Dartmouth Cannons

Is this a shipwreck?



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          prince Phillip

Above   Cannon presented to History Society  /  Steve & Neville with Prince Phillip having won the "Highly Recommended" category

in the BSAC Jubilee Trust Duke of Edinburgh Prize.


       Table of Contents


1.      Background to Project 3

2.      Acknowledgements. 4

3.      Legal Status. 4

4.      Introduction. 5

5.      Objectives. 5

6.      Plans and Approach. 5

7.      NAS Training. 6

8.      People involved. 7

9.      Challenges diving the site. 7

a)      Other Wrecks on the site. 7

10.        History of the Area. 8

11.        Previous work on the site. 9

12.        Artefacts from site. 10

          a)      Artefacts, pictures and sketches. 10

13.        Research. 13

14.        Magnetometer finds. 14

15.        Finds Disposal 14

16.        Site Location. 15

17.        Site Plans. 16

18.        Activities. 17

19.        Conclusions. 18

20.        Possible future projects on the site. 19

21.        Underwater photographs on cannon site. 20

22.        Some pictures of the team at work training in Torbay & on site. 22



1.     Background to Project


In the late sixties /early seventies, Neville Oldham and Tony Almer discovered seven cannons located on the sea bed in about 6 metres of water in the small bay at the mouth of the River Dart, below Kingswear Castle. The general opinion from local historians was that the cannon had been thrown from the Castle.

Over the years, the site was dived by a few divers and rumours abounded about a sword, pottery and onion-shaped glass bottles being found. Unfortunately, the only object I have been able to confirm is that of a sword which was in such a bad state that it could not be conserved.

In 1992, as part of a project of recording cannon sites in the sea along the South Devon coast, with the assistance of members of Totnes BSAC, we carried out a preliminary survey and located and recorded seven cannon. Unfortunately, we were unable to return and carry out any further work on the site due to pressure of work on other sites but have kept a watching eye on the site since.

A young local diver, Chris Reaves, who was very active in the area at the time, announced in the press that he was going to lift one of the cannons and present it to the town.

The cannon was raised in 1999 and put in a conservation tank at St Barnabas Church, Newcomen Road, Dartmouth, in a solution of caustic soda under the supervision of Mr. Bob Trevatt MBE, who was an antique furniture restorer and a conservation specialist. It was examined by an historian, who put its date around 1690AD                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

The cannon stayed in his Bob Trevatt’s care and Neville would visit it at least four times a year to monitor its condition, and occasionally also taking Lecturer, Dave Parham, and his students from Bournemouth University to look at it.

In the spring of 2005, when driving past St Barnabas Church, Neville observed that Midas Construction was proposing to convert the church into a school and flats. Neville approach the Site Agent and asked him when they proposed to start work on the project. He informed Neville that they would be starting the following Monday and if he wanted to save the cannon, he would have to move it before they started or it would be dumped. With the good offices of RGC Building Services and Chris Jay of Cornworthy, Neville was able to get the Cannon moved to Cornworthy and put it in a passive conservation tank.

While moving the cannon, we discovered the figures “1577” inscribed in the first field of the cannon, which we took to be possibly the correct date.  Also, inscribed are the figures “14-1-0”, which stands for its weight, i.e. 14 cwt 1 quarter (28lb) zero lb. Colin Carpenter, the leading expert on ordnance, looked at the cannon and he has confirmed that it was Elizabethan and a very rare example. However, he advised that the cannon required more conservation and was very doubtful if it could be conserved satisfactory.

With the help of the local parish council, Kingswear Historical Society and Darthaven Marina, the cannon has been painted and mounted on a new gun carriage. Following a ceremony where all attended, it is now situated in the car park at Kingswear.  

2.     Acknowledgements


Kingswear Parish Council

Kingswear Historical Society

Darthaven Marina

Kew Records Office

Exeter Records Office

Bournemouth University

Dartmouth Harbour Office


3.     Legal Status


This site does not have any protected wreck status



4.     Introduction


This report looks at the history of Dartmouth in order to try and establish where these cannons came from. During our diving and research,

we did discover that there has been a lot of shipping activity in the area of Kingswear Castle and this has given us some clues as the how these

cannon might have found their resting place. Our objectives, plans and approach have been included in the report.

A site plan has been created showing the layout of the cannons and also includes other artefacts found in the immediate area.

Included are various images of the cannon and the team at work.

5.     Objectives


The objectives of this project were to:

·         Locate and identify what was left of the cannon site and produce a site survey.

·         Research what ships sank in the area and get some idea of how they came to be there.

·         Train a number of divers in marine archaeology.

6.     Plans and Approach


The plan is to try and establish whether or not this is a wreck or discarded cannon.

We will research the state papers in order to identify the ships that had sunk in the area. We will then carry out a magnetometer

site survey of the site in order establish the area of the site to be surveyed. The site survey will be done by placing a shot line at the

 centre of the site and, using a circular sweep, measure the location of the cannons and their orientation. This will be followed by a search

between the cannons using underwater metal detectors.

7.     NAS Training


As the majority of the divers involved had not been trained in marine archaeology, various theory and practical sessions

were given to 10 of the divers during the project. They all plan to follow this up with NAS courses during the summer.