HMS Gloucester (1654)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Wreck of the 'Gloucester' off Yarmouth, 6 May 1682 RMG BHC3369.tiff
The Wreck of the Gloucester off Yarmouth,
6 May 1682
, by Johan Danckerts
Royal Navy EnsignEngland
OrderedDecember 1652
BuilderGraves, Limehouse
LaunchedMarch 1654
FateWrecked, 1682
General characteristics
Class and typeSpeaker-class
Tons burthen7551194 (bm)
Length117 ft (35.7 m) (keel)
Beam34 ft 10 in (10.6 m)
Depth of hold14 ft 6 in (4.4 m)
Sail planFull-rigged ship
Armament50 guns (as built); 60 guns (1677)

HMS Gloucester was a 50-gun Speaker-class third rate (see HMS Speaker), originally built for the navy of the Commonwealth of England during the 1650s, and taken over by the Royal Navy after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The ship participated in multiple battles during the Anglo-Spanish War (1654–60), and the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars.

Gloucester was wrecked in 1682 on a sandbar off Norfolk while carrying the Duke of York (the future James II). The wreck was rediscovered in 2007, although the discovery was only made public in 2022, the delay being to allow protected investigation of the site, which is in international waters.


Gloucester had a length at the gundeck of 117 feet (35.7 m), a beam of 34 feet 10 inches (10.6 m), and a depth of hold of 13 feet 6 inches (4.1 m). The ship's tonnage was 755 1194 tons burthen.[1] Originally built for 50 guns, in 1667 she carried 57 guns (19 demi-cannon, 4 culverins, and 34 demi-culverins). This was raised to 60 guns in 1677. The ship had a crew of 210–340 officers and ratings.[2]


Gloucester was the first ship in the Navy to be named after this port city.[3] Part of the 1652 Naval Programme, the ship was ordered in December 1652. She was built at Limehouse in east London under the direction of Master Shipwright Matthew Graves, and was launched in March 1653 at a cost of £5,473.[2]


Engagements in which HMS Gloucester took part include:[4]


The Wreck of Gloucester off Yarmouth, 6 May 1682, by Monamy Swaine

In 1682, Gloucester was assigned to carry James Stuart, Duke of York (the future King James II) from Portsmouth to Edinburgh. The purpose of the trip was to allow the Duke to conduct business at the Parliament of Scotland and to collect his pregnant wife, Mary of Modena, from Scotland, so she could give birth in England.[5] At approximately 05:30 on 6 May 1682, Gloucester struck a sandbank off Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. In a strong easterly gale the ship was pounded against the sand until the rudder broke off and the ship was holed.[6]

The Duke of York and John Churchill (the future Duke of Marlborough) were rescued in the ship's boat. The Duke of York waited until the last minute to leave, as he was initially unconvinced the ship would be lost. Protocol dictated that no-one could abandon ship while there was still a member of the royal family aboard, so James' intransigence delayed the start of the evacuation. Boats from accompanying ships managed to save some of the crew, but approximately 120 to 250[clarification needed] sailors and passengers lost their lives. Victims of the sinking included Robert Ker, 3rd Earl of Roxburghe, Donough O'Brien, Lord Ibrackan, and Sir John Hope of Hopetoun, Hope of Craighall.[7]

Afterwards, the Duke denied any responsibility for the loss of life, instead blaming the ship's captain, James Ayres.[8] The Duke was later accused of having "taken particular care of his strong-box, his dogs, and his priests, while [George] Legge with drawn sword kept off the other passengers".[9]

H.M.S Gloucester aground on the Lemon and Ower Sandbank, off Great Yarmouth, with H.R.H. James, Duke of York aboard, 6th May 1682, by Isaac Sailmaker

Discovery of the wreck[edit]

The shipwreck, in international waters 28 miles (45 km) out to sea, was discovered by divers in 2007, but that only was revealed in June 2022 for security reasons. Claire Jowitt of the University of East Anglia said that "this can be claimed as the single most significant historic maritime discovery since the raising of the Mary Rose in 1982". The identity of the wreck was confirmed when her ship's bell was found.[10] Other items found include "clothes, shoes, navigational equipment, personal possessions, and unopened wine bottles". Some animal bones have been found, but no human remains.[5][11]

The wreck was discovered by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell from Aylsham, who predominantly self-funded the dives.[12][13] An exhibition relating to the wreck is planned at the Castle Museum, Norwich, for spring 2023. The exhibition, "The Last Voyage of the Gloucester: Norfolk’s Royal Shipwreck 1682", will bring together artefacts from the wreck, new research into the context, and artistic responses to the discovery.[14]


  1. ^ Lavery, p. 159.
  2. ^ a b Winfield, p. 408.
  3. ^ Colledge, p. 143.
  4. ^ "HMS Gloucester Royal Navy". 5 November 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Shipwreck The Gloucester hailed most important since Mary Rose". BBC News. 10 June 2022. Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  6. ^ Hyde Rochester, Laurence (17 February 2018). The Correspondence of Henry Hyde, earl of Clarendon and of his brother Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester. pp. Narrative From Sir John Berry, Knight, Late Commander of His Majesty's Ship Gloucester. ISBN 978-1377780337.
  7. ^ Hyde Rochester, Laurence (17 February 2018). The Correspondence of Henry Hyde, earl of Clarendon and of his brother Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester. pp. Narrative From Sir John Berry, Knight, Late Commander of His Majesty's Ship Gloucester. ISBN 978-1377780337.
  8. ^ "Duke of York's shipwreck found 'full of wine' off Norfolk 325 years later". Metro (British newspaper) ( Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  9. ^ "Heritage Gateway - Results". Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  10. ^ Hui, Sylvia, Wreck of 17th-century royal warship found off UK coast, Associated Press (AP), June 10, 2022 - images include the bell
  11. ^ Thomas, Tobi (10 June 2022). "Wreck of Royal Navy warship sunk in 1682 identified off Norfolk coast". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  12. ^ Coates, Liz (10 June 2022). "The brothers who spent a fortune searching for lost royal ship". Great Yarmouth Mercury. Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Royal Ship Discovered off the English Coast after funding support from ABG". Alan Boswell Group. 14 June 2022. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
  14. ^ "Royal shipwreck inspires new research". University of East Anglia. Retrieved 10 June 2022.


Further reading[edit]

  • Jowitt, Claire (10 June 2022). "The Last Voyage of the Gloucester (1682): The Politics of a Royal Shipwreck". The English Historical Review. 137 (586): 728–762. doi:10.1093/ehr/ceac127.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°36′N 1°49′E / 52.60°N 1.81°E / 52.60; 1.81