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Hazardous

Location: Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex
Age / period: post medieval (1706)
List entry number: 1000048
Reason for designation: historical significance

Wreck history and loss

Built in Port Louis, France, in 1698, as a 50-gun third rate, 'Le Hazardeux' was loaned by the French Navy to the French nobleman De Beaubriand of St Malo for use as a privateer under the command of Captain De La Rue. In 1703 she was spotted in the English Channel by three British ships of the channel fleet under the command of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, and after a six-hour battle it was taken as a prize and towed to Portsmouth.

She was re-fitted for the Royal Navy as the 'Hazardous' and commissioned as a fourth rate warship of 54 guns in March 1704. In September 1706, in the company of three other warships she was acting as an escort for a 200-strong convoy of merchant ships en route from Chesapeake Bay, Virginia to the Thames Estuary.

Despite appalling weather throughout the voyage, she arrived off the southern tip of the Isle of Wight in November 1706, where she sought shelter in St. Helen's Roads. After missing stays and her anchor failing to hold, she was eventually forced to run before the south westerly gale. Her Captain, Lieutenant Hare, ran the ship onshore in Bracklesham Bay to save his crew.

Fivers trail on Warship Hazardous

Discovery and investigation

Although a gun was raised from the vicinity of the site in 1966, the wreck was not located by divers until members of Sub-Aqua Association (SAA) 308 stumbled upon it in 1977.

During the late 1980's, numerous individual artefacts and concretions were raised and examined. Cannon were surveyed in situ and a full pre-disturbance plan of the wreck site was completed. Artefacts were found to date to the late 17th/ early 18th century. This pointed towards the wreck being that of 'Hazardous'.

Intrusive excavation was carried out in 1988 and 1989. A trench forward on the port side established the extent of the buried remains. Evidence of how much of the ship survived was gained; relatively undisturbed stratigraphy was identified along with features and artefacts in secure contexts.

A detailed survey of a gun and carriage exposed during the excavation was carried out with the hope of recovery and conservation. Conservation, however, could not be arranged. Sand bagging to protect this feature was therefore undertaken as a temporary measure.

Due to lack of money and new thinking, excavation on the site was not continued after 1989. Those early investigations had seemed to suggest that the bow section had settled into silt on the shore side of the reef where the stem and port side were preserved. the stern section appeared to have broken up and dispersed quite soon after the wrecking.

It was established that the remains of 'Hazardous' were made up of principally the lower hull; a transverse breach of the hull at the amidships section aft of the main mast had happened. The port side appears to survive to gun deck level, whereas only the lower frame ends appear to survive on the starboard side. It is believed the stern faired less well due to shallower sediments.

Although sand was observed to gradually accumulate across the site, which at first exposed the south end and covered the north, this gradually migrated and re-exposed the north. During a storm in 1990, a whole section of the hull disappeared which demonstrates the dynamic nature of the site.

During the early 1990s, changes in erosion patterns were observed, timbers, concretions and artefacts were being freshly exposed. Due to the excellent state of preservation of the exposed timbers, it was assumed that the wreck had remained relatively stable from the time of wrecking.

Details of her construction recorded archaeologically showed that despite being rebuilt, the 'Hazardous' had retained distinctively French characteristics. Her frames, for example, are set in longitudinally-bolted pairs while frames in the bow are set at increasing angles. Such cant frames were not introduced into English warships until around 1715. In addition, the site was found to be littered with lead strips, also found driven between planking as caulking. Other uses for lead alloy on the ships were found to include it being placed between components of her laminated bow structure (Fenwick and Gale 1998).

Monitoring of the site continues. Artefacts and concretions under threat continue to be recovered.

Artefacts

Finds recovered from the site include stoneware, pewter, personal items and numerous pieces navigational dividers, aling with cannon balls, musket and pistol shot. Two cannon were removed for identification and conservation although the process used in conserving these cannons was unsuccessful.

A collection of artefacts can be viewed at Earnley Gardens, near Bracklesham Bay.

Further work

The main threat to the archaeological remains is the continued reduction of sand cover over the wreck. Previous reports complied by The Hazardous Project group have highlighted the destruction of extensive areas of the surviving ship structure as the movement of protective sand deposits have uncovered it. Illegal fishing and trawling over the site has also been reported to the Sussex Police Marine Unit.

The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology have undertaken an Archive Assessment and Enhancement funded by English Heritage. The results of this project, including reports, a database and images, can be seen on the Archaeological Data Service website.

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