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Tearing Ledge

Location: Bishop Rock, Isles of Scilly
Age / period: post Medieval (1707)
List entry number: 1000063
Reason for designation: archaeological significance
Depth: 37m

Tearling Ledge Cannons
Four Cannons on the Tearling Ledge Designated Wreck Site © David McBride

Wreck history and loss

On the 22 October 1707, the lives of 1684 men were lost with the four ships 'Association', 'Eagle', 'Romney' and 'Firebrand' on the Western Rocks, Isles of Scilly, due to a miscalculation in longitude.

The fleet, under the command of Sir Cloudisley Shovell, was returning from besieging Toulon and set a course through the Western Approaches to clear the Lizard and avoid Scilly. Shovel miscalculated. A contemporary chart by Gostelo shows the ships wrecked on the Western Rocks, with the fourth rate Romney (a 50-gun fifth rate) on Tearing Ledge, near Bishop Rock.

Discovery and investigation

The site was discovered in 1969 though early investigations favoured the site as the 'Eagle' (a 70-gun third rate), believing there to be too many guns for 'Romney'. The wreck is most likely to be that of the 'Eagle', due to the amount and size of the cannon found, but the possibility that it contains parts of the 'Romney', or indeed parts of both cannot be ruled out.

Most of the material is strewn along a steep sided sand filled rock gulley on the east side of Tearing Ledge near Bishop Rock, Isles of Scilly, running north-south at a depth of around 120ft in the north, down to around 70ft in the south. A few artefacts lie on the south side of the ledge in 90-120 ft of water. Several large anchors are scattered over the site but no wooden structure has been located.

Tearling Ledge Earthenware shards
Earthenware shards © David McBride

Artefacts

The finds include 65 iron guns, cannon balls, one anchor, a bottle and other glass fragments and lead scupper pipes. A bronze ship's bell dated 1701 is now in the Museum of Nautical Art, Penzance. However, a visit to St Mary's Museum, Isles of Scilly, shows the quality of material from the Shovell wrecks.

Further work

Bishop Rock can be seen from Garrison Walls, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly.

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