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Royal Anne Galley

Location: Stag Rocks, The Lizard, Cornwall
Age / period: post medieval (1721)
List entry number: 1000068
Reason for designation: historical significance
Depth: 5m

Wreck history and loss

The 'Royal Anne' was a fifth rate oared frigate built at Woolwich (of the Preliminary Establishment of 1706-1718). She was launched in 1709 with an armament of 40 guns and compliment of 127 men. On 10 November 1721, while on voyage to Barbados, bad weather forced her to return to port in Falmouth and she was wrecked on the Stag Rocks. There were only three survivors; the most notable of those who perished was Lord Belhaven who was en route to take up the Governorship of Barbados.

Recent investigations by Cornwall County Council's Historic Environment Service (commissioned by English Heritage) surmised that the graves of many of those lost are located in Pistol Meadow (within the Lizard Countryside Area managed by the National Trust).

There were only six such galleys classified in the Royal Navy when she was built and they were an attempt to combine the advantages of sail and oar propulsion. On her launch the 'Royal Anne' was described as "a new invention under the direction of the Marquis of Carmarthen…being the finest that was ever built".

The wreck of the 'Royal Anne' Galley is owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Discovery and investigation

The site was discovered by Bristol University Sub-Aqua Club in 1969, but its identity was not confirmed until 1992, following an investigation by the Southwest Branch of the Nautical Archaeology Society.

The 'Royal Anne' lies close inshore, within an area surrounded by rocks that regularly experiences large Atlantic swells, even during periods of fine weather. A series of rock gullies on the seabed is filled with large rocks overlying coarse sand and small stones and notably the site has no organic material - it is artefact bearing rather than containing any ship's structure. Iron concretions are sometimes present on the seabed.

In 2003, investigations by the licensee intended to establish the nature and extent of the wreck site and to recover any remaining material in situ at risk. By the following year, nothing was visible due to increased levels of sand.

In June 2005, it was reported that a small cluster of 18th century wreck material, located adjacent to the Quadrant Rock, may represent part of the 'Royal Anne' assemblage. The relationship between the two sites is such that designation of this material was considered even though the Quadrant site does not necessarily meet the criteria on its own. Therefore, by extending the 'Royal Anne' restricted area, protection has been to the material at the Quadrant Site.


The present site of the wreck has been known by divers for around 30 years and material recovered in 1992 included cutlery bearing Lord Belhaven's family crest. Numerous other artefacts have been recovered over the years and include ordnance, specie, musket shot, pieces of lead sheet, a glass stopper, coins, a trigger guard and various items of pewter. Broad arrow marks on eight cannon, a silver coin of 1710-20 and marks on the pewter items have also helped with the identification.

Part of a corroded bell and trigger guard along with a copper alloy nail were reported recovered from this site in 2002. In addition, a gun believed to have been recovered form the Quadrant site in 1983 is now mounted on a wall in Penryn.

Further work

In 2005, English Heritage commissioned Cornwall County Council's Historic Environment Service to undertake Phase 1 of a Marine Environmental Assessment of the site. This report provides an archaeological and environmental assessment of the Royal Anne. It contains an assessment of methods of data collection and a methodology to integrate disparate oceanographic datasets relating to the Lizard peninsula.  

Recent re-designation of the 'Royal Anne' has been undertaken to accommodate a collection of probable associated material located at the nearby Quadrant Rock.

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