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The Wreck of the 'London'

Case study: The Nore, Off Kent (South East)

List entry number: 1000088

The London protected wreck site, team with the newly recovered gun carriage
The dive team of volunteer divers and professional archaeologists who undertook the recovery of the gun carriage during the #LondonWreck1665 project

Background and history

Protected Wreck Sites are historic shipwreck sites of the highest significance. They help define our nation and tell our story. They are all unique in terms of their locations, problems and challenges.

This site came to the attention of Historic England during an archaeological assessment for the London Gateway project. The significance of the site was immediately apparent and so, in 2008, Historic England designated the wreck under the Protection of Wrecks Act.

The London blew up in 1665 and provides an exceptional insight into the early British Navy. The wreck contains many rare and well preserved elements including pieces of structure, artefacts and human remains. These objects tell the story of the time when Britain was first emerging as a European naval power.

From the ship list of 1642 there were only three completed second rate 'large ships'. The London is the only one surviving.

The London was part of the fleet that brought Charles the II back to England for the restoration of the monarchy. All these things contribute to the national significance of the site.

Is it at risk?

From the outset, management of the site had some unique challenges. It's located in a low visibility, highly tidal environment on the edge of a busy shipping channel. This meant it was not an easy or attractive site to dive.

It was also at high risk due to the exposed and deteriorating nature of the wreck site. As a result, soon after designating the London, we placed it on our Heritage at Risk Register

The London protected wreck site –  the gun carriage being lifted
The moment the gun carriage re-emerged from 350 years underwater in the Historic England funded #LondonWreck1665 project © MSDSMarine/Cotswold Archaeology

What's the current situation?

In 2013, it became clear that the site continued to be at 'high risk' so Historic England awarded Cotswold Archaeology the contract to undertake a major excavation. They worked with the local licensed dive team, led by Steve Ellis.

The '#LondonWreck1665 project' began in 2014 and was completed in 2015. The excavation focused on one area only. Substantial timbers and surface artefacts have been discovered there. Three evaluation trenches were excavated during 2014. There was further limited excavation in 2015. The 2015 excavation included the recovery of a nationally significant gun carriage.

The #LondonWreck1665 project has now been completed. Historic England is working with Cotswold Archaeology, the Licensee and Southend Museum Service to determine the best way forward for the wreck site.

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Also of interest...

  • London

    'The London' was a second rate 'Large Ship' built in Chatham in 1654 during the Interregnum. 'The London' blew-up on passage from Chatham in March 1665.

External links