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Rill Cove

Location: Kynance, The Lizard, Cornwall
Age / period: post medieval (early 17th century)
List entry number: 1000046
Reason for designation: archaeological significance

Wreck history and loss

This site consists of the remains of an unidentified vessel, sunk some time after 1605. The majority of the artefacts recorded from the Rill Cove site are silver coins and it has been suggested that the wreck is the remains of a ship mentioned by the Duchy of Cornwall in a letter in 1618. He observed that silver bars were being removed from the sea at the Lizard; no silver bars, however, have been documented from the site at Rill Cove.

Discovery and investigation

The site was identified in 1975 when Ken Simpson and Mike Hall were diving on the wrecked trawler 'Kerris Reed' and observed some iron guns beneath the wreckage. The guns and Spanish coins found on the site dated to the late 16th and early 17th centuries; the site was subsequently designated in 1976.

Excavation was undertaken on the site between 1976 and 1992 as it is in a vulnerable location and is subject to storm damage: artefacts had been exposed and eroded over the winter months. Various site plans have been produced covering artefact distribution and site condition. An interim report was published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (IJNA) in 1977.


Unfortunately the whereabouts of the majority of the 300 or more silver coins originally recovered from the site is unknown. There are varying accounts of the number found, although only 25 have been reported to the Receiver of Wreck. What is known about the coins is that they were of Spanish origin, of Phillip II or III, and fall into two datable groups; 1555-1598 and 1598-1603/5.

A tentative date of 1616 has been given to the site. Excavations on the site also uncovered pewter buttons, sounding leads, lead bottle seals, shot, copper ingots, pottery and other unidentified copper alloy objects. A wrought iron swivel gun recovered from the site is currently displayed at Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre and other finds are on display in Portleven.

Further work

The site has been excavated intermittently since its discovery due to fluctuating sand levels. It is currently firmly buried beneath a layer of sand and is monitored on a regular basis. The western limit of the site is at present unknown as the Kerris Reed lies on top of it.

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