Heritage Category:
Maritime Wreck
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Church Rocks, off Teignmouth, Devon


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Church Rocks, off Teignmouth, Devon
National Grid Reference:
SX 94725 73210


Remains of wreck of late sixteenth century armed cargo vessel, suggested as possibly being a Venetian trading galley, which stranded on Church Rocks, off Teignmouth.


The site was first located in 1975 by Simon Burton, who was snorkelling in shallow water off the sea wall to the east of Teignmouth. Between 1975 and 1983 a variety of objects were recovered from the site, indicative of a sixteenth century Mediterranean(?) vessel, and most of this material is on display in the local museum at Teignmouth. The site was designated in 1977.

An assessment of current research was published in Volume 62 (2004) of the proceedings on the Devon Archaeological Society.


Designation History: Designation Order: (No 2), No 1357, 1977 Made: 3rd August 1977 Laid before Parliament: 4th August 1977 Coming into force: 12th August 1977 Protected area: Between the four points grid reference 9465 7330, 9480 7330, 9465 7312 and 9480 7312 on the National Grid Plan SX 9473-9573 Scale 1:2500

No part of the restricted area lies above the high-water mark of ordinary spring tides.

Documentary History: The recovered armament of the vessel is of a uniform Venetian provenance, and the light defensive nature suggests a smaller, armed merchant vessel, probably a galley, rather than a warship. In the early sixteenth century, Italian trading galleys with up to 300 slaves at the oars and between 5 and 9 guns are known to have traded along this coast on their way up to Southampton. Their typical size, armament and layout were similar to the Church Rocks wreck.

A 'terminus post quem' of 1582 based on ceramics and ordnance has been given to this wreck. There is no local documentation relating to this wreck and therefore identification is difficult.

Archaeological History: The site was discovered in 1975 by a snorkeler and believed to be the remains of a sixteenth century vessel. The site lies in 3 to 4 metres of water about 150 metres from the shore, and is often covered in up to 1.5 metres of mobile sand overlying rock gullies, indicating that the sand is periodically and appreciably mobile.

Despite designation in 1977, between 1975 and 1983 a variety of objects were recovered from the site which included a total of 120 round shot, six guns, three anchors, pottery shards, a gold seal, nails, a steelyard weight and copper alloy pots. The majority of items recovered are in Teignmouth Museum. Part of the stern and lower starboard hull structure has also been recorded despite the considerable overlying sand burden.

The site was initially discovered on observation of a protruding cannon, subsequently raised, and a further five bronze cannon were also found, two of which were sold in order to finance excavations.

The structural remains have been recorded by the Archaeological Diving Unit as being compatible with a vessel of late sixteenth century Mediterranean origin.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:
AMIE - Wrecks


Books and journals
McDonald, K, The Wreck Walkers Guide, (1982)
Taylor, T, Time Team 96: The Site Reports, (1996), 22-27
'International Journal of Nautical Archaeology' in International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, , Vol. 9, ()
'International Journal of Nautical Archaeology' in International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, , Vol. 9, ()
'International Journal of Nautical Archaeology' in International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, , Vol. 9, (), 79-80,83-4
'International Journal of Nautical Archaeology' in International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, , Vol. 9, ()
'International Journal of Nautical Archaeology' in International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, , Vol. 9, (), 257-265
Preece, C, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 62.' in Evidence for High Status at Sea: The Church Rocks Wreck, (2004), 99-119
The Bronze Guns of Teignmouth Ancient Maritime Town, (1988)


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.

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: 1977/1357

End of official listing

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