Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Wreck may be Cromwell's flagship


From AFP
August 23, 2004

THE wreck of a 17th-century ship found preserved in a sandbar in southern Ireland five years ago could well be the navy flagship of England ruler Oliver Cromwell, according to a Irish government archaeologist.Connie Kelleher of the environment ministry's underwater archaeology unit said the historical and archaeological value of the find in the Waterford Harbour estuary "cannot be overestimated".

It was found in 1999 after a dredger cut through part of it when working to keep a commercial shipping channel open through the estuary and is the first shipwreck from the period to be discovered in Irish waters.
Kelleher said the prime candidate for the find is the "Great Lewis", a 410-tonne frigate which sank in 1645 with 200 soldiers aboard.

Scans of the sandbar by Kelleher's team show the wooden structure of the vessel embedded almost intact in the sand.

A line of cannons are exposed above the seabed about 8m under the surface. They have been dated to between 1636 and 1670 and were made in an English foundry, according to research published by the magazine Archaeology Ireland.

"Very little is known of ship typology from this period," Kelleher told the magazine Archaeology Ireland.
"The possibility that it could have been directly involved in a period of our history that has left such an immense mark adds even more importance to the wreck, as does the realisation that we could, in fact, be looking at a war grave," she added.

The wreck has been declared a national monument and the site is protected by an exclusion zone. Diving can take place only with a government licence.

Cromwell was Lord Protector and leader of the English republican commonwealth between 1653-58 after the execution of King Charles I.

The militant Protestant or "puritan" leader who died in 1658 is notorious in Ireland for the brutal suppression of the Catholic country by his parliamentary army.

In the 1640s civil war broke out in Ireland and Britain. The Great Lewis arrived in Waterford Harbour with three others ships to relieve the parliamentary forces in Duncannon Fort.

Irish Catholic Confederate forces loyal to the royalist cause had laid siege to the fort, the night before the Great Lewis-led flotilla arrived at Duncannon.

On arrival, the Irish forces began to bombard the anchored ships.

While three cut their cables and escaped, the Great Lewis was caught by the tide and was pounded by mortar fire that smashed its masts.

The ship drifted out of range but was so badly damaged it sank two days later with the loss of most of the crew.

Related News, here, here and here.

Photo Description: Statue of Oliver Cromwell
in St. Ives, England.

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