Heritage Category:
Maritime Wreck
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
The Nore, Thames Estuary, off Southend-on-Sea, Essex


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

Location Description:
The Nore, Thames Estuary, off Southend-on-Sea, Essex
Marine Location Name:
Coastal Waters
National Grid Reference:


Believed to be the London, a second rate 'Large Ship' built in Chatham in 1656 during the Interregnum. A second area of wreckage, known for many years as the King from a cannon recovered from the vicinity, is most likely part of the London.

Reasons for Designation

The London is a Protected Wreck Site for the following principal reasons:

Archaeological Importance. The London was built in 1656, and blew up in 1665. Its wreck contains elements including structural timbers, artefacts and cannon. The rare and well preserved remains provide an exceptional insight into the Navy during one of the most significant periods in England's history - a time when British naval power was emerging on the European stage.

Historical Interest. The London was one of only three completed, and is the only surviving, Second Rate 'Large Ship' from the ship list of 1642-1660. The London was the ship on which Charles II was brought back to England at the restoration of the monarchy.


The London was a Second Rate 'Large Ship' built in Chatham in 1656 during the Interregnum. She is known to have formed part of an English Squadron sent to collect Charles II from the Netherlands and restore him to his throne in an effort to end the anarchy which followed the death of Cromwell in 1658. The London blew up on passage from Chatham in March 1665.


Designation History: Designation Order: (No 2), No 2775, 2008 Made: 21st October 2008 Laid before Parliament: 23rd October 2008 Coming into force: 24th October 2008 Protected area: Two areas bounded by straight lines whose corners lie at the points specified below:

Area 1: NW Point: 51 29.7477 N 000 44.3802 E NE Point: 51 29.7435 N 000 44.4159 E SE Point: 51 29.7240 N 000 44.4091 E SW Point: 51 29.7287 N 000 44.3734 E

Area 2: NW Point: 51 29.7622 N 000 43.9862 E NE Point: 51 29.7532 N 000 44.0506 E SE Point: 51 29.7244 N 000 44.0408 E SW Point: 51 29.7334 N 000 43.9764 E

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

Designation Order: (No 2), No 1773, 2012 Made: 4th July 2012 Laid before Parliament: 9th July 2012 Coming into force: 31st July 2012 Protected area: Two areas bounded by straight lines whose corners lie at the points specified below:

Area 1: NW Point 51 29.7477 N 000 44.3802 E NE Point 51 29.7435 N 000 44.4159 E SE Point 51 29.7108 N 000 44.4046 E SW Point 51 29.7155 N 000 44.3689 E

Area 2: NW Point: 51 29.7622 N 000 43.9862 E NE Point: 51 29.7532 N 000 44.0506 E SE Point: 51 29.7244 N 000 44.0408 E SW Point: 51 29.7334 N 000 43.9764 E

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

Documentary History: The fact that the Navy had sided with Parliament against the Crown was one of the decisive elements of the English Civil War. The London was constructed during a period when the Commonwealth needed to build up a strong navy to ensure its own survival, particularly as the Navy was already involved in a limited war with France over its right to prevent trade with the Royalist outposts in the Channel Islands, Isles of Scilly and in Ireland.

Following the successful construction of seven frigates between 1645 and 1647, the Parliamentary Commission for the Admiralty began to order new vessels over the next few years as the frigates were found to be lacking in 'accommodation for men of war.' The Commission devised the original Articles of War and provided room for the Navy to convoy merchantmen for the first time. By taking over of responsibility for the safety of merchant vessels at sea, the link between the British Navy and the British Empire was forged.

It is recorded that Cromwell's Navy, even more than the celebrated army, had made him feared and courted throughout Europe. Quickly recognising the potential of the Navy, Parliament turned the fleet against its commercial rivals, the Dutch.

In 1652 during the First Dutch War (1652-1654), Parliament ordered the building of ten new Second Rate ships, of which only three (including the London) were eventually completed. These ships were an enlargement and a modernisation of the Jacobean Great Ship design and influenced the future design of 90-gun Second Rates, such as the Association (lost of the Isles of Scilly in 1707). However, despite ten being ordered, the London was one of only three completed Second Rate 'Large Ships' on the Ship List of 1642-1660; the other two vessels being the Richard (built 1658; re-named Royal James at the Restoration; burnt 1667) and Dunbar (built 1656; re-named Henry at the Restoration; burnt 1682).

Early in the First Dutch War (1652-4), the Navy had leave to take up to a quarter of the crews of outward-bound ships in the Downs. Colliers, whose seamen were reputed the best, were always a favourite target. A fleet of colliers entering the Thames in April 1653 found the formidable Commissioner Bourne waiting in the London. Bourne fired forty or fifty shots to make the more 'insolent' skippers drop anchor and then combed the ships for recruit.

The loss of the London was recorded by Samuel Pepys in his diary entry for March 8th 1665; '...This morning is brought me to the office the sad newes of "The London," in which Sir J. Lawson's men were all bringing her from Chatham to the Hope, and thence he was to go to sea in her; but a little a'this side the buoy of the Nower, she suddenly blew up. About 24 [men] and a woman that were in the round-house and coach saved; the rest, being above 300, drowned: the ship breaking all in pieces, with 80 pieces of brass ordnance. She lies sunk, with her round-house above water. Sir J. Lawson hath a great loss in this of so many good chosen men, and many relations among them'.

Pepys was appointed Clerk of the Acts (Secretary) to the Navy Board in 1660 when that body effectively ran the navy under James, Duke of York. Subsequently, and notwithstanding criticism of his role in the disasters of the Second Dutch War, in 1673 he became the first Secretary of the Admiralty. He was out of office 1679-84, but then became the Crown's minister for the navy until the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9.

Archaeological History:

In early 1962, a bronze cannon dated to 1636 was recovered from the King site. This cannon remains on display at the Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson. A magnetometer search for the London in 1985 discovered the site but concluded that it 'appears to have too large an iron content to be a 17th century vessel. Requires further investigation'. The site lies at a general depth of 12m. (1)

Two adjacent sites (known respectively as the London and King) were subject to staged archaeological assessment as part of ongoing mitigation for the London Gateway project, River Thames. Dendrochronological assessment of the London in 2005 noted a disturbed concentration of timbers, including both planking and framing elements while assessment of the King site revealed the presence of disturbed fragments of wood over a wide area, with a concentration of timber around a single cannon found lying proud of the seabed and overlying a number of timbers.

Archaeological assessment of the sites was undertaken on behalf of the Port of London Authority in October 2007 (these results were made available to English Heritage in July 2008). The objectives of the investigation were to establish the presence or absence of cannon on the site, identify exposed archaeological features and to assess the risk of destruction or salvage of exposed archaeological features. A series of artefacts were identified and recovered to the surface, and the diver noted that there was an abundance of loose material on the river bed in a remarkably well preserved state. This suggests that the site has been recently disturbed. No cannons were seen during the investigation. However, visibility was very poor and the absence of any form of acoustic tracking means that the extents of the diver's search area is uncertain, and it is likely the entire site was not inspected.

Recorded for television, a small timber was recovered and linear planks could be felt by the diver. The Port of London Authority had recovered part of a musket, a gun carriage wheel and a deadeye from this site. The television programme also mentioned cannon previously recovered from this site.

In October 2007, English Heritage received notification that two bronze guns were salvaged from the site of the London or the King. These guns are described as being 'particularly important' by the Keeper of Artillery at the Royal Armouries; one gun in particular is the only known piece by the noted London gun-founder Peter Gill. It is recorded that the London had 76 'brass' guns fitted and nine were recovered prior to 1700. Clearly, further ordnance may exist on site.

Following ongoing archaeological investigations on this designated asset in 2010, including verification of remote sensing data from 2009, a southward 25m extension of Area 1 was undertaken to accommodate archaeological remains found to lie outside the previous restricted area.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 15/11/2012


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:
AMIE - Wrecks


Books and journals
Colledge, J J, Ships of the Royal Navy, (1969)
Dunkley, M, 'Conservation Bulletin, Issue 66' in Catastrophic Burials: The Study of Human Remains From Sunken Warships, (June 2011)
, accessed from
Receiver of Wreck Droit,


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: 2008/2775

End of official listing

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