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Normans Bay

Location: Norman's Bay, East Sussex
Age / period: 1703
List entry number: 1000084
Reason for designation: archaeological significance
Depth: 14m

Wreck history and loss

The 'Resolution' was build in Harwich between 1665 and 1667 and was one of only three third rate vessels built by noted maritime architect Sir Anthony Deane. In 1669, the 'Resolution' was the flagship in an expedition against the Barbary Corsairs and took part in the unsuccessful attack on the Dutch Smyrna convoy, which resulted in the Third Dutch War.

The 'Resolution' sank during the Great Storm on 26 November 1703, after being blown across the Solent, striking the Owers Banks six or seven times before the crew were able to raise a scrap of sail and round Beachy Head. By this time the ship was taking on water, the hold was full up to the level of the orlop beams, and so the decision was made to attempt to beach her in Pevensey Bay. The remains of the vessel was burned by French Privateers by January 1704.

The 'Great Storm' is well documented in contemporary newspapers and by Daniel Defoe in his work 'The Storm: An Essay', written in 1704. Other protected warships lost in the same storm comprise the 'Stirling Castle', 'Restoration' and 'Northumberland', located on the Goodwin Sands, off Kent.

The Nautical Museum's Trust is now the legal owner of the 'Resolution'.

Area of in situ galley bricks
Area of in situ galley bricks © Wessex Archaeology

Discovery and investigation

The site was found in the spring of 2005 by local divers trying to free a lobster pot within the Bay. Upon examination they recovered the remains of an iron bolt or nail, a small iron shot and a brick. Following assessment by the Government's archaeological diving contractor, it is apparent that the site consists of a cluster of at least 45 iron guns, other artefacts and timber hull structure.

The gun cluster lies on top of ballast material, with the whole occupying an area that measures approximately 40m by 11.5m, and is orientated orthogonal to the shore. In addition to the guns, one large anchor was recorded in the middle of the site. Other finds include an intact area of galley brick, found in association with copper sheets, and a number of iron ingots.

The initial interpretation of the site is that it may be the wreck of the 'Resolution', a 70-gun third rate that sank during the Great Storm of 1703. However, limited documentary research indicates that there are at least three other recorded losses within the Bay that might relate to the remains seen. Therefore, on the basis of the current limited level of investigation all that may be said with certainty is that the archaeological remains are consistent with that of a large warship of the period 1600 to 1800.

Mosaic of gun
Mosaic of gun © Wessex Archaeology

Further work

The current Licensee has indicated interest in undertaking an extensive and ongoing research project on the site, to comprise both field and archive assessment.

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