Heritage Category: Maritime Wreck
List Entry Number: 1000055
Date first listed: 12-Jan-1974
Location Description: Bulverhythe, East Sussex
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Location Description: Bulverhythe, East Sussex
National Grid Reference: TQ 77800 08300
Remains of a Dutch East Indiaman which was beached at Bulverhythe as the crew mutinied after running aground in Pevensey Bay during a gale in January 1749 en route to Java. The wreck overlies part of a prehistoric forest.
The Amsterdam, a Dutch East Indiaman built in 1748, ran aground on 26 January 1749, near Hastings shortly after leaving Texel on her maiden voyage en-route to Indonesia. Almost immediately she sank into the soft mud and sand of the beach which curtailed contemporary salvage and ensured that the hull and its contents were well preserved. The site was damaged by mechanical excavators in 1969. The wreck gained international renown due to its extraordinary preservation. Investigations on the wreck during the 1970's and 1980's are responsible for significant changes in the study of underwater shipwreck archaeology.
Designation Order: (No 3), No 57, 1974
Made: 12th January 1974
Laid before Parliament: 18th January 1974
Coming into force: 5th February 1974
Protected area: 100 metres within National Grid Reference 778083 on the 1-inch OS Map, sheet 184
No part of the restricted area lies above the high-water mark of ordinary spring tides.
Documentary History: (Note that dates referred to below are by reference to the Gregorian calendar (New Style) adopted in 1752, three years after the wreck). The Amsterdam was a Dutch East Indiaman built in 1748 and sank in January 1749 on her maiden voyage after running aground in a severe storm in Pevensey Bay and losing her rudder. As the vessel was driven about helplessly, the crew mutinied and demanded that the ship be beached, and so on January 26 she came in to Bulverhythe at high tide, firing signals of distress. The distress signals attracted local people who watched the crew and passengers wade ashore. The main reason for the mutiny was not the gale, but that after two weeks into the voyage, 50 crew had died and 40 more were sick and dying due to some unknown disease on board. There was confrontation between officers and crew, especially when the crew broke into the wine store.
The Captain, Klump, and the surviving crew had barely left the ship when the first plunderers arrived and the door of the captain's cabin was forced open and some silver was stolen, to the value of 1200 English pounds and the military was called in to stop the plunder. By 11 March 1749, the Dutch East India Company had given the ship up for lost.
Archaeological History: In 1969, some bronze cannon were recovered from the foreshore by William Press and Son Ltd. using a mechanical excavator, to prevent further damage by salvage companies searching for artefacts. Following designation in 1974, Dutch interest in the vessel increased and the 'VOC - Schip Amsterdam Foundation' was formed to assess the feasibility of raising the hull and returning it to Amsterdam. Geological survey was carried out by the Delft Soil Mechanics Laboratory.
From 1984, the Amsterdam Foundation began a programme of excavation and site protection. A U-shaped cofferdam was positioned at the seaward end of the vessel to protect it, and a diving platform installed. By the end of the three seasons' work excavation, recording and strengthening of the stern half of the ship down to the lower gun deck had been undertaken. The vessel lies on mobile beach sand over clay on a prehistoric forest bed, in the surf zone of the beach some 300 metres from the high tide mark. The tidal range is over 6 metres with an average of 8 metres at high tide.
The ship herself is heeled over at 18 degrees to port. The surviving length of the ship from the foremost extant part of the stem to the surviving after side of the counter at the stern is 44 metres. About two-thirds of the vessel appears to survive in the beach, and it is possible to reconstruct the upper deck from the remaining deck beams and knees. However, the iron fastenings for the timbers have corroded away.
In 1990, the Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU) visited the site at low water. No archaeological work was planned, but a large part of the diving platform was removed under Dutch supervision. The only archaeological remains that could be seen were structural elements of the sternpost at the shoreward end of the site. Similarly, in July 1994, the stern section was clearly visible and several timbers, including frames and the remains of a mast stump visible within the cofferdam.
Monitoring of the sediment transport regime was undertaken in 1996 along with excavation and cleaning activities by an Anglo-Dutch team. Steelwork debris was removed while exposed timber was cleaned and surveyed so as to monitor future deterioration.
Many of the conserved archaeological finds were destroyed by a fire in Amsterdam but the drawings, photographs and associated documentation of those items survive. A collection of the finds can also be found in the Hastings Shipwreck and Coastal Heritage Centre.
There is now renewed interest in the site by the Foundation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 1082114
Legacy System: AMIE - Wrecks
Books and journals
Gawronski, J, East Indiaman Amsterdam, (1989)
Marsden, P, The Wreck of the Amsterdam, (1985)
Nash, F H, The Voyage of the Amsterdam: Rediscovery and Reclamation, (1985)
'International Journal of Nautical Archaeology' in International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, , Vol. 7, (), 133-148
'Antiquity' in Antiquity, (1972), 198-201
1986, Gawronski, J H G, Amsterdam Project : annual report of the VOC ship 'Amsterdam' Foundation 1985, (1986)
1987, Gawronski, J , V.O.C. Ship Amsterdam Report 1986, (1987)
Gawronski, J , V.O.C. Ship Amsterdam Report 1984, 1985, 1985
This site is designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 as it is or may prove to be the site of a vessel lying wrecked on or in the sea bed and, on account of the historical, archaeological or artistic importance of the vessel, or of any objects contained or formerly contained in it which may be lying on the sea bed in or near the wreck, it ought to be protected from unauthorised interference. Protected wreck sites are designated by Statutory Instrument. The following information has been extracted from the relevant Statutory Instrument.
Information provided under the Statutory Instrument heading below forms part of the official record of a protected wreck site. Information provided under other headings does not form part of the official record of the designation. It has been compiled by Historic England to aid understanding of the protected wreck site.
Statutory Instruments: 1974/57
End of official listing