Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Receiver of Wreck and Mary Rose sink ebay pirate


December 21, 2004

Maritime And Coastguard Agency (National)

The Receiver of Wreck, together with the Mary Rose Trust, issued a warning today to those tempted to purchase objects on the internet auction house eBay, or elsewhere, that are listed as having come from the wreck of the Mary Rose.

The Trust states that such items are highly unlikely to have come from the Mary Rose, and if they are, they will have been acquired illegally. Anyone who sees such an item is advised to contact the Trust to ascertain provenance.

The warning has come as a result of a recent attempt by an individual to sell a cannon ball on eBay for over £5,000 claiming that it had come from the Mary Rose.

The Mary Rose Trust were alerted to the sale by one of the divers who had worked on the excavation and knew that the Trust has a policy that all artefacts from the excavation are kept in the Mary Rose collection with many of them on display at the museum in Portsmouth. The Mary Rose is one of 55 sites in the UK that are designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

The Mary Rose Trust believed that the items must either be from another source, or have been acquired illegally, and passed the matter on to the Receiver of Wreck who has powers to seize illegally held wreck material and to investigate such matters under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

The Receiver of Wreck worked in conjunction with eBay, and with Hampshire Police Marine Unit, who confiscated 14 cannonballs from the premises of the vendor. These were later inspected by Curator of Ordnance at the Mary Rose Trust, Alexzandra Hildred, who confirmed that they had none of the features found on shot from the Mary Rose.

Enquiries into the origins of the shot are still being conducted by the Police Marine Unit and it is believed they are 18th or 19th century in date and were recovered on the shores of the River Hamble.

The Receiver of Wreck, Sophia Exelby said:
"This joint operation shows that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is willing and able to act on credible information received in relation to offences regarding illegally held wreck material. Although these cannonballs did not ultimately come from the Mary Rose, the principles of investigation and enforcement are the same and will be applied to any other such cases which arise."

John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust said:
"We are delighted that the Receiver of Wreck took swift action to investigate the claim that this iron shot was from the Mary Rose. There should not be any artefacts from the Mary Rose in private hands apart from a few curios made from Mary Rose timber recovered in the 1830s and we would always like to be alerted to any fraudulent or illegal sales.

"We are relieved that the shot turned out to be nothing to do with the Mary Rose, but are not pleased that the vendor tried to pass them off as genuine and even used a photograph taken without authority from our website."

Notes to editors:
* Pictures are available from the MCA Press Office

* It is a legal requirement that all recovered wreck is reported to the Receiver of Wreck. The Receiver of Wreck is responsible for the administration of that part of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, which deals with wreck and salvage. If you find wreck you should contact the Receiver of Wreck on 02380 329 474 or via email at

* The Receiver of Wreck investigates ownership of wreck items. The owner has one year in which to come forward and prove title to the property. If the wreck remains unclaimed after that year it becomes property of the Crown and the Receiver is required to dispose of it. This may be through sale, although in many cases the finder will be allowed to keep the item in lieu of a salvage award.

* Artefacts from wrecks which are designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, must still be reported to the Receiver, even if they were recovered under licence.

* Anyone who is in doubt about whether an item has been reported to the Receiver, or whether a vendor has the right to sell a wreck artefact, should contact the Receiver of Wreck, who will check their records.

* The stunning collection of objects from the Mary Rose is on show in the Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard every day except 24-26 December. The popular website can be found at

Press releases and further information about the Agency is available on the Web at

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