Maritime Heritage – the ‘London’ – bringing a wreck to life
More than 200 enthusiasts, professionals and families gathered in Southend in March to dive into the fascinating history of the London shipwreck, straight from the archaeologists and historians who are studying her.
355 years ago, on the 7th March 1665, one of the most historically significant shipwrecks since the Mary Rose, the London was fully laden with supplies in preparation to embark for battle in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. As families climbed aboard and waved goodbye to their loved ones, she suddenly, and tragically, exploded. Today the wreck lies sunk on the edge of the Thames Estuary, and on the sad anniversary of her sinking – the 7th of March historians and archaeologists spent the day highlighting the importance of her fascinating story within British history, and invited the audience to get hands-on with their heritage and examine a selection of the finds from the site.
The ‘Discover the London’ day brought together a series of talks from leading archaeologists and historians about the wreck itself and its importance in Tudor society, as well as a host of free family fun activities for all ages to enjoy. The talks provided a rich illustration of life in the period around Charles II’s restoration and set the maritime heritage clearly into the historic perspective of a society at a turning point in history.
Attendees spent the morning hearing fascinating accounts about the history of the London, life in 17th Century Britain, historical ship building, the infamous Oliver Cromwell, and famous diarist Samuel Pepys who wrote about the London’s tragic story in his diary, through lectures from noted historians David Davies, Richard Ensor and John Goldsmith. The Cromwell Association also provided a re-enactment group in full costume and with a thankfully unloaded cannon to demonstrate life at the time. The audience were then propelled into the present day and hopeful future of the wreck, with talks from Steve Ellis, the Licensed Diver on the wreck site about the current survey and archaeological work taking place, Hefin Meara of Historic England and NAS CEO Mark Beattie-Edwards. Mark’s talk concluded with a glimpse of the exciting opportunities for Southend to gain its very own Mary Rose style attraction.
Summing up, Mark added: “This event provided an opportunity for the locals of Southend and the wider Essex area to get up close and personal to their history and heritage, and see first-hand the fantastic opportunity this wreck presents to provide something special for their town”.
The Discover the London event was held in partnership with the Nautical Archaeology Society and the London Shipwreck Trust, with the support of Historic England, Southend Museums and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, and sponsored by Divemaster Insurance.
All of the presentations from the day are now available on
Enjoy them at your leisure and do get in touch with the Nautical Archaeology Society if you would like to learn more or sign up for their expanding range of webinars and courses.
Quotes from Supporters
“The London is a highly significant part of the history of The Thames, please support its recovery and conservation.” Sir Tony Robinson, Actor, Author, Presenter.
“As Mayor of Southend, I fully support the work of the divers of The London Shipwreck Trust and wish them all the best in their fundraising endeavours to preserve the wonderful artefacts this fantastic shipwreck has uncovered. This shipwreck is not only a wonderful asset for our town of Southend, but is also historically important both nationally and internationally. The London shipwreck deserves to be recognised for its importance in maritime history.” John Lamb, Mayor of Southend-on-Sea.
“Historic England supports the Save the London campaign as it directly contributes to one of our own strategic objectives in relation to developing cultural partnerships and collaboration as well as increasing local community capacity”. Historic England.
“The PLA are excited to be working with the Nautical Archaeology Society and the London Shipwreck Trust to find the best possible solution for saving as much as possible of the London – a historically important and nationally protected shipwreck in the Thames Estuary”. Robin Mortimer, CEO of the Port of London Authority.