Management Policy 8
We will seek to undertake a programme of monitoring with particular consideration being given to the impact of diver activity and commercial fishing within the designated areas.

Management Policy 9
If the sites are confirmed as being of non‐British origin then we will seek mechanisms to consider shared ownership and partnership with the relevant national authorities.

Management Policy 10
We will seek to ensure that unnecessary disturbance of the seabed within the restricted areas (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 sites. Should the identity of either or both.

The full Conservation Statement and Management Plan can be downloaded here.


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