A diver wearing SCUBA equipment prepares to climb up a ladder from a boat following a dive.

A diver returns to the diving support vessel following a dive on the Rooswijk © Historic England
A diver returns to the diving support vessel following a dive on the Rooswijk © Historic England

Rooswijk Shipwreck Excavation Summer 2018

This summer, a team of archaeologists excavated and recorded the underwater wreck site of Dutch East India Company vessel the Rooswijk

East Midlands Open Day #Rooswijk1740

Come and see how we're stabilising finds from Rooswijk and what we're learning from them. See our conservation facilities and try a virtual dive on the site. Meet and chat with the project team including archaeologists and conservators.

Free and suitable for all ages.
When: Sunday 3 March 2019, 11am - 3pm
Where: Go Dive SCUBA Store, Nottingham Road, Spondon, Derby DE21 7NP

For more information, contact [email protected] 

Stay up to date with the latest discoveries from the Rooswijk on social media using the hashtag #Rooswijk1740.

The wreck

The Rooswijk was a Dutch East India Company vessel which sank on the treacherous Goodwin Sands, off Kent, in January 1740. The ship was outward bound for Batavia (modern-day Jakarta) with trade-goods. Now a protected wreck site the ship's remains lie at a depth of some 20 metres. They're owned by the Dutch Government and managed by Historic England on behalf of the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport.

Anchor lying on the sea bed.
The anchor of the Rooswijk lying on the sea bed © Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed

Excavation so far

Since 2016 Dutch and British maritime archaeologists have worked together to carry out a joint investigation of the Rooswijk protected wreck site. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and Historic England worked with an archaeological dive team that partly excavated the wreck in 2005, the Licensee and the owner of the wreck's cargo to carry out a detailed survey of the wreck to find out more about the site.

Plans for this summer

Building on the survey and excavation work done in 2016/2017, archaeologists were again based out on site on a diving support vessel for 90 days this summer. They excavated and recorded large areas of the site.

The archaeologists brought material they recovered to a shoreside facility in Ramsgate where they carried out first-aid conservation and recorded it before taking it to our Historic England storage facility in Portsmouth. Now they are assessing, analysing and conserving it, before returning it to The Netherlands. We hope some material may be made available for display in the future in Ramsgate.

More about the work of the expedition team

A conservator wearing a white coat looks at archaeological material using a microscope.
A Historic England conservation lab will be based in Ramsgate this summer to provide first aid conservation for material recovered from the site

Focus on areas of the wreck site that are at risk

The wreck is classed as High Risk on the Heritage at Risk register due to its exposed remains and vulnerability. In response to these threats, this project is recording and assessing an area of the at-risk remains of the Rooswijk, contributing to a better understanding of the wreck and establishing a way forward for the future management of the remains. In particular, the investigations aim to contribute to a better understanding of the wreck and site formation processes, including the ship's design and the state of preservation.

Submerged diver wearing SCUBA gear drawing observations of a wreck on the sea bed on a white pad.
Archaeologist drawing observations at the Rooswijk wreck site © Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed

Ramsgate to benefit

The Rooswijk project is contributing to Ramsgate's Heritage Action Zone initiative by providing a focus for community pride, a sense of shared history, and a sense of belonging.

Get involved

Details of open days will be published here once confirmed and advertised via social media.

Wrecks such as the Rooswijk are part of the shared cultural maritime heritage across Europe and it's important that cultural heritage agencies are able to work together to ensure that sites like this are protected, researched, understood and appreciated by all.

The archaeological information that can be gained from the wreck such as the Rooswijk is a unique resource. Shipwrecks are time capsules that offer a unique glimpse into the past and tell a story. Telling that story to a wide audience and engaging the public is very important to the #Rooswijk1740 project.

The project offers a real opportunity for education and capacity building especially for archaeology, conservation and maritime history students.

We're planning to hold other open days at different locations and lab tours following the end of the diving work. Please check back later or follow us on social media to stay in touch.

A coloured map showing the seabed surface
High resolution Multibeam survey of the Rooswijk © MSDS Marine


Angela Middleton

Archaeological Conservator

Angela Middleton has been working as an Archaeological Conservator for Historic England since 2007. Here she is responsible for advice, research and investigative conservation on material retrieved from land and marine sites. She has a special interest in the conservation of waterlogged organic materials, such as wood and leather. 

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