Tyne & Wear

Northumberland shipwreck search finds forgotten cannon

Canon
Image caption Investigations suggest the guns were manufactured between 1670 and 1710

Archaeologists exploring lost wrecks in British seas have discovered a collection of forgotten cannon off the Northumberland coast.

A team of divers are exploring 88 wrecks lost before 1840 in a bid to find the most important historic sites.

Now 19 cannon, some of which were undiscovered, have been found at the Gun Rocks wreck in the Farne Islands.

Archaeologist Graham Scott said they are now investigating the guns' origins which are thought to be from the 1700s.

The cannon were discovered with help from a group who originally searched the site in the 1960s and 70s, along with English Heritage and Wessex Archaeology.

Mr Scott, of Wessex Archaeology, said: "The rise of recreational diving in the 1960s and 70s in Britain meant that divers started to discover many wreck sites in the Farne Islands that were previously unknown.

"In the 1970s divers from the Tyneside 114 British Sub Aqua Club discovered a large number of cannon on the seabed at Gun Rocks."

During the search, the group rediscovered the 1970s cannon site and several previously unknown cannon.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Mr Scott said corroded guns on the seabed are "notoriously difficult" to identify, but initial investigations suggest the guns are eight and six pounders manufactured in Sweden between 1670 and 1710.

Image caption English Heritage plan to give the most important sites protected status

According to records at Bamburgh Castle, the cannon are likely to be what remains of a Dutch ship which was carrying 40 cannon when it struck the Farne Islands in 1704.

However, Mr Scott said other possible explanations were still being considered as the team did not know why the Dutch ship was in the area.

The aim of the project, which is being carried out by English Heritage on the 40th anniversary of the Protection of Wrecks Act, is to give the most important sites protected status.

Other wrecks included in the project are Sir Walter Raleigh's lost vessel The Flying Joan, thought to have sunk off the Isles of Scilly in 1617 and an early barge called a Mersey flat located in the north-west.

Wrecks predating 1840 make up just 4% of the 37,000 known and dated sites, with most post-1914.

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