Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Cannons and haul


News Shopper
By Tim Ashton

The cannon.

A 16TH-CENTURY cannon, believed to be the most significant find since the Mary Rose, has been recovered by marine archaeologists.

Experts from Wessex Archaeology and the Port of London Authority (PLA) found the wrought-iron cannon during the recovery of a shipwreck from the bed of the Thames Estuary near Gravesend.

The cannon bears a grasshopper mark belonging to the coat of arms of Sir Thomas Gresham.

Sir Thomas, whose company cast cannons between 1567 and 1579, was a financial advisor to Queen Elizabeth I and founded the Royal Exchange in 1565.

The cannon, one of four found but the only one to bear the mark, is now at the Royal Armouries National Museum of Artillery at Fort Nelson in Portsmouth.

A museum spokesman said: "This is by far the most important gun to be discovered since the raising of the Mary Rose in 1982 but it is very unlikely Gresham was aboard the ship."

The archaeology team took a year to recover three timber sections of the wreck including the bow, one of only three 16th-century bows to be found anywhere in the world.

At the time of the ship's construction in 1574, William Shakespeare was 10 years old. Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose sank in 1545.

The wreck, which gave up personal effects including leather shoes and ornaments, was discovered during PLA's routine dredging surveys.

The 35m English merchant ship probably had three masts and 10 cannons in total and was a carrying a cargo of tin, iron and lead to an unknown destination.

Scientists believe it ran aground on the estuary's treacherous sandbanks and capsized with 50 or 60 hands on deck.
The timbers will be stored in Horsea Lake, Portsmouth, which serves as an underwater museum, by the Nautical Archaeology Society.

Leading the archaeology team Dr Anthony Firth said: "This is a very exciting discovery. The ship's sinking would have been noticed at the time because of the presence of the Gresham cannon.

"Almost certainly some investors were hit and insurers would have been out of pocket."

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