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Bartholomew Ledges

Location: St. Mary's Sound, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall
Age / period: post medieval (16th century)
List entry number: 1000066
Reason for designation: rarity and archaeological significance
Depth: average 10m

Wreck history and loss

This site consists of the cargo of an unidentified late 16th century, armed cargo vessel, probably of Spanish or Spanish Netherlands origin.

The ship was carrying medieval bronze bell fragments, probably as scrap to be melted down and Spanish-type lead ingots, when it sank. It is possible that the ship was the Spanish vessel San Bartolome, which is known to have been lost in this area in 1597.

However as no ship structure remains there is currently no archaeological evidence to support this theory. Bartholomew Ledges consists of a shallow reef and rock outcrops and is a known shipping hazard.

A group of three anchors
A group of three anchors © Wessex Archaeology

Discovery and investigation

The site was identified in the late 1970s and unfortunately underwent a period of extensive salvage before its designation in 1980. It is estimated that around two tons of broken bell fragments and over 100 ingots were salvaged. The ingots were scattered and the majority of the bell fragments were sent to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry for recycling.

Few were recorded, though many of the fragments exhibited parts of inscriptions. Since being designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) further artefacts have been recovered after proper archaeological recording due to their vulnerability in this dynamic sea environment.


In addition to the lead ingots and bronze bell fragments, a variety of objects were located on the site; some have been recovered, while some are still in situ. These include breech loading iron guns, iron and stone shot, fragments of glazed and earthenware pottery, some personal items and six silver coins dating from 1474-1555.

Some of the objects salvaged in the 1970s are located in the Isles of Scilly museum. Very few lead ingots remain and the only three surviving fragments of bronze bell are in The Lord Nelson public house on the waterfront at Poole, Dorset.

Further work

Monitoring of the site is carried out on a regular basis and recently four more artefacts were recorded and raised due to their vulnerability on the seabed. These included a shard of pottery, a piece of bar shot, a lead sounding weight and a pewter spoon.

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