Heritage Category:
Maritime Wreck
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Filey Bay, off Filey, North Yorkshire


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

Location Description:
Filey Bay, off Filey, North Yorkshire
National Grid Reference:
TA 15931 78781


Possible, though unconfirmed, remains of 1779 wreck of an American privateer which foundered off Flamborough Head after a gun battle with HMS Serapis, during which she was also burnt. Commanded by John Paul Jones, the Bonhomme Richard (formerly the French East Indiaman Duc De Duras) operated out of Lorient, and on this occasion had attacked a convoy of British vessels from the Baltic.


The wreck was originally discovered in 1974 by a local diver recovering a fouled trawl net. Over the years, survey and research has been carried out into the site and in 2001, a detailed report concluded that there was a strong possibility of the wreck indeed being the Bonhomme Richard, although this has not yet been confirmed.

Two recent efforts to locate the Bonhomme Richard further offshore have been unsuccessful.


Designation History: Designation Order: No 1858, 2002 Made: 17th July 2002 Laid before Parliament: 17th July 2002 Coming into force: 18th July 2002 Protected area: 300 metres within 54 11.502 N 000 13. 481 W

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

Documentary History: The Bonhomme Richard, a former French East Indiaman, was commanded by the man regarded as the founder of the American Navy, John Paul Jones. The ship was abandoned while on fire during the Battle of Flamborough Head in 1779.

Archaeological History: Although the site was discovered in 1974, it was not until a detailed reported concluded that there is a strong possibility that the remains comprise those of the Bonhomme Richard that the site was assessed for designation.

The site lies in a depth of 23 to 28 metres with the seabed in the vicinity being generally featureless in general. Between 2002 and 2003 there was a change in sand levels which indicating the mobility of the surrounding seabed.

Substantial structural remains are present on the seabed but only minimal artefacts and no guns have been identified indicating moderate importance. The fragmented nature of the site also suggests the remains are of moderate importance although the good condition of many of the timbers indicates high importance and this is the best surviving example of a late eighteenth-century French/American ship. The wreck is important within a local dimension, as a shipwreck in Filey Bay, and an international dimension with regard to the survival of a French/American vessel in UK waters. In August 2007 American scientists mounted a £175,000 expedition off Flamborough Head in search of USS Bonhomme Richard.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:
AMIE - Wrecks


Books and journals
'Newcastle Courant' in Newcastle Courant, (1753)
'Newcastle Courant' in Newcastle Courant, (1753)
'Newcastle Courant' in Newcastle Courant, (1753)
'Newcastle Courant' in Newcastle Courant, (1753)
'Newcastle Courant' in Newcastle Courant, (1753), 56-57
'Newcastle Courant' in Newcastle Courant, (1753), 102-109
'Newcastle Courant' in Newcastle Courant, (1753)
'Newcastle Courant' in Newcastle Courant, (1753)


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: 2002/1858

End of official listing

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