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Author Topic: The 'Gresham Ship'  (Read 2349 times)

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The 'Gresham Ship'
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2015, 23:04:27 »
An armed Elizabethan merchantman wrecked in the Thames Estuary some 12 km NNE of Whitstable.

The vessel was a typical robust armed merchantman of the period, with a weight of over 160 tons and a length of 25+metres. It was built of oak felled in or shortly after 1574, probably in Essex or East Anglia. The hull was carvel built with integral gun ports. The ship was reworked during its construction to increase its beam and the capacity of its hull. Repairs to its planking suggest a longish life.
The ships cargo consisted of ingots of lead and tin, red lead in iron casks, iron bars and possibly cannon for export.
The composition of its cargo suggests that the ship was outward bound from the Thames or Medway to a distant destination. It would seem that the vessel ran aground on one of the estuary sandbanks and foundered.

In 1846, Whitstable divers, working under orders from the Duke of Wellington, then Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, salvaged a large amount of tin and lead ingots, iron bar, stone shot, six iron cannon and some Elizabethan artefacts from a wreck on the Girdler Sand. This was probably the 'Gresham Ship'

The wreck site was rediscovered in April 2003 during clearance work by the Port of London Authority to deepen the Princes Channel. An attempt was made to disperse the remains and a grab barge recovered a large amount of iron bars, wood, a cannon, and an anchor. Wessex Archaeology was then called in to record the recovered material.
When further dredging was required more wreckage was found and a fragment of hull section was lifted.
Between August and October 2004 the site was excavated and recorded by PLA Marine Services and WA. More iron bars and ingots were recovered, along with four cannon, items of leather clothing and small items of silver, copper and pewter. Five substantial sections of the ships hull were also raised from the sea bed.

The wreck was named the 'Gresham  Ship' because one of the four guns recovered bore the mark of Sir Thomas Gresham, 1519-1579, a London financier, merchant and gun founder.
The gun is a rare example of an English saker, presumably made at Gresham's foundry in Mayfield, Sussex. Sir Thomas had interests in two iron-founding furnaces in the Weald, the other being in Frant. The iron was transported overland to London or by sea from Rye. The River Medway was also used as an export route with Rochester being Gresham's usual port for exports.

There is the possibility that the wreck is that of the Cherabin, a merchantman and one time privateer lost in the Thames Estuary during a storm in 1603. See link 4 below.

The ships timbers are now at the National Dive Centre at Stoney Cove, where they can be visited in an underwater divers trail.
The guns are at Fort Nelson undergoing a long desalination treatment.
The other finds from the ship have been transferred to the Southend Museum Service.


Wreck Discovered in the Thames Estuary. Photos. 2.8MB.

Princess Channel Wreck, Thames Estuary, Phase lll Summary Report. 77 pages. 2.8MB.

The 'Gresham Ship', an interim report on a 16th-centuary wreck from Princes Channel, Thames Estuary. Jens Auer and Antony Firth.
Post-Medieval Archaeology 41/2. 2007. 20 pages. 1.4MB.

The Cherabin.

Footage of the ships timbers and anchor at Stoney Cove.



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