A shipwreck dating back to 1682 and hailed as being the ‘most-important maritime find since the Mary Rose' has been found off Great Yarmouth.
The Gloucester was apparently found by divers some 28 miles offshore way back in 2007, but it has only just been made public due to security reasons. It was only officially identified after the bell was recovered in 2012, but it is an ‘at risk' site, which is why the exact location has not been disclosed.
Norfolk-based printer brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, along with their late father, friend James Little and another unnamed associate, dedicated four years to finding the Gloucester. Lincoln said on first discovering the shipwreck that it was ‘awe-inspiring and really beautiful' and that ‘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'.
Shipwreck of ‘international importance'
The ship was carrying the Duke of York – who made a lucky escape and went on to become King James II – when it ran aground and then sank, hence why it has prompted maritime expert Prof Claire Jowitt, of Norwich's University of East Anglia, to state the shipwreck was of ‘international importance'.
She explained: “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… the full story of the Gloucester's last voyage and the impact of its aftermath needs re-telling.”
As well as the ship's bell, divers have also recovered clothes, shoes, navigational equipment and unopened wine bottles from the shipwreck. One of the bottles bears a glass seal with the crest of the Legge family – ancestors of the first US President, George Washington – which was a forerunner to the Stars and Stripes flag.
A major exhibition is planned to run from February to July 2023 at Norwich Castle Museum.
Photo credit: Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks and the University of East Anglia