Heritage Category: Maritime Wreck

List Entry Number: 1000073

Date first listed: 12-Jul-1994

Date of most recent amendment: 05-Oct-2004

Location Description: Dunwich Bank, off Dunwich Heath, Suffolk


Ordnance survey chart of DUNWICH BANK
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Location Description: Dunwich Bank, off Dunwich Heath, Suffolk

Latitude: 52.25274504

Longitude: 1.64038499

National Grid Reference: TM 48567 67863


The remains of an armed cargo vessel which foundered in the area off Dunwich, thought to have been some time between 1536 and 1600.


The site was located in October 1993 by Southwold fisherman who recovered ship timbers and concreted shot in a trawl. The site was inspected by a local diver and archaeologist in June 1994; a bronze gun and other wreck material was discovered. The gun was subsequently raised and treated in a specially constructed tank at Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station.

The gun is thought to be a type produced by Remigy de Halut in c.1540, and this is supported by his name being visible on two of the guns that remain on the seabed, both dated to 1554. Details of the recovered gun have been published in both the Journal of the Ordnance Society and the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.


Designation History: Designation Order (No 1): No.1842, 1994 Made: 12th July 1994 Laid Before Parliament: 13th July 1994 Coming into Force: 14th July 1994 Protected area: 100 meters within 52 15.14 N 001 38.53 E

Designation Order: No.2395, 2004 Made: 12th September 2004 Laid before Parliament: 14th September 2004 Coming into force: 5th October 2004 Protected Area: 100 metres within 52 15.1647 N 001 38.4321 E

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

Documentary History: Originally thought to be a Dutch warship lost in the nearby Battle of Sole Bay in 1672, the dating of the cannon to 1554 provides a terminus post quem.

Archaeological History: The Dunwich Bank wreck was discovered in 1993 when a local fisherman found a piece of timber with more than fifty cannonballs embedded in it. Further searches at the site by the Suffolk Underwater Studies Unit revealed further wreck material and a bronze cannon which was recovered.

This area of the Suffolk coastline is subject to erosion caused by subsidence and southward longshore sediment movement caused by dominant north-easterly wave action. The submerged medieval settlement of Dunwich lies to the north-west of the Dunwich Bank site. The seabed comprises two distinct layers, which may possibly be further broken down. The artefacts are located in a hard, stony, lower layer, in which the extensive presence of cobbles and boulders has been recorded, (suggested as possible ballast). Above this layer is a fairly level layer of very soft silt and mixed coarse and fine sand, apparently subject to extensive erosion and re-deposition.

The main site consists of a small steep-sided wreck mound, surrounded by a scatter of bronze muzzle-loading guns, iron muzzle and breech-loading guns, and various concretions, no more than 650 square metres in extent. Beyond the main site there are a number of shallow depressions within a seabed which is otherwise flat, and appear to indicate the presence of modern debris.

Six pieces of cast bronze muzzle-loading smooth bore ordnance have been recorded on the site by SUS, of which three were located and positioned by both the ADU and WA, and a fourth was salvaged in 1994. This is identified as a Flemish Saker, considered to be cast about 1536-40, and is now on display at Dunwich Museum

The fact that two extant guns of this age have been found on this site is a likely indicator of a 16th century wreck, rather than a Dutch warship involved in the Battle of Sole Bay in 1672, on the grounds that it was rare for Dutch warships to have a gun of this age on board, much less two. However, although the high value of bronze guns would normally preclude their deliberate jettison, an exception may be made for the occasion of a grounded vessel, from which guns would have been heaved overboard in order to lighten [and thereby recover] the vessel.

The recovered gun is thought to have been in the first quarter of its service life, likely to have been cast around 1536 to 1540, within an overall range of 1536 to 1556. This would suggest 1556 as a terminus post quem for the deposit of the gun. A date range of 1536 to 1700 has been suggested, with the greatest likelihood of the loss having occurred 1536-1636. The "working hypothesis" would restrict the date range to about 1536 to 1600, given the fact that at least three of the guns appear to be associated with the same maker.


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

Legacy System number: 1121935

Legacy System: AMIE - Wrecks


Books and journals
'International Journal of Nautical Archaeology' in International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, (), 21-32
Dunwich Bank, Suffolk: Designated Site Assessment: Archaeological Report, April 2006

End of official listing