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HMS Gloucester: wreck of royal warship carrying James II found

Brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell initially found the wreck in 2007 – but have faced a 15 year wait before confirmation was made public (Picture: Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks/PA)

A royal warship which sank while carrying a future king of England following a daft spat more than 300 years ago has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk.

The HMS Gloucester was found stacked with various artefacts, including wine, clothes, shoes, navigational and other professional naval equipment, personal possessions, and more.

The find – considered one of the most important in recent maritime history – can only be confirmed now, despite happening 15 years ago.

The ship carrying James Stuart ran aground roughly 28 miles off Great Yarmouth, killing 130 to 250 people – many of whom had stayed on board because protocol dictated they could not leave the ship before royalty.

The future King James II, then the Duke of York, had been arguing with the ship’s captain James Ayres about navigating the treacherous sandbanks shortly before the collision.

It sank within an hour of the strike, at 5.30am, on May 6, 1682.

James delayed abandoning ship until the last minute – needlessly costing the lives of many crew and passengers.

But the future King accepted no responsibility and instead blamed Mr Ayres, who he wanted to be immediately hanged.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY JUNE 10Undated handout photo issued by Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks of brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell measuring a cannon that was found with the wreck. The wreck of a royal warship which sank in 1682 while carrying the future King of England James Stuart has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk. Issue date: Friday June 10, 2022. PA Photo. The wreck of the HMS Gloucester has been found by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, together with others, following a four-year search over 5,000 nautical miles. See PA story HERITAGE Wreck. Photo credit should read Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Divers measure a cannon that was found with the wreck (Picture: PA)

He was instead court-martialled and imprisoned.

James went on to reign from 1685 until 1688, when he was deposed by the Glorious Revolution.

The wreck was found by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell and others, following a four-year search over 5,000 nautical miles.

They found the site in 2007 but due to the time taken to confirm the ship’s identity and the need to protect the ‘at risk’ site – which lies in international waters – it is only now that its discovery can be made public.

One of the wine bottles on board bears a glass seal with the crest of the Legge family – ancestors of George Washington, the first US President.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY JUNE 10 Undated handout photo issued by the University of East Anglia (UEA) of brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell with some of the artefacts from the HMS Gloucester. The wreck of a royal warship which sank in 1682 while carrying the future King of England James Stuart has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk. Issue date: Friday June 10, 2022. PA Photo. The wreck of the HMS Gloucester has been found by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, together with others, following a four-year search over 5,000 nautical miles. See PA story HERITAGE Wreck. Photo credit should read: UEA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell with some of the artefacts from the wreck (Picture: PA)

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY JUNE 10 Undated handout photo issued by the University of East Anglia (UEA) of brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwellwith with a bell from the wreck of the HMS Gloucester, that they located off the Norfolk coast. The wreck of a royal warship which sank in 1682 while carrying the future King of England James Stuart has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk. Issue date: Friday June 10, 2022. PA Photo.The wreck of the HMS Gloucester has been found by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, together with others, following a four-year search over 5,000 nautical miles. See PA story HERITAGE Wreck. Photo credit should read: UEA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

The brothers initially found the ship with their late father in 2007 (Picture: PA/UEA)

There were even some unopened bottles, with wine still inside.

It has been described by a historian as the most important maritime discovery since the Mary Rose, the warship from the Tudor navy of King Henry VIII.

The ship sank in battle in 1545, and was raised in 1982, before being put on display in Portsmouth.

Lincoln Barnwell said: ‘It was our fourth dive season looking for Gloucester.

‘We were starting to believe that we were not going to find her, we’d dived so much and just found sand.

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‘On my descent to the seabed, the first thing I spotted were large cannon laying on white sand, it was awe-inspiring and really beautiful.

‘It instantly felt like a privilege to be there, it was so exciting.’

He continued: ‘We were the only people in the world at that moment in time who knew where the wreck lay. That was special and I’ll never forget it.

‘Our next job was to identify the site as the Gloucester.’

The University of East Anglia’s maritime history expert Professor Claire Jowitt added: ‘Because of the circumstances of its sinking, this can be claimed as the single most significant historic maritime discovery since the raising of the Mary Rose.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY JUNE 10 Undated handout photo issued by the University of East Anglia (UEA) of a bell from the HMS Gloucester which sank off the Norfolk coast. The wreck of a royal warship which sank in 1682 while carrying the future King of England James Stuart has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk. Issue date: Friday June 10, 2022. PA Photo.The wreck of the HMS Gloucester has been found by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, together with others, following a four-year search over 5,000 nautical miles. See PA story HERITAGE Wreck. Photo credit should read: UEA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

A bell from the HMS Gloucester was used to confirm its identity (Picture: PA/UEA)

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY JUNE 10 Undated handout photo issued by the University of East Anglia (UEA) of Prof Claire Jowitt who said the discovery of the HMS Gloucester can be claimed as the'single most significant historic maritime discovery since the raising of the Mary Rose in 1982'. The wreck of a royal warship which sank in 1682 while carrying the future King of England James Stuart has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk. Issue date: Friday June 10, 2022. PA Photo. The wreck of the HMS Gloucester has been found by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, together with others, following a four-year search over 5,000 nautical miles. See PA story HERITAGE Wreck. Photo credit should read: UEA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Professor Claire Jowitt claimed the discovery is the ‘single most significant historic maritime discovery since the raising of the Mary Rose’ (Picture: PA/UEA)

‘The discovery promises to fundamentally change understanding of 17th-century social, maritime and political history.

‘It is an outstanding example of underwater cultural heritage of national and international importance.’

She continued: ‘A tragedy of considerable proportions in terms of loss of life, both privileged and ordinary, the full story of the Gloucester’s last voyage and the impact of its aftermath needs re-telling, including its cultural and political importance, and legacy.

‘We will also try to establish who else died and tell their stories, as the identities of a fraction of the victims are currently known.’

The incident could have killed the Catholic heir to the Protestant throne at a time of great political and religious tension.

The ship built at Limehouse in London, and launched in 1654, was carrying James to Edinburgh to collect his heavily pregnant wife.

The aim was to bring them back to King Charles II’s court in time for the birth of a legitimate male heir.

The ship set sail from Portsmouth, with James joining off Margate, Kent.

Diarist Samuel Pepys, known for his account of the Great Fire London, witnessed events from another ship in the fleet.

He described the harrowing experience for victims and survivors, with some picked up ‘half dead’ from the water.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY JUNE 10 Undated handout photo issued by Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks of one of the bottles found with the wreck, which bears a glass seal with the crest of the Legge family who are ancestors of George Washington, the first US President. The wreck of a royal warship which sank in 1682 while carrying the future King of England James Stuart has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk. Issue date: Friday June 10, 2022. PA Photo. The wreck of the HMS Gloucester has been found by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, together with others, following a four-year search over 5,000 nautical miles. See PA story HERITAGE Wreck. Photo credit should read Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

One of the bottles on board bears a glass seal with the crest of the Legge family, who are ancestors of the first US President, George Washington (Picture: Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks/PA)

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY JUNE 10 Undated handout photo issued by Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks of the crest of the Legge family who are ancestors of George Washington, the first US President, was found on a bottle with the wreck. The wreck of a royal warship which sank in 1682 while carrying the future King of England James Stuart has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk. Issue date: Friday June 10, 2022. PA Photo. The wreck of the HMS Gloucester has been found by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, together with others, following a four-year search over 5,000 nautical miles. See PA story HERITAGE Wreck. Photo credit should read Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

The family crest (Picture: Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks/PA)

The Barnwell brothers found the wreck with their late father Michael and two friends.

The ship was split down the keel and the remains of the hull were submerged in the sand.

The ship’s bell, manufactured in 1681, was later recovered, and in 2012 it was used by the Receiver of Wreck and Ministry of Defence to decisively identify the vessel.

An exhibition is planned for Spring 2023 at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery to display finds from the wreck and share ongoing historical, scientific and archaeological research.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.


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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/10/hms-gloucester-wreck-of-royal-warship-carrying-james-ii-found-16796915/ HMS Gloucester: wreck of royal warship carrying James II found

Justin Scacco

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