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Northumberland

Location: Goodwin Sands, Kent
Age / period: post medieval (1678-1703)
List entry number: 1000058
Reason for designation: historical significance
Depth: 15-20m

Wreck history and loss

The 'Northumberland' was one of the third rate 70-gun ships-of-the-line built as part of Samuel Pepys' regeneration of the English navy. She was the first 3rd rate ship to be built under contract, after it was realised that the naval dockyards could not cope with the construction of the number of ships requested. She was consequently built in Bristol by Francis Bayley and launched in 1679.

Like the 'Stirling Castle' and the 'Restoration' she was rebuilt, and refitted in 1701. The 'Northumberland' was part of a squadron which had anchored in the Downs, just off the coast of Kent, during the Great Storm of 1703. Along with the 'Stirling Castle', the 'Restoration' and many other vessels, the 'Northumberland' was driven into the notorious Goodwin Sands; it sunk and overall 1190 lives were lost.

Discovery and investigation

The site consists of scattered mounds of debris and some coherent pieces of large ship structure. It was discovered in 1980 as part of the systematic investigation of fishing net fastenings. Divers initially attempted survey of the site but also recovered numerous portable artefacts. The site was designated in 1981 and the licensees have since made detailed plans and carried out video surveys of the site from 1993 to 1998, amounting to around 20 hours of footage.

Artefacts

The artefacts recorded from the site include coils of anchor cable, ordnance, planking and lead scuppers, as well as smaller items such as pewter containers, glass bottles, copper cauldrons, ceramics, rigging blocks and a box of musket shot.

Like the 'Stirling Castle', a bell was recovered, complete with wooden stocks, marked with a naval broad arrow and the date 1701. Initials on this item helped to identify the wreck as the 'Northumberland'. Most of the items recovered in the early 1980s are on display in the Ramsgate Maritime Museum.

Further work

Currently the site appears to be relatively stable, though items are sometimes exposed by the shifting sands. In 2002 sidescan, multibeam and magnetometer surveys were carried out over the site and the current licensed team have begun to collate all the information recovered in the past, including the video footage.

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