The remains of a Dutch East Indiaman which foundered towards the north-eastern end of the Kellet Gut, after grounding on the Goodwin Sands, in late 1739 / early 1740. At the time of loss she was bound from Amsterdam and the Texel to Jakarta with coin, bullion and a general cargo, including sheet copper, sabre blades and stone blocks, as well as passengers.
Reasons for Designation
The Rooswijk is designated a Protected Wreck Site for the following principal reasons:
Archaeological: the Rooswijk is a rare survival of a Dutch retourschip in North European waters;
Historical: the ship is a rare survival of a vessel directly associated with the convoying of goods direct from Europe to Indonesia during the early Georgian period;
Vulnerability: component parts of the Rooswijk and its artefacts remain vulnerable to uncontrolled salvage.
The Rooswijk is a vessel of the Dutch East Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie - VOC) built in 1737 which stranded on the Goodwin Sands in late 1739 / early 1740 while en route from the Texel to the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). The vessel is described as a 'retourschip', a specific type of Dutch East Indiaman which was designed to withstand the lengthy voyages of 18 months to three years typically undertaken en route to Batavia (now Jakarta).
The wreck was discovered in 2005 after several years of documentary research and following a magnetometer survey on the site.
In 2015 colleagues from Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE) approached Historic England about undertaking an initial joint project on the Rooswijk. The project was funded by RCE, though Listing Group provided considerable input into the Project Design and provided two divers from our commissioned Contract for Services in Support of Marine Designation. The 10-day survey and assessment of the site took place in September 2016 and received interest from regional news and online media. Research in 2017 built on the success of the 2016 project and comprises a joint project between HE and RCE to fully survey and excavate key areas of the wreck over a three-month period.
A substantial amount of material was recovered - including many small finds and human remains. These investigations received a great deal of media attention and work is planned to continue in 2018. However remote sensing, undertaken in 2016 in order to inform the planned excavation, revealed seabed anomalies lying beyond the Restricted Area, including a substantial area of wreckage lying some 300m to the north-east. This material was assessed and surveyed in 2017 by the Licensed Team and was found to comprise a large assemblage of at least nine cast iron cannons co-located with extensive wooden wreck material. This material is most likely associated with the Rooswijk having become dislocated during the wrecking process.
Designation Order: No 61, 2007
Made: 13th January 2007
Laid before Parliament: 17th January 2007
Coming into force: 9th February 2007
Protected area: 150 metres within 51 16.443 N 001 34.537 E
Designation Order: 96
Made: 22nd January 2018
Laid before Parliament: 29th January 2018
Coming into force: 23rd February 2018
Protected area: 225 metres within 51.274583, 1.576067
No part of the restricted area lies above the high-water mark of ordinary spring tides.
Built in 1737 in Amsterdam for the Amsterdam Chamber of the Dutch East India Company, the Rooswijk was lost on the Goodwin Sands one day out from the Texel on her second voyage to the Dutch East Indies in early January 1740. Her previous voyage had been to Batavia (now Jakarta).
The day following her departure from the Texel, the Rooswijk is recorded as being wrecked with all hands and troops. 'A great many pieces of wreck and packets of letters, all directed to Batavia, have been taken up.' Many pieces of wreckage were found floating in the Downs. There were numerous newspaper reports on her loss, including the London Written Letter: 'We had this morning an account from Deal of a Dutch East India Ship outward bound, being ashore on the Goodwin Sands; and this afternoon it was reported to be lost, and all her crew.'
Contemporary newspapers record 'the violent storm of wind, etc. which has held for two days past, has done considerable damage to shipping lying in the River [Thames]...'
It therefore appears from sources that the vessel was caught up initially in an easterly storm which afflicted the eastern coast of England from north to south. This would have driven her directly onto the Goodwin Sands on her outward-bound passage from Amsterdam, and the "contrary winds" mentioned in some sources would have caused her to shift on the sands. In turn this would have contributed to the ship breaking up rapidly, consistent with the wreckage and mail being all the clues left to her loss, together with the total loss of life. Doubtless, however, the severe cold also contributed to the total loss of the crew.
Prior to 1752, the New Year fell on 25th March. The date of loss therefore probably occurred circa 30 December 1739.
A sport diver found the remains of the Rooswijk after extensive documentary research and a magnetometer survey. The discovery was kept secret to enable the recovery of bullion. In December 2005, silver found aboard the wreck was handed over to the Netherlands Finance Minister, representing the Dutch Government as heirs to the Dutch East India Company, having taken the company over in 1798. Dutch archaeologists expressed regret that they had not been part of the salvage operation.
The seabed consists of fine-grained, mobile sand with broken shell. Some small patches of stones were observed in areas of scouring around upstanding wreck material. Small sand waves have been recorded in all searched areas, separated by small hollows.
The salvage of the Rooswijk prior to designation is believed to have recovered more than 1,000 artefacts including a musket stock; 2 musket side plates marked "VOC"; a musket trigger plate; two wooden chests and lids; 21 ebony knife handles; 2 concreted knives; a Mexican pillar dollar; 553 silver ingots marked "VOC"; a tobacco tin; a huntsman's sword hilt; a gilt sword hilt; a sword scabbard belt hook; part of a leather scabbard; a brass wine pot with a missing leg; a pistol stock; a cutlass handle; a cutlass scabbard; a copper alloy cauldron; and 3 stoneware vessels.
The floor timbers collapsed following the wreck and the contents of each deck fell on top of each other, reflecting the physical and social layers of shipboard life. The top layer therefore included items from the officers' dining room, including pewter dinner plates and a mustard pot, wine glasses, a copper cauldron, brass candlesticks and a box of eye glasses.
The silver bullion was also found in this area in 4lb bars, having been mined in Mexico, and sold on to the Amsterdam Chamber of the VOC, whose imprint is on the bars of silver, for use in the coinage of Batavia.
The layer immediately underneath comprised the contents of the ship constable's cabin. As he was responsible for the maintenance of law and order on board, 50 muskets were found in the area. Beneath this again was the vessel's 'cartridge locker' containing bar and round shot, while three cannons and a gun port were located in an area thought to represent part of the gun deck.
A pair of Frechen mugs, dated 1550-1600, was located within the site and represented an anomaly, possibly indicating that there is wreckage from more than one vessel on this site, although it could be that, owing to their robust nature and widespread use, they were still in use on a vessel such as the Rooswijk in 1739.
The Maritime Museum in Vlissingen, Zeeland will house objects recovered from this wreck and handed over to the Dutch.
In 2016/17, substantial licensed investigations were undertaken on the wreck site, led by the RCE, principally as a result of environmental threats to the site. A substantial amount of material was recovered - including many small finds and human remains. These investigations received a great deal of media attention and work is planned to continue in 2018.
However remote sensing, undertaken in 2016 in order to inform the planned excavation, revealed seabed anomalies lying beyond the Restricted Area, including a substantial area of wreckage lying some 300m to the north-east. This material was assessed and surveyed in 2017 by the Licensed Team and was found to comprise a large assemblage of at least nine cast iron cannons co-located with extensive wooden wreck material. Another group of features comprised three anchors, possibly lost as the Rooswijk broke apart.
This material is most likely associated with the Rooswijk having become dislocated during the wrecking process. Given that investigations within the current Restricted Area in 2017 recovered a substantial number of small finds, as well as silver bullion, re-designation of the site was required in order to ensure the security of the artefacts.